This is a simple hearty winter dish to warm your soul. The sweetness of the onions and the earthiness of the mushrooms work with the mellow subtle flavour of the tongue. It is a recipe that requires time and patience but little attention.
- 1 kg beef tongue
- 2 tbsp cooking salt
- olive oil, for cooking
- 2 medium brown onions, diced
- 2 large sprigs rosemary
- 3 fresh bay leaves
- 200 ml red wine
- 2 litres chicken stock
- 12 small pickling onions, peeled and left whole
- 200 g button mushrooms, stalks trimmed, left whole
- 1 head garlic cloves, whole peeled and gently bashed
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time overnight
Place the whole beef tongue in a large saucepan or stockpot big enough to be a little roomy. Cover generously with cold water, add in the salt and bring to the boil over high heat. This will take anywhere between 30 –50 minutes.
Once it has come to the boil, place the tongue in a colander and pour away the water.
Give the saucepan a quick wash and place it back over low–medium heat. Allow the saucepan to warm, add in a generous splash of oil, again give it a moment to warm and then add in the diced onion. Sauté them gently, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes or until they soften. Season well.
Add the herbs, wine and chicken stock to the pot, turn the heat to high and bring the mix to the boil. Add in the tongue.
For braising the tongue needs to be submerged in liquid, so add enough water to cover. Once there’s enough liquid, place a round of baking paper on the surface and weight down with a plate.
As soon as this mix comes back to the boil, turn the heat down to a very gentle simmer and leave it to slowly cook away.
Check your tongue in about 2 hours. Do this with a sharp paring knife, piercing the tongue at its fattest point. It should go through easily with very little resistance. If it’s not quite there, give it a little more time on the stove, checking again in 20 minutes or so.
Once the tongue is cooked nicely, turn off the heat and allow it to cool in the pot to room temperature, making sure the tongue stays submerged in the liquid.
Once you feel the tongue is cool enough to handle gently pull it out of the liquid and peel off the outer layer. A combination of fingers and a sharp pairing knife is appropriate for this job. At this stage your tongue should still be a little firm yet yielding.
Once your tongue is peeled, place it into a container, straining the liquid back over. Refrigerate overnight, again making sure it’s still completely submerged. This is important as if you don’t do this, your tongue is in danger of drying out.
The next day remove the tongue from your fridge and pour the liquor into a saucepan. Cut the tongue along its length into even–sized pieces, about 4 cm wide, and add it to the saucepan. Bring it to the boil before turning it down to a gentle simmer and letting it bubble away for 15 minutes or so to reduce a little.
Heat a heavy–based frying pan until its smoking, add a splash of oil and gently add the pickling onions. You want the onions in there just long enough to colour on all sides but not cook, this will take no longer than 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Once your liquor has reduced enough, add in the onions, again making a baking paper round to sit on the surface of the liquor. Let this all simmer gently for 20 minutes or so before raising your baking paper round and adding in the mushrooms and garlic. Lower the round, turn down the heat and gently simmer everything for a further 20 minutes.
By this stage everything should be cooked nicely and your tongue soft and forgiving. Make sure you have tested for seasoning and adjusted at some stage in this final process.
Now you are ready to eat. Serve it with some creamy mashed potato or some smooth soft polenta.
• The first stage of cooking can be done a few days in advance, if you so desire. In fact the second stage can be, too, and the tongue will be just as happy reheated at your leisure.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Tiffany Page.
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This recipe is part of The seasonal cook: Onion column.
View previousThe seasonal cook columns and recipes.