Mummy’s Beloved Tongue


This is one of my favorite recipes my mother makes.  It is pretty easy if you allot enough time for simmering and marinating with the vinaigrette.  Do not skimp on the simmering time, and you will be rewarded with a super tender delicious dish!

In the United States, the hardest part will be finding a cow’s tongue since we increasingly only eat food out of plastic packages and butchers are rare in this country. Try ethnic markets.  Lucky you if you live somewhere with a butcher!

Cover thawed cow’s tongue with cold water in large stock pot with two onions cut in half, a couple of carrots and celery stalks, salt (2 chef’s pinches). Bring to a boil, skim off foam, add bay leaf or laurel, and whole or cracked pepper; simmer slowly for 3 hours, partially covered, until it pierces easily with a fork. Cool in its liquid until you can easily handle (or put in fridge for next day). Strain broth and reserve it to cook black beans in for another meal. Slice off tip of tongue. Peel tongue. Mother likes to use a knife to peel it.  She doesn’t like the imprint of the taste buds nor the white lining underneath by doing so with your hands. Remove the vessels at the base of tongue. Do this by finding the vessels and cutting around them so that you can “strip” them out to the last 1/4 of the tongue. Save the meat in between the vessels and marinate with the rest. Slice as thin as you can (1/8″ or less). Arrange prettily in a shallow dish (a 10″ ceramic tart dish works well–you want a dish with at least a 3/4″ rim to keep the condiments reined in. Arrange thinly sliced sweet onion over tongue. Arrange large sliced Spanish olives (with pimento) over tongue and onions. Make a “dressing” of 1 cup of best quality olive oil, 1/2ish cup lemon juice, sea salt to taste (taste tongue to see how salty it is and adjust accordingly). Blend. Adjust dressing to taste. Pour evenly over tongue. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight so that the flavors may meld. Serve room temp with good quality sour dough bread and a bottle of very good modern Rioja (1998 Muga was fantastic!). The quality of the ingredients is what makes this dish.


Finding the vessels.  The tip is cut off.

Finding the vessels. The tip is already cut off.

The vessels.

A vessel.  There are two, one on each side. You will need to kind of carve around them so that you may strip them out. A little bit of the light colored lining under the taste buds is left near the tip of the tongue, which still needs to be cleaned away. The darker, coarser-textured meat will be saved and added to the dish to marinate.


Assembled in a shallow flat dish.

Arranged in a shallow-lipped dish. I added a bit more lemon than Mum usually does–but we decided that we liked it. I also felt I made the original dressing too salty, so I added more lemon and olive oil. The recipe above reflects these additional quantities.

This still could have used some more olives. Once you are eating the dish, you can never have enough of the onions or the olives. We bought two different kinds at the market, tasted them and decided they both had their merits. We used a combination of the two. I also used a combination of two different organic olive oils: the very strong “Robust” Alter Eco, Canaan, Palestine and Nunez de Prado, Baena DO, Spain.


A serving on the plate. You really don't need any sides or anything.

A serving on the plate. You really don’t need any sides or anything.

Muga tongue

My mother hasn’t forgotten her table manners and thrown her napkin in the middle of the table. That is actually the covered basket of warm sourdough bread.

The Torre Muga 1998 was fabulous with this dish.  The Varnier-Fannière Cuvée St. Denis Champagne as an apéritif while we waited for the tongue to come to temperature was pure deliciousness. We had a cranberry-walnut pound cake with good quality butter and Cave Springs Riesling Icewine 2002 for dessert.

Add the company of my mum and dad and you have pure heaven!