A lady reading the menu when confronted with Ox Tongue, reeled back and proclaimed indignantly, “Ox tongue! Ox tongue! How disgusting! I’m not eating anything that has come from an animals mouth.” She slams shut the menu and orders the waiter “give me an egg”.
Actually, when it comes to animals and their various parts upon which I am prepared to dine, I don’t see too many new species on the horizon. Not inclined to try something just to prove a point. But in defence, my list of challengingly consumed creatures is probably longer than the average, having most of it thrust under my nose with TV cameras watching to see if I’d offend the host. It includes donkey, horse, scorpion, grasshopper and quite an array of crisp fried insects, crocodile, camel, mother-in-law’s roast, snake, sheep eyeball, testicles (it was late, I was drunk) and I refused dog. No need to go into Chinese delicacies that I actually like: 1000yr old eggs, birds nest soup, sharks fin, sea cucumber etc… So, if you’re repelled by the thought of Ox tongue, firstly, you’re missing out on something truly wonderful and secondly, you may substitute corned beef or pickled pork.
The real or equal hero in this recipe is the pressure cooker. Forget the memory (if you’re my age) of your mother or grandmother risking being scalded in order to save time, pre-microwave. The pressure cooker supplies a unique heat to your ingredients which in turn, turn out differently. These days, pressure cookers are safe and I highly recommend them. Buy the largest one you can afford and get to know it.
For 4 with enough left over for another meal
1 Pickled Ox tongue or small corned beef, either soaked overnight in plenty of water or brought once to the boil and immediately drained as a method of desalination.
½ tsp peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
4 whole peeled carrots
2 whole peeled medium sized onions
1 chunk of cabbage enough for 4 people (I like to use 1 whole little cabbage from the garden)
Strictly following the instructions of your cooker, place your prepared tongue with pepper, bay, sugar, vinegar and enough water to barely cover the tongue.
Clasp down the lid and on the highest pressure setting (if you have one) bring the whole to a hissing angry crescendo on high heat. Turn down the heat so the hissing is gentle but constant and set your timer for 25 minutes.
Switch off the heat and let the pot de-pressurise as per instruction manual. Open the lid and add whatever liquid appears to have been lost, along with the vegetables.
Now bring back to hissing stage as before, but this time for 8 mins before switching off.
Remove the lid when safe, as above, carefully remove vegetables, strain the stock liquid and when cool enough to handle, peel the tongue. This can be a tricky thing to do if conventionally you have poached the tongue for hours on the stovetop, however, the triumph of the pressure cooker is that the outer skin slips of easily!
Serve the warm or grilled slice tongue with warmed vegetables your favourite boiled potato recipe and a sauce made either of these two ways:
- Heat 1 cup of the wonderfully flavoured stock and thicken with a little cornflour first dissolved in cold water. Then whisk in 1 Tbsp each of cold butter and chopped parsley. Taste for, usually only pepper, but salt if needed.
- Make a thick béchamel sauce and whisk in 1 Tbsp each of seeded mustard and parsley and enough stock to thin down to sauce consistency. Taste for seasoning.