Hand of Cow for lunch, anyone?

(Today’s recipe: Mão de Vaca com Grão, or Cows Hoof with Chickpeas)
Photo from flickr by knightbefore_99
I love languages and the fun one can have with them. When we asked our lovely waitress what the daily lunch special was, she said, “it’s Hand of Cow”. At first I thought I’d misheard, but no, we were having either Hand of Cow or something that was like cuttlefish, but not cuttlefish. We’ll have one of each, I bravely said.

Mão de Vaca com Grão translates directly to Hand of Cow, but is actually Cows Hoof with Chickpeas. Personally I’ve never had either, so we thrilled to try something new. The other dish which was cuttlefish but not cuttlefish (...!), was called Lulus Fritas and is sautéed squid which was also delicious, but let’s get back to The Hand, shall we.

I found this interesting bit of info about The Hand on the following website:
In Portugal they call this soup Mão de Vaca – literally ‘Cow Hand’. Something about this makes me chuckle – cow hand! And mão de vaca has another meaning. Someone who is (or perhaps has) mão de vaca is very ‘careful’ with their money (especially when it comes to buying the drinks). The image I have is of a cow clutching a few notes in that ‘hand’ that never opens. Mocotó would actually be perfect for people like this because not only is it delicious and nutritious, but it is cheap to make as well! (Mocotó is the Brazilian name for the same dish.)

Photo courtesy of pinterest – david macmillan hospice

Then I found another website that gives a recipe, so without further ado, let’s say thanks to Easy Portuguese Recipes for this easy recipe! See my notes at the end for a few minor changes/differences.

Mão de Vaca com Grão, or Cows Hoof with Chickpeas, is a very unique dish in Portuguese gastronomy. Originating in the central part of Portugal, it is an interesting combination of flavors, coming from the cows hoof, piri piri sauce, chourico, and chickpeas, which are very typical of Mediterranean cuisine. The combination of these typical Portuguese ingredients creates a flavorful and rich sauce with a spicy kick, which is perfect for being enjoyed with some rice on the side.

*Serves 2-3*
1 cows hoof
1 chourico sausage
6 bacon slices
2 carrots, chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 lbs. chickpeas
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon piri piri (see NOTE at end)
3/4 cup rice (ditto)
Salt and pepper to taste
1) Cook the chickpeas in a saucepan with some water on medium heat. Once they are done and tender, add them to a bowl and set aside.
2) Clean and wash the cows hoof. Place it in a saucepan with some water and let it boil for 5 minutes. Remove the water from the saucepan and pour it out.
3) Now add the carrots, onions, garlic, bay leaf, white wine, piri piri, and salt and pepper to taste to the saucepan. Let it cook on low heat for 15 minutes.
4) As it is cooking, in a frying pan on medium heat, add the bacon and chourico along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once they are browned, add them to the saucepan along with the rest of the olive oil and the tomato paste. Turn it to medium heat and stir it well as it cooks.
5) Once the cows hoof is soft and tender, break it apart into small pieces and add them back to the saucepan. Let it simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.
6) Boil the 3/4 cup of rice with some water.
7) Add the chickpeas to the saucepan and allow to simmer about 15 minutes on low heat. Stir it well.
8) Cover with the chopped parsley. Serve while hot on a platter with the white rice.

The meat is fairly gelatinous, so probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but do give it a try as it is completely different and different is good (well most of the time…). In the restaurant it wasn’t very spicy, so add as much or as little spice as you’d like.
Also, it wasn’t served with rice, but had a few cubed potatoes in with it. You could add these along with the carrots or boil them separately and add them at the end or even serve them separately.

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