Offally nice

The concept of “nose to tail” eating, as popularised for us Brits by UK chef Fergus Henderson, is hardly a novelty for the Portuguese. Especially when it comes to the pig, everything from the ears and trotters (on the outside) to tripe, liver and pretty much any organ you can think of are consumed with relish. I have still to find a butcher here who will sell me calf or lamb sweetbreads or lamb fries (testicles) but I am on the lookout. One of my personal favourite offal treats is rabbit liver and, small and fiddly as they are, rabbit kidneys.
Last week, I saw beef tongue on the menu at the O Leão de Porches restaurant, slow cooked and pan seared. It was served on a mushroom risotto and was absolutely delicious.
It occurred to me that I have never tried cooking tongue at home, so Friday afternoon found me at the German butcher in Porches purchasing two fresh tongues from their organic cattle reared in the Alentejo. They slaughter their cattle at quite a young age so these tongues were fairly small (under a kilo each); smaller is supposedly better when it comes to cow tongue.
I had no idea how to cook the tongues, apart from the principal that it needed to be cooked long and slow and then the skin removed before cutting it up and using for whatever. Likewise, apart from my meal at O Leão last week, I had never eaten tongue as an actual meal, although it has long been a favourite cured meat from the deli counter.
Some googling revealed all sorts of different recipes, amongst them Japanese “Guytan” – the word is apparently a combination of the Japanese word from cow and the English tongue.
In Japan, after slowly boiling the tongue to tenderise the meat, it is grilled over hot coals and served with salad.
For my first attempt (pictured), I simmered the tongues for a few hours (resulting in a very nice beef stock) and then, after removing the skin and cutting into large pieces, braised for a couple hours longer in white wine, tomato, onions and herbs, finally browning off the pieces in the frying pan with some butter before serving.
By PATRICK STUART [email protected]