Tag Archives: Condiments

STEAK TARTARE (Bistecca alla tartara)

Particular dishes or ingredients come and go – for example remember the popularity and overuse of bocconcini or sun-dried tomatoes in so many dishes?

The novelty of certain produce or dishes wears off for a while and then they re-appear, sometimes creatively disguised and sometimes they become popular again.

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Recently I enjoyed Steak Tartare in Paris, Venice, and Cividale del Friuli, Copenhagen and Malmo –– all prepared slightly differently, and some were better than others.

My father used to make his version of Beef Tartare –bistecca alla tartara. He used to pound slices of beef very thinly, add salt and pepper, a drizzle of good olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and leave it to marinate for a short time till it whitened – the meat changed colour, ‘cooked’ by the lemon juice.

The term Tartar is applied to nomadic Mongolic peoples. In the thirteenth century, the Tatars overran large parts of Russia and Europe (what is now Hungary, Germany and Bulgaria). The Tartars were reputed to be skilled horsemen, and this is where my father’s explanation of the origins of bistecca alla tartara comes from. The Tartars used to put slices of finely cut meat under their saddles and the sweat from the horse’s back would marinade and ‘cook’ the meat. When they camped for the night they had dinner ready.

Steak Tartare elsewhere is usually made with finely chopped beef and then it is either served with some condiments or the condiments are mixed with the meat before it is presented.

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Popular condiments vary but the most common are finely chopped parsley and onion, capers, mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and egg yolks. Sometimes there may be anchovies, cornichons, Worcestershire or Tabasco sauce. As you can see by some of the photos (I did not take photos of them all) garnishes and accompaniments vary.

I prefer my Steak Tartare simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and egg yolk. I like an additional egg yolk on top and a few condiments on the side.

Any good quality beef (tenderloin to sirloin or fillet) is suitable but it must be freshly cut – red in colour. Beef eye fillet is good as it is not fatty.

Using a very sharp knife, remove any fat and slice the steak into thin slices (cut with the grain), then cut across the slices to create strips of meat.

Cut across the meat again until you have the size of the mince you prefer. Place into the refrigerator while you prepare the condiments to dress the meat.

Whisk egg yolk, add the lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add the dressing to the meat and gently mix them together. Taste, and if necessary, add more of the above.

If you prefer your mixture highly seasoned add any of the following: Dijon mustard (Moutarde de Dijon), chopped anchovies, Worcestershire or Tabasco sauce, chopped onions, capers, cornichons, parsley.

Divide the meat on chilled dinner plates (form into disks) and press down firmly to pack tightly and remove any air holes.

Make a small dent in the centre of each disk and place a whole egg yolk on top of the meat.

I like to present the meat with a few garnishes on the side – a  few capers, some chopped onion, a dollop of egg mayonnaise or mustard.

I serve it immediately as meat discolors quickly.

I enjoy scooping my meat with crisp, toasted slices of thin Rye bread (cold) or rye biscuits.

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In one Paris restaurant, the Steak Tartare was presented with French fries, in Venice with bread croutons, in Cividale del Friuli it came with hot bread in a paper bag and curls of butter. Cividale del Friuli is close to Slovenia and the Steak Tartare was prepared alla Slovenia – it had chili in the mixture.

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In Malmo it came with a little sour cream and in Copenhagen with thick slices of fresh rye bread – it was perfect for their version of this dish – strips of beef  and an excellent egg mayonnaise to use as a dressing.

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I enjoyed this version of Steak Tartare the most. I do not usually mention the names of  eateries but I will on this occasion:

Manfreds
Manfreds focuses on everyday food, which is aided by modern techniques and raw materials of the highest quality.

The raw materials are biodynamic vegetables from Kiselgården and Birkemosgård, roots from Lammefjord, pig from Hindsholm, lamb from Havervadgaard, ox from Mineslund and herbs from the forest.

At Manfreds the wine is natural wine, which has made ​​the restaurant Copenhagen’s first natural wine bar.

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HARISSA (A hot chili condiment)

I was in Tunis recently and very much enjoyed one particular meal at a restaurant that was by locals and cooked traditional food. The restaurant was very hard to find and our map reading skills were not the best, but we were very happy with the range of food we ate there. Harissa seemed to be in most of the food we ate including some mixed in some oil, which was served as a dip as a starter. It had slices of cucumber and black olives in it.

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The other was a carrot dip also with Harissa.We dipped our bread into both of them.

I have been making and eating harissa for many years.

Harissa is a hot chilli condiment and ingredient and is the favoured national spice of Tunisia, but it is also popular in Algeria and Libya. It is very common to have harissa with couscous and I first tasted it in Sicily many years ago, which is very close to Tunis.

There are now many books about Middle Eastern cuisine (and North African) with recipes and variations for making it, but this version is very simple. I like to use whole caraway or cumin seeds rather than the powder and I do not usually weigh the chilli flakes, but the following ratio works well. In Tunisia they use a dry, very dark whole chilli, which produces Harissa with an intense colour. The chillies could also be smoked (hence their dark colour).

This photo is in my second book Small Fishy Bites and I took it in Tunis.

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150g dried chilli flakes
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
hot water to soften the chilli
1 tbsp whole caraway or cumin seeds
salt, 1 tablespoon
extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup for the mixture and a little extra to seal
Pour hot water on to the chilli flakes, (just enough to cover them) and soak for about 30 minutes. If using caraway seeds rather than powder, add these to soak as well. (The water will be absorbed and the flakes should swell).
Blend the ingredients in a small food processor.
Add the garlic, salt and some the extra virgin olive oil. You may need to add a little water – it should resemble a soft paste.
Pack into small glass jars and top with oil to seal. Replace the oil covering each time you use it.
To make the Harrisa flavoured oil simply mix 2-3 teaspoons of Harissa in about 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil.

Arabic Minaret Tunis

 

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