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:
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.
The pea has been popular in Europe for donkeys years – settlements in France dating back to the third millennium BC have been discovered with the remains of pea pods. Dried peas, go back to Roman times; in fact, they were preferred over fresh. Also, luckily for us, the pea became a very common garden vegetable, and Gregor Mendel, the garden-loving Austrian monk, spotted patterns in the variation between pea plants he was breeding and came up with the first theory of genetics. He wasn’t recognised during his lifetime. So often is the way.
This recipe isn’t really to go with your fish and chips (though omit the peppercorns and it will be perfect), it is to go with duck and pork. I took this as an excuse to get a nice rib roasting joint from Harrison Hog Farms, a great farm here in Houston that really looks after its very English-looking pig breeds. So if you go to a Houston farmer’s market andyou spot them, give them a try as their pork is excellent.
What makes this recipe posh is the pickled green peppercorns. They’re not something that you’ll find in the supermarket, but they’re pretty easy to get hold of in delicatessens.
Right then, to make this purée, put a pound of dried split peas in a large saucepan along with a chopped carrot and a chopped onion plus a bouquet garni (I went for parsley, bay leaves, sage leaves, thyme and rosemary in mine). Cover well with water, bring to a boil and cover and simmer until cooked – around 45 minutes. On no account add salt, it makes the peas hard and they won’t cook. This is speaking from personal experience. Fish out the bouquet garni and pass the peas through a mouli-legumes in a bowl (you can use a potato-masher if you want but a blender would make it far too smooth).
Now stir in a large knob of butter and season well with salt (at least a teaspoon) and some sugar. Lastly, mix in a tablespoon of pickled green peppercorns as well as one to two teaspoons of the juice from the can. Easy.
#295 Purée of Dried Peas with Green Peppercorns. This one of the best recipes from the Vegetables chapter of the book. Really delicious and much better than the bought mushy peas you find in cans, and – dare I say it – the chippy! The addition of the bouquet garni and the simple stock veg really lifted it, and the pickled peppercorns were great, little exploding pods of subtle spiciness that transformed a vegetable side dish into the main event. 9/10.
These oranges are flavoured with a heady mix of cinnamon, mace and cloves; quite a wintery combination, I suppose. In Victorian times, the orange was the most prized Christmas gift and British children would have waited with baited breath to get their hands on them. This did not apply to Irish children though – a little earlier in history, William of Orange’s extreme anti-Catholic laws were so unpopular that the Irish people made a declaration that no orange tree would ever be planted in Irish soil.
I had been planning on doing these preserved oranges for a while as they are an accompaniment to pork and duck, my two new favourite meats, thanks to recent recipes here in the blog. I’ve only just gotten round to making them because a spice required for the recipe is mace – in the form of blades. Tricky, as supermarkets don’t stock them. However, now I have a car I could pop to The Heights area of Houston and visit Penzey’s spices. What a great shop! Every spice and spice blend you could ever need. Luckily, there is a store in St Louis, so I can keep myself stocked up when I move there. My favourite bit was Granny’s Kitchen which had all the baking spices.
Anyway, enough waffle. Here’s the recipe…
Begin by slicing 10 large oranges – keep them thick, about a centimetre is good – place them in a large pan and cover them with water.
Bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for 30 to 40 minutes until the peel has softened. Don’t stir the oranges around as they will break up. Meanwhile, in another pan, dissolve 2 ½ pounds of granulated sugar in a pint of white wine vinegar. Add 1 ½ sticks cinnamon, a heaped teaspoon of cloves and 6 blades of mace to the vinegar syrup and boil for a total of 3 or 4 minutes.
When the oranges are done, drain them, reserving the orange liquor. Return the oranges to their pan and pour over the syrup to cover – if there isn’t enough, use some of the orange liquor. Cover, bring to simmering point and cook gently for a further 25 to 30 minutes.
Take off the heat and leave for 24 hours. Next day, pot in sterilised jars. Top up with syrup over the next or two, should they need to be. Here’s the catch though folks: you now have to leave them for at least 6 weeks to mature! When the time is up, they can be served with hot or cold pork, ham or duck. The syrup also makes a good sauce for duck too. Apparently.
#294 Preserved Orange Slices. Well we shall have to have a bit of patience over these. It’s strange to think that when they are ready, I’ll be living in St Louis. I can say that the syrup is delicious though. Look here for the results.
Man’s relationship with pigs goes back several thousand years. Acorn-eating wild boar were slowly tamed in European forests to become the slightly tamer proto-pig utilized by the Spanish, French and Greece. Swineherds had the unlucky job of attempting manage the unruly pigs. Modern pigs are not quite as wild as their forbearers, but do apparently revert to their feral behaviour quite readily. So beware.
Galen, the medical pioneer of the Roman era, enjoyed a bit of pork like his fellow Romans. What is odd is that he thought it tasted of human flesh. Whether this was a hunch or whether it was knowledge from experience, I do not know. He is correct though, the cannibals of the South Sea Islands, called the various explorers and pioneers they caught and ate longpigs due to their flavour.
The pig is famed for it versatility and pretty much all the animal can be used, and it is the pig that is the focal animal in Fergus Henderson’s wonderful nose-to-tail restaurant, St John in London (check out the blog here). I’ve never managed to get there unfortunately, but one day I shall! For any nose-to-tail fans out there, the ultimate delicacy must be Pliny’s personal favourite, the vulva of a sow who had aborted her first litter, according to Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat in her amazing book A History of Food.
This dish was cooked on my recent trip to England, where Hugh somehow managed to buy a massive shoulder of pork for £1.50. Absolute bargain. He’s a good bargain-hunter; in fact, he’s known for it! I pounced upon the opportunity to roast it the Grigson way which includes baked apples as well as a glaze to go over the crackling. I imagine a sweet glaze would go down well with Texans going by this sign I spotted at the rodeo:
It’s worth mentioning that it is best to buy the largest joint you can afford, the meat will be much more moist and tender in a large joint than a small one. This particularly applies to pork that benefits from a good blast of heat and then a slower roast on a lower hear than say, beef.
As mentioned I used shoulder here, but you can use leg or loin. If the meat has a bone in it, ask the butcher to remove it but ask to keep it. Also ask him to score the rind, every centimetre or so. You can do it yourself with a razor-blade. Make sure that the rind is nice and dry and season the joint all over. You can, leave it overnight in the brine tub, but if you do this, you won’t get the crackling. Seeing that the crackling is the best bit, I wouldn’t recommend it. If you have bones, pop them in a saucepan with a chopped carrot, a peeled onion studded with three cloves and a bouquet garni. Cover with water and allow it to simmer for three or four hours. Strain and reduce to ¾ of a pint. If there was no bone, use some pork or vegetable stock and simmer for just an hour.
Heat the oven to 220°C (425°F) and rub the skin of the joint with some oil and sprinkle with some salt. Cook for 35 minutes to the pound (1 ¼ hours to the kilo). Place in the oven and turn the temperature down after 20 minutes to 160°C (325°F). An hour before the end of the cooking time, prepare the apples. You need one per person, and use Cox’s Orange Pippins if in season. If not, use Braeburn or Mackintosh. Score a circle close to the tops of the apples, to prevent the skins bursting and nestle them around the joint. If you don’t want baked apples make an apple sauce.
Next prepare the glaze. Melt a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly in a pan and mix in a tablespoon of French mustard as well as half a tablespoon each of cream and soft brown sugar. Paint the glaze all over the crackling in the final half hour of cooking.
When ready, remove the joint from the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. While you are waiting, make the gravy. Melt an ounce of butter in a pan and when it goes a nutty brown colour, stir in a tablespoon of flour. Whisk in the stock and add any meat juices from the roasting pan.
#290 Roast Pork with Crackling and Baked Apples. I have eaten roast pork many times, but never actually cooked, but I can honestly say that this was the best roast pork I’ve ever had from a domestic oven. It was so tender, it took no effort to slice and the glazed crackling was half crispy, half chewy and almost toffee-like. The baked apples were a revelation. An absolutely fantastic roast dinner! 9/10.
#279 Apple Sauce II. A slightly strange sauce this. I liked the fact it was unsweetened – bought apple sauces are far too sweet I think and they don’t always do a good job of cutting through the rich, greasy meat it’s usually served with. The butter enriched it but didn’t make the whole thing sickly like I expected. A good sauce, but nothing to write home home about! 5.5/10.