Head cheese Madeira


aka. veal en tortue. Tortue used to be an old spice mix to prepare sea turtle, consisting of rosemary, sage , coriander , basil, marjoram , savory and thyme

Calf head used to be a real popular menu item. Cookbooks in the 1800s listed dozens of calf head recipes. The entire head was often the centerpiece of the table. Nowadays, it is just about impossible to find a whole calf head.

Your butcher may carry (frozen) beef head meat, but that is usually less tender. The veal head can be substituted with veal tongue and/or brisket of veal.


Pic1: head cheese en tortue
Pic2: slice it or dice it


This is what you need for 8+ servings:

  • 1 veal tongue
  • 1 lb. veal brisket
  • ½ lb. ground veal
  • 2 ox feet


  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 4 tbsp. flour
  • 1 qt. veal broth from cooking the feet
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 lb. button mushrooms
  • Madeira wine, 1 shot glass
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • turtle spices


  • Cook the meat until tender.
  • Cook 2 ox feet in 3 pints of the broth until the bones come apart.
    This broth will gel when cold.
  • Peel the tongue. Cut away the fat on the underside.
  • Cut away fat and gristle in the brisket.
  • Slice the meat ¼ to ½ inch slices.
  • Roll the ground veal into small meat balls.
  • Optional:
  •  cook the meatballs in salted water; or sauté them together with the sliced mushrooms.
  • Make the Madeira Sauce.
    • Heat the butter, stir in the flour and fry until brown.
    • Add the broth.
    • Add tomato, onion, carrots, S&P, spices to taste and simmer for 1 hr.
    • Pass everything through a fine food mill.
  • Add the veal meat, meatballs, mushrooms and Madeira to the sauce and bring to a near-boil.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Serve immediately.
  • Garnish with halved hard-boiled eggs and sweet-pickled gherkins.
  • The remainder of this dish can be poured in a mold and refrigerated.
    The sauce will gel solid.
  • Slice to serve cold with bread, or reheat.