Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Shepherd's pie with calf’s tongue

Don’t allow your prejudices to put you off. Tongue is lean and very tender, and tastes just like any other cut of beef you would use for making a stew. (The flavour is, if anything, slightly milder.) I’m not sure why the standard recipes all involving pressing and pickling rather than simple stewing. This seems to imply an irreducible toughness and strong flavour, neither of which could be further from the truth.

I bought this tongue from my butcher, Antonio, the other day. He kindly peeled it for me. You can do it yourself with care and a good sharp knife – you will lose a little meat in the process, but don’t worry about that. Or simply plunge the whole thing into boil water, take it out again and the skin will slip off easily (or so I’m told).

1 calf’s tongue, peeled (see above)
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic
½ bottle of red wine
4 bay leaves
2 kg of potatoes
4 tsps dijon mustard

  1. Chop the onion, put in a good-sized saucepan with some olive oil, and fry gently. Once the onion is translucent, add the chopped garlic cloves and fry for another minute or so.
  2. Cut the tongue into good sized chunks, add to the saucepan, and brown. Then add the wine, bay leaves, season with salt and pepper and add some water so that the meat is covered.
  3. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to minimum and simmer gently with the lid off for the first 15 minutes (to allow the alcohol to evaporate) and then with the lid on for another 1½ hours or so. Check the liquid levels from time to time and top up if the meat starts to dry out. When done, the dish should have plenty of sauce and the meat should be very tender.
  4. Peel the potatoes, cut them into smallish chunks (quarters or eighths, depending on the potato) and steam until well done. Set aside the steaming liquid and use as a vegetable stock.
  5. Put the steamed potatoes in a large bowl, add plenty of milk and butter, mustard, salt and pepper, and mash until fairly smooth, adding more milk and butter if required. (As everyone in my house is lactose-intolerant, I tend to use the steaming liquid and olive oil as a dairy-free alternative.)
  6. Put the stewed tongue in the bottom of a ceramic oven dish, cover with mashed potato, and cook in an oven preheated to 190°C until the potato begins to go brown and crispy on top.

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