Raw foodies, Paleo dieters, Francophiles and gourmets, rejoice! Here is a dish that unites you all. Yes, it is that classic of French bistros and retro dinner parties: steak tartare.
I love steak tartare because it reminds me of my honeymoon in Paris – that and oysters, yes, life is a cliché. Coincidentally I think I first ate it at a well-known French bistro in London, at the birthday party my husband took me too on our first date. Maybe I had better stop this line of reminiscence!
Suffice it to say steak tartare, before I had even eaten it, had imprinted on my consciousness an air of sophistication and chic that would surely be imparted to me via the fork should I ever order it in a restaurant. What had passed me by completely at this point was how absolutely DELICIOUS it is.
Raw meat it may be, and I know plenty of spoilsports who won’t even try it on these grounds (yes, they eat sashimi, I know, I know . . .) but it is the most melt-in-the-mouth, softly tender, yet assertively spicy with its blend of cornichons, capers, pepper and Dijon mustard, mound of deliciousness that I have ever tasted. IF it is made well, that is; here there is no disguising the quality of your ingredients. Not one for Tesco budget mince, this, believe me. By the way I always go for rump steak not fillet. The later may practically dissolve on the tongue but rump has a far superior flavour to my mind (and palate).
What has even more recently come to my attention, however, is quite how nutritious this dish is too. Raw meat, the morsel of choice for our Paleolithic ancestors, whose digestive system was the blueprint for our own (in fact internally we are pretty much exactly the same as we were two and a half million years ago, despite the fact that our diet is startlingly different) is high in vitamins A, B, C (yes, meat has vitamin C in it, albeit a small amount) and D – not forgetting iron and zinc. It is a regular alphabetical roll-call of good nutrition. Eaten raw, these are even more absorbable to our oft much-in-need bodies.
And, to bump up the nutritional profile even more this dish requires raw egg yolks . . oh dear, am I sounding like a complete raw food freak now? In my defence raw meat and raw egg yolk equals steak tartare and mayonnaise, perfectly acceptable to French families, perfectly acceptable to me.
Egg yolks are unbelievably good for you though – don’t waste your money on a daily multi-vitamin, have a daily pastured egg or two instead. Forget the cholesterol myth, there is no proof dietary cholesterol is bad for you, in fact quite the opposite: and egg yolks (where the concentration of the goodness of the egg is found) are rich in vitamins A, D, E and K, essential fatty acids, and choline, a little-recognised but incredibly important mineral for cell health. And eating them raw means no heat-sensitive enzymes are destroyed and all the goodness from that little yellow powerhouse can be put straight to use; no wonder it’s such a well-touted hangover cure!
So here we have it: a dish I love the taste of, has fond memories and one that makes me feel chic and Parisian even if I am sitting at home in my pyjamas eating it, is actually GOOD for me too. Life doesn’t get much better than this.
Steak Tartare (serves 2-4)
This version is adapted from the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook
175g rump steak, sinew, fat and connective tissue trimmed off
2 tsp finely chopped cornichons
2 tsp finely chopped rinsed capers
1 salt packed anchovy, rinsed, filleted and smashed with some olive oil
1 tsp finely chopped parsley
½ tsp Dijon mustard (or more to taste)
2 small egg yolks
salt and pepper
1-2 tbsp good olive oil
This is a dish to prepare and serve immediately, it doesn’t like hanging around, the beef oxidises once cut and the seasonings need to be fresh.
With a very sharp knife slice the beef thinly across the grain then cut into julienne strips. Cut crosswise into fine dice. Then give a quick finishing chop until you have a textured but holding-together pile.
Combine with the other ingredients, use a little salt at first then add more to taste. Add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil to add flavour and give the dish a super-silky texture.
Serve with toasted Poilaine bread (or any good sourdough) for authentic Parisian bistro feel.