For me, Christmas has never been about the gifts and the tree. Sure we spent a few nights as a family listening to Boney-M and Mariah Carey Merry Xmas, while decorating the Christmas tree and wrapping presents, but this was not what I looked forward to the most. I’m sure you’ve already guessed it, but of course it’s the food that was only served on Christmas and New Years Day, that really got me excited about the holidays. Mama’s table was always predicably but satisfyingly filled with the same delights every year: mock crayfish cocktail, corned beef, smoked gammon, crispy roast chicken and trifle, but the pièce de résistance for me was always the pickled tongue. The December holidays were incomplete without it.
I always kept a close eye on the tongue once it was brought to the table and strategically positioned myself so that I was within arm’s reach of it once the serving started. I truly believe there was an unspoken competition amongst the tongue lovers in the family (the majority of us) to see who was going to get the most tongue onto their plate without looking like a glutton, and who could finish their first helping fast enough to get in there for seconds. I have always been a slow eater so I never got seconds but I just made sure that I had enough on my plate from the get go. And who could blame us for this culinary tug of war? Warm lashings of pickled beef tongue, slightly salty, slightly sweet and tenderness for days. And what better time to indulge and savour this meat delicacy than during the Festive Season.
I would go as far as to say I prefer this offal to a fillet steak. Yes, I just said that. So if you haven’t tried it yet, you really need to. Be sure to buy the right accompaniments though and never buy a tongue that isn’t already pickled unless you plan to make a homemade brine and pickle it yourself in herbs & spices for at least 14 days.
I love both sweet and sour flavour combinations with my tongue so I usually make a sweet carrot purée or orange and parsley soaked carrots with slightly salty creamed spinach and serve that with an array of mustards including the amazing sour tarragon Dijon mustard my sister and brother-in-law bought us from Yuppiechef, and sweet Wholegrain and Honey Mustard. If you like a hit of heat in your meals, then a little Hot English Mustard is also delicious.
This year I am adding cauliflower purée because I just HAVE to try and recreate the Masterchef Australia plate smear using George Calombaris’s cauliflower purée recipe 🙂
Enjoy and have a most delicious Xmas!
Serves: 3 – 5 (depending on everyone’s level of gluttony)
For the tongue:
- 1kg pickled beef tongue
- 4 bay leaves
- A handful parsley
- ½ onion, halved
- 1 heaped tsp. wholegrain mustard
- 2 heaped tsp. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. whole peppercorns
- ½ tsp. cloves
- 3 carrots (peeled and cut into 1/3s) from a 1 kg bag
- 3 garlic cloves (halved and squashed)
For the purées:
- Approximately 30g butter
- The rest of the 1kg bag of carrots (peeled and chopped)
- 200g cauliflower (finely chopped)
- ½ cup milk (I used vanilla milk which was delicious)
- Olive oil
- Freshly ground salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- Tarragon Dijon Mustard or Honey Mustard or Wholegrain Mustard or Hot English Mustard
- Throw all of the tongue ingredients above into a large pot of water, stir and bring to the boil while covered
- Turn the heat down to 3 or 4, replace the lid and cook the tongue for 30 minutes per 500g plus an extra hour, turning the tongue over halfway through. The tongue must be very soft when piercing it with a fork. If not, let it cook for another 30 min until tender
- In the last 30 mins, start cooking your carrots and cauliflower as per below
- When the tongue is done, remove it from the pot, place on a heat proof surface and allow to cool slightly before you carefully start removing the skin
- Place the peeled tongue back in the pot to soak up the flavours left in the water until your carrots & cauliflower purées are ready to be served.
- Steam the carrot chunks until just soft
- Purée the carrots in a blender and season with salt & pepper
- If your carrots are sweet, there is no need to add anything else, but you may want to run some butter and brown sugar through your purée if it tickles your fancy
- Add 20g butter to a sauce pan or pot that has a lid and melt over medium heat
- Once melted, add the cauliflower, pinch of salt and milk
- Cover the pan or pot with a lid, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 8-10 min or until the cauliflower is soft
- Transfer the cauliflower alone to a blender and add a drizzle of olive oil, 10g butter and a small amount of the leftover milk from the pot
- Process the cauliflower until smooth and add more of the milk if required.
- Keep warm until dinner is served
- Using an electric knife, thickly slice the tongue
- Smear the cauliflower and carrot purée across each plate and lay the tongue slices on top
- Serve with the mustard sides and enjoy!