Ox tongue with orange lentils

by Ed Smith

Ox tongue ‘steaks’ with a flavoursome crust and roast onion, orange and lentil salad

Read my article on the virtues of tongue here.


For the brine:
2 litres water
150g natural salt (no caking agents)
50g light brown sugar
3 bay leaves
1 tsp coriander seeds
6 juniper berries, flattened
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
10 cloves
10 black peppercorns

For the tongue:
1 ox tongue
1 onions, quartered
1 bulb garlic, cut in half across the middle
4 bay leaves
1 stick celery

For the zhug:
1 tsp cumin seeds, lightly toasted
1 tsp flaked sea salt
1 mild red chilli, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
25g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
25g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
3 tbsp light olive oil
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp caster sugar
Juice from ¼ lemon

For the lentils:
300g onions, quartered (ideally a sweet French variety, like Roscoff)
200g green or puy lentils
3 tbsp light olive oil
2 oranges
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tsp Turkish red pepper flakes
Sea salt and black pepper


Make a brine by warming 2 litres of water in a large saucepan. Add the salt and sugar and stir until dissolved, then add the remaining ingredients. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

Place the tongue in a non-metallic container that fits it relatively snuggly (a 3.5 litre tupperware should be ideal), and pour the cooled brine over the top. Put a lid on top and refrigerate for 5 days.

After 5 days, remove the tongue from the brine and discard the liquid. Put the tongue in a large saucepan and fill with water. Add the onion, garlic, bay and celery. Bring to a simmer and cook slowly for 3-4 hours. Don’t allow to boil. If you have a temperature probe, keeping the water at 90-95C is ideal.

While the tongue is cooking, make the zhug and the lentil dish—both are served at room temperature.

In a large pestle and mortar, grind the cumin and sea salt to a powder. Add the chilli and garlic and mash into a paste. Then add the herbs, one handful at a time, grinding and mashing to a smooth paste before adding the next handful. Add the oil 2 tbsp at a time, stirring to incorporate, then finish with the sugar and lemon juice. Put to one side.

To make the lentil side dish, heat the oven to 220C fan then roast the onions until they’re charred at the edges, and soft and sweet within. Put the lentils in a pan with plenty of cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20-25 mins until soft. Drain.

Zest 1 orange with a microplane and put the zest in with the drained lentils. Peel the oranges with a sharp knife, cutting the flesh into segments and adding these to the lentils. Scrape any juice in too, before adding the garlic, pomegranate molasses, red pepper flakes and the cooked onions. Mix and season with salt and pepper.

After 3-4 hours the tongue should be soft and yielding if you pierce it with a trussing needle or similar. Remove it from the water and allow to cool for 20 mins before peeling. The membrane will probably come off easily, with just a little encouragement from a knife at the start, though sometimes it’s necessary to use a sharp knife throughout.

Cut the tongue into 2-3cm thick slices across its length. Brown on both sides in a frying pan and cut in ½ again. Season and serve with the lentils and a generous spoonful of zhug.

Recipe and image: Ed Smith