Raw power of tartare
Would you order raw beef for breakfast?
Beef tartare. Photograph: Getty
Did you ever have tartare for breakfast? Maybe with some muesli and some sheep’s yogurt? The answer is most likely in the negative, though I have had friends who experienced it in some of the most fashionable cafes in Berlin.
I wonder would this take off in Ireland. We’re not great at eating raw beef (or anything raw) in Ireland. The wholesale rejection of the beauty of raw beef spurned me to put it permanently on the menu in Tartare, our new cafe and wine bar in Galway. Rather than being something exclusively to be had in restaurants, I wanted people to able to enjoy it anytime (even breakfast).
But what exactly is tartare and does it always have to be made with meat? The answer to the latter is, of course, a resolute no. Tartare can be made with a variety of different food stuffs from meat to fish and vegetables. I recently had a wild strawberry tartare in Poland at the Terroir Symposium. It was delicious and was bound up with sorrel, horseradish and a syrup made from reduced tomato juice.
Considering we are coming into wild salmon season, I can imagine wild strawberries working wonderfully with this preeminent Irish fish. Maybe with some finely chopped sorrel or wild garlic mayonnaise.
To answer the former question: the word “tartare” originally signified the sauce that accompanied the meat (which was often horsemeat, especially in France). The 1921 edition of Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire defines it as steack à l’Americaine made without egg yolk, served with tartar sauce on the side. The 1938 edition of Larousse Gastronomique describes steak tartare as raw ground beef served with a raw egg yolk, without any mention of tartar sauce. In Tartare, we serve ours with a smoked egg yolk purée.
The key to a good tartare is balance between the salty, fatty and acidic elements. The meat used is always lean so fat, in the form of egg yolk or oil should be added. Onions and vinegar usually balance the fat. Finally, a fresh herb is always a welcome addition to lift the tartare to another level. Enjoy.