steak tartare with crispy capers
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For steak tartare buy your beef from a trustworthy butcher; wash the shell of your free range egg and the worry if it’s safe to eat disappears.
Steak tartare is the original processed food; the primary burger, the fundamental convenience food. It began with the fierce, horse-dwelling Eurasian warriors variously identified as Tatars, Tartary, Mongolians or Attila the Hun; all most probably related or at least acquainted. They were nomads, they lived on horseback, so no small wonder they carried their food supplies with them at all times. Meat being their nutritional mainline, they preserved it and tenderised it (what with the fact that it was usually tough horse meat) by sticking a slab under their stead’s saddle and going wahey! off to slaughter the neighbours they didn’t like.
Such treatment not just tenderised the steak like no mallet ever could; it probably also seasoned it beautifully with horse sweat – eew! but still, very organic and all natural. The steak travelled from under the saddle to Poland and Germany, then farther to France and took a firm position amongst the macho appetisers. It is variously all mixed up or served deconstructed: with egg yolk, onions et al assorted around the mound of beef.
How to make the perfect beef steak tartare? The key to it is what I call the three Cs: the cut, the chop and the crunch. The cut of beef can arguably be rump or even flank; no need to splurge on fillet. That may be so if you omit my second critical C: the chop, which here means hand chopping into pieces rather than passing it through all-pulping grinder. Minced beef will always make you think you’re eating a raw burger, however refined the seasoning and garnishes. Hand chopping is king and with that in view the meat must be good quality, no question. So ribeye if you manage to trim all the veins and fattier bits, or else fillet, but a hint here: most butchers will sell you ‘end of tail’ fillet bits which can’t possibly be steaked – and you’re not bothered – at a much lower price.
And the third C is the crunch that must be part of the experience; this is no meal for toothless babies. My perfect crunch added to the dish is a few sharp gherkins and crispy fried capers, completely worth the effort of some extra frying. I skip the onion as I don’t care for the onion breath but I add Parmesan for a distinctive je-ne-sais-quois. I definitely don’t skip egg yolk and sometimes double it – make sure it’s fresh and safe to eat raw. On the other hand, you’re about to sink your teeth into a mountain of raw meat and scared of a small egg yolk? You wimp.
steak tartare with crispy capersServings: ingredients for 1Time: 10 minutes
- 150g (6 oz.) fillet beef, chilled
- 3 tsp nonpareil capers, rinsed and drained
- 100ml groundnut oil, for frying
- 1 large free range egg yolk
- 30g (1 oz.) gherkins, chopped finely
- 1 tsp grated Parmesan
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- olive oil, to taste
1. Chop the beef finely with a very sharp knife: first into strips, then dice and then mince it with the knife as if you were chopping herbs. Shape into a nest and place on a serving plate, in the fridge.
2. To make crispy capers, heat up the oil in a small pan until shimmering, add the capers – carefully as there will be a major spit and sizzle – and fry them for about 3 minutes until they open up, darken and crisp up. Drain them well (the oil can be reused).
3. To arrange the steak tartare, place the egg yolk in the beef nest; pile the capers, gherkins and Parmesan around it. Serve like this with salt, pepper and olive oil, for the diner to mash everything together and season to taste.