This is a sweet, bitter, salty and spicy post. It’s a barbecue beef coffee cure that I worked on a few days ago and tested out on some slow-cooked brisket. The outcome is sensational; the final marinade hints at the bitterness of the coffee but packs the depth of flavour that the coffee adds. I used a single origin coffee (Firefly from Ecuador) as it is what I have in my grinder at the moment, but a good quality blend would still be great. I reckon the coffee needs to be freshly ground as it can soon lose the essence of its character if left for too long after grinding.
I used to work in the flavours and fragrances industry for a French company that was nestled in the rolling aromatic hills of Grasse, near the French Riviera – I was UK based so unfortunately didn’t have the privilege of working in that location. Anyhow, I had perfumery training and it was there I developed a ‘nose’ – the ability to detect and pick out particular fragrance notes in, for example, a perfume or a wine. I put it down to the reason that I do a lot of cooking using a sense of smell; in fact if you think, we have only 5 established taste receptors on our tongue; sweet, sour, bitter, salt and umami. The other ‘taste’ sensations are flavours and these border on infinity in their number. To detect flavour we use our olfactory receptors, or sense of smell. Some folk, myself including, can get an idea of flavour by just using the sense of smell, without the need to taste, although taste* is the ultimate test. For example, when you smell this coffee rub you can tell there is a great balance to it in that the coffee aroma blends in to the spice aromas creating a harmony; and this harmony is the secret sauce of the variety of spice blend recipes around the world that are passed down through generations of families, such as ras-el-hanout. The ingredients are really important, obviously, but it’s the quantities of each that are vital to producing an amazingly congruous blend. If you don’t already, I would really encourage you to start using your nose more in the cooking process (not as tool for mixing, mind you), it will certainly assist in helping you balance flavour.
The beef coffee cure is primarily used on beef – yeh, I know I’m stating the bleeding obvious from the title – but beef really can carry the flavour. I have other cures for pork, lamb and chicken. I use this cure in particular on brisket; brisket is from the breast/ lower chest of the cow which in itself has a great mix of fatty and, when cooked, gelatinous textures and flavours. It is robust enough to take the spicy cure without being completely overpowered. Ideally, hot smoking brisket produces the best flavour but you can still get an amazing result from a regular oven. Just rub a cup full of the cure in to the meat (about a 2kg piece) – getting in to every nook and cranny – imagine you’re massaging it. Then leave it to marinade, covered, in a fridge for at least 12 hours. To cook, give it a blast in the oven at 240 deg C. (460 deg F.) uncovered in a roasting tin. This will brown the exterior which will add flavour – you’ll notice how wonderful it’s starting to smell at this point. Then turn the oven down to 120 deg C. (250 deg F.) and cover the brisket tightly. Now cook for a minimum of 8 hours – 12 is preferable – and you’ll have fall-apart, flavoursome, gelatinous meat with hints of the aromatic spices and coffee that everyone will die for.
*The word taste is interchangeable. It can refer to one of the established 5 taste profiles that the tongue can detect and can equally be used as the process of detecting the components of flavours and tastes on the tongue.
The Perfect Smoky Coffee Cure for Beef (I'm Thinking Brisket)Print
- ■ 40g freshly ground coffee |
- ■ 40g Kashmiri chilli powder |
- ■ 40g smoked paprika | Important to use smoked.
- ■ 140g sea salt | If using flakes then grind first using a pestle and mortar, or between your fingers.
- ■ 140g dark soft sugar | I use dark muscovado.
- ■ 50g light soft sugar | I use light muscovado.
- ■ 2 tbsp. powdered garlic |
- ■ 1 tbsp. ground cumin |
- ■ 1 tsp. ground cinnamon |
Add the all the ingredients to a bowl and mix thoroughly ensuring that any clumps are broken up. Use immediately or store the mix in an airtight container at room temperature.
If you're doing the brisket give yourself at least 24 hours for the marinating and cooking time. The cure does work very well on other 'cheaper' cuts of beef that require long slow cooking.