#296 Tongue and Mushroom Crumble

Around fifteen minutes after deciding to cook all the recipes in English Food, I had a first proper look through the good book. It was then I realised that some of the recipes were pretty bizarre, and this one stood out; I had not eaten tongue then, but now I have done a couple of tongue-based recipes so I wasn’t squeamish. Though a tongue crumble is still a bit weird. I made this and took it round to a small gathering of friends to try. There were mixed attitudes…

There’s not much of an introduction to this recipe – Griggers says nothing about it in the book and after an internet search, I was also none the wiser. Recipes did crop up, but there was, alas, no background or history to it. Here’s a nice painting with an ox tongue in it though:

Calf’s Head and Ox Tongue by Gastave Caillebotte, 1882

To make the dish, you need to start with pickled tongue weighing around 3 ½ pounds – you can use any tongue you like: ox, calf or pig (I went with ox). You can pickle them yourself (look here for a post that fills you in on this) or get them pre-brined by the butcher. The tongues should be just lightly brined, so if you are doing your own, just leave them in the brine for a day or two. If it’s from the butcher’s shop, you’d be best to soak the tongue(s) overnight in cold water as they may have been in his brine crock for quite a while.

Place the tongue(s) in a stockpot along with a chopped onion and carrot, a bouquet garni and half a pint of dry cider. Top up with water to just cover. Bring slowly to the boil, skim if you need to, and simmer very gently until cooked – this could be one hour for pig, 90 minutes to two hours for calf and three hours for ox. You can tell a tongue is ready if a skewer goes in without much resistance. Don’t worry if you cook it too long, as long as the water was barely simmering, the tongue will still be moist, this because tongue is a fatty meat, around 70% fat in fact.

Take the tongue out of the pot, but keep the stock, let the tongue cool slightly so you can peel the skin off and cut away the sinew from the blunt end. There are some quite large blood vessels and sinew running along the underside of a tongue, so turn it over and cut that away too.

Now slice the tongue, removing any more gristle as you go – there is none as you approach half way. Arrange the tongue on the bottom of a buttered ovenproof dish. Next cook down 4 ounces of sliced mushrooms in one ounce of butter and scatter them over the tongue. Whilst they are cooking, finely chop a medium onion and cook it gently in two ounces of butter – cover the pan so it doesn’t brown. Once softened, stir in a rounded dessertspoon on plain flour and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in 6 tablespoons of dry white wine. It will instantly thicken. Thin it out with some of the stock until you have a sauce the consistency of thin gravy. Cook for a few minutes, adding more stock should the sauce become too thick, season and pour it over the tongue and mushrooms.

Next, make the topping by making some fresh white breadcrumbs using a blender. Griggers says to use 1 ½ ounces of bread, but you may need more. Sprinkle this over the tongue and sauce and bake in an oven preheated to 190°C (375°F) until all is bubbling. Because everything has been cooked already, it is just a heat-through that’s required, so it can all be made in advance.

Hannah gets a good lungful of tongue.
That sounded less gross in my brain than when read out loud.

#296 Tongue and Mushroom Crumble. Like most of the weird recipes in the book, this savoury crumble was pretty good. The corned tongue was very tender indeed and well flavoured too, and the mushroom lent an earthiness that always goes well with anything beefy. Much, much better than I expected 6.5/10.

#58 Apricot and Almond Crumble

Other than asparagus, the fruit and veg stall had some lovely ripe apricots, at only a quid for 6. So It thought I had to make use of them. Consulting the book, there’s a crumble and a pie. I couldn’t be bothered making pastry, so I went for the crumble. However, I seem to have a mental block when it comes to making crumbles – they are meant to be the easiest pud in the world to make, but when I do them, they end up as mush, as the floury topping gets soaked into the fruits beneath. However, I trusted Grigson to guide me through the crumble-making process. I also used top tips from my Mum. The exciting thing about this dish is that you use the kernels from the apricot stones – a new one on me. They taste like very aromatic, but bitter, almonds. Crack then with a hammer – it worked for me, and the flavour they give to the crumble is beautiful and I shall always take the trouble to do it in the future.

Start by poring boiling water over 18 apricots. After a couple of minutes peel the apricots and slice them. Put them in a shallow baking dish along with the kernels from the stones, 1 ½ ounces of blanched sliced almonds and 2 or 3 ounces of sugar. I like my fruit tart.

For the topping rub together using your hands or a mixer 3 ounces of flour, 2 ½ ounces sugar, 3 ounces of ground almonds and 4 ½ ounces of chilled butter. Pour the mixture over the apricots and bake for 20 minutes at 200 degrees C, and then for a further 20 at 180 degrees. Make sure the top is browned, but not in any way burned. Don’t serve straight away – a warm crumble is better than a scolding hot one. Softly whipped cream is the best accompaniment to this summery dessert.

TOP TIP: My Mum says that for a good crumble topping, don’t rub in your butter too finely; some small lumps of butter make it richer and crunchier, which is good news as this also mean less work!

#58 Apricot and Almond Crumble: 8.5/10. A lovely sweet topping and tart fruit resulted in a substantial but light and perfumed marzipan wonder. The addition of apricot kernels was the genius touch. Plus the crumble topping wasn’t mush. I now have to conquer my other food nemesis Hollandaise sauce.