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Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Cooking Ox Tongue

You have probably looked apprehensively at that pinky, black mottled monstrosity in the cold counter in your local butcher. Here in Botswana is is displayed, not very appetizingly alongside more expensive cuts of meat, and so one is rather forced to gaze upon it.
However, like so many other "peculiar looking" food like prawns, crayfish, eel, the appearance belies the taste. Ox tongue is absolutely delicious and an old traditional English cold cut. In out region it is either cooke to be used cold in sandwiches or as part of a stew or relish to be eaten as a main meal with a starch accompaniment.

The intial cooking for both methods is similar. It is best to cook it whole even for stews because it is easier to remove the membrane covering on the meat.

Very simply, rinse the whole raw tongue well. Trim off any little tubes, fatty and dangly bits that you see and put the whole piece into a pressure cooker. A good teaspoon of salt and start cooking. You can cook this on the stove top, but it takes 5hrs or more to get a tender result.
I add 10 whole black pepper corns and 2 whole cloves. Add a large chopped carrot and garlic if you wish. Cover the tongue with water and then cook for 2 and a half hours in the pressure cooker so it is just hissing. That is medium pressure. Let the cooker depressurize and remove the tongue. Whilst it is fairly hot, use a knife or fork to pull off the outer covering on the tongue. It is thick on top, (the licking side!) and more fragile on the underside.
Here you can see the membrane peeling: Just pull it off in bits.

 Clean off anymore bits of yucky stuff and then press the tongue into as small a container as you can. Find something heavy to put on top. (A couple of washed bricks wrapped in clingfilm is great) Let it cool then refrigerate. It is now ready for slicing. You can slice it all and freeze portions or eat it up within a week.

To eat it hot in a stew. I simply cut the tongue into steaks, then strips and return them to the pot. Fish out the cloves. Add another onion and garlic and chilli to taste. Add peeled potatatoes if you intend to serve this stew with potatoes. You may need to add a bit of water. Pressure cook again for 40 minutes. Open the pot and reduce the liquor by simmering gently. 
This is the very basic way of serving oxtail in a traditional African way. Sometimes is is just boiled and the resulting gravy is all there is to eat with it. It is often eaten as relish with mealie pap or sorghum pap in our region.
Close up of texture or the relish.


  1. I ate tongue a lot as a kid growing up on a beef farm. My mom would cook it in pickling spices, vinegar, water, and some sugar and then slice it thin for tongue sandwiches. I never knew that other people were so grossed out by it until I got older!

  2. That is pretty much how I cooked and ate it. Sliced thin as cold meat. But Africans here commonly cook it as a stew which can be very nice. I have a joke with my kids whilst they eating tongue..."Can you feel it licking you?" Corny, I know, but when they were small they creased up!!

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  11. This method for cooking ox-tongue is really outdated. Two and half hour cooking in a pressure pot is wasteful energy. You are either not following the cooker instructions, your cooker pot is old or you haven't been advised how to cook ox-tongue professionally. A pressure pot is mean't to reduce cooking time dramatically over conventional cooking. I can cook the largest ox-tongue in under 40 minutes in a pressure pot with far superior tenderness and flavour. BTW: you are supposed to soak the ox-tongue overnight in cold lightly salted and acidified water to let any surface bacteria dissipate and destroy. Then pressure cook by parboiling with Max pressure in 2 inch deep salted and acidified water (grain spirit vinegar or fruit vinegar - Parboil timing is 15 minutes from commencement of pressurisation. Remove from heat and place pressure pot in a sink of cold water to reduce pressure quickly. Following depressurisation, remove safety lid carefully. Remove ox-tongue and peel off the skin effortlessly. Discard the water. Then you will need to return the ox-tongue back to a clean pressure-pot with 2 inch deep boiling salted and spiced flavoured water (e.g. dry or fresh chillies, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, cumin, shallots, garlic, ginger). Commence final cooking time when MAX pressurisation is reached and cook for 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and place pot in sink filled with cold water to depressurise quickly. Remove ox-tongue and slice for refrigeration or add to your favourite sauce, stews or soup based recipes. **** PLEASE REMEMBER TO CONSERVE PRECIOUS ENERGY RESOURCES AND COOK INTELLIGENTLY. PLUS YOU ARE SAVING MONEY ON YOUR DOMESTIC ENERGY BILLS **** (2.5 hours cooking is really not necessary if you have a good quality pressure cooker).

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