When himself went to Berlin to University ( a life time ago), he spoke no German, whatsoever. Arriving at the Hauptbahnhof, near midnight, the station restaurant was still open. Looking at the menu he recognised Nothing! But wait a moment Steak Americain! STEAK, that will do! So he chose that but to his great surprise, it was raw meat!
Times have changed, and steak Americain, or steak tartare, is one of our favourites. Of course it got a bad rap after the various BSE scares, but honestly we find it a delight, especially when it is prepared in front of you, at your table. One restaurant in London that I like and which has recently been re vamped is The Ivy in Covent Garden . I have checked and it still serves Steak Tartare either as a starter of as a main course. We were in Montreux Switzerland recently, and ate at the Jazz Cafe ( it was the Montreux Jazz festival) . On the menu we found Steak Tartare and of course we both chose it. Our friends newly arrived from Houston Texas, where they like their steaks ( big and cooked) were not so keen but JB did choose the duck and asked for it rare, and then he had food envy when he saw ours!
It easy to make yourself, but especially easy here in France, as the butcher will mince top quality steak for you. However, in the UK I would recommend either you mince the meat yourself, or chop it by hand but make sure it is chopped finely.
To make your own Steak Tartare you will need:-
500g of beef fillet, diced or minced. 25g of shallot or red onion finely chopped
40g of cornichons, chopped. 40g of baby capers, rinsed
20g of Dijon mustard. 90g of mayonnaise
5 drops of Tabasco. 14ml of brandy
1 pinch of parsley, chopped. Salt and pepper to taste
4 egg yolks. 4 slices of sourdough bread And or Double cooked French ( Belgian ) fries. 100g of rocket
Michaël Torfs reports that the Belgian government is working on a new law which determines the composition of mayonnaise. You might think that this is a bit weird, however, Mayo is an important part of “Frites et Mayo” “frieten met mayonaise” (chips with mayonnaise). De Morgen and Het Laatste Nieuws, Belgian newspapers, and this has been picked up by The Times and the Guardian of London. The current law (1955 ), decrees that real Mayo should contain 80% fat and 7.7% egg yolk. But in times of food consciousness many manufacturers make a healthier options, which puts the Belgian producers at a disadvantage. Actually not sure why someone would choose a lighter Mayo with the French fries after all they themselves are highly calorific, especially as in Belgium French fries are always double cooked and the best triple cooked. By the way, French fries were not apparently invented by the French but by the Belgians in the 17 th century, which strikes me as odd, as Belgium as a country did not come into being until after the Napoleonic wars! Ah Well!
Himself, when asked the other night “what would you like for dinner?” came up with the idea of Boulliabaisse. Great idea, I thought, but we had to compromise as if you read French cook books, One can not make a true Boulliabaisse, without Racasse, ( a fish of the Scorpion Family) and alternative in the UK is Gurnard, or possibly monkfish. Acording to the orginal doyenne of cookery, Elizabeth David, said there are as many “Authentic” Boulliabaisse recipes as there are cooks!
So lacking Racasse. or anything similar, we connocted our own recipe, using that which was available, so I guess it could be called a fish stew along the lines of Boulliabaisse. The whole principle of this dinner was that himself would cook dinner. And he did.
So for our version of Bouillabaisse, he used.
- about 200 grms each of white fish, salmon, wth the skin removed and cut into chunks. 200 grms each of Shrimp( large ones, de-veined and heads off) Squid, cleaned and cut into slices.12 od so mussels.
- 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 onions chopped, 2 sticks celery chopped, 1 fennel bulb, chopped, 6 cloves garlic, chopped.
- 2Tbsp tomato puree, 1 can chopped tomatoes
- a bouquet garni composed of thyme, bay leaves and fennel sprigs
- 1/2 bottle white wine. plus some Rouille for eating.( see later)
- a splash of lemon juice
- a splash of pernod ( optional of course)
- Boil together the oil and the wine. Add the vegetables and cook until soft. Add the canned tomatoes and the tomato purée. Add the bouquet Garni, along with the lemon juice andPernod.
- add each type of fish separately , and cook gently, when cooked remove and put to one side, and then cook the next, until you reach the the shrimp and mussels.. return all the fish to the stew, taste and season, add more wine of stock to create enough liquid to be able to add the shrimp and mussels. Simmer, and the shrimp and shell fish will only take a few minutes to cook.
To try and be a little more authentic this should be served in large bowls, along with some slices of French bread toasted with some garlic butter, AND Rouille stirred into your bowl. Rouille is a fiery sauce, from theMediterranean, It is made by whizzing together, several cloves of garlic along with 2 small red chili peppers and 1 red pepper. Take a thick slice of bread, remove the crust and soak in a little of your fish soup. Squeeze it and add to the garlic etc., Whizz in little by little an egg yolk and then add bit by bit up to 4 Fl Oz of Olive oil ( as if you were making Mayonnaise. If you think this is a bit of a faf, which I can understand, then you can by it ready made in many supermarkets.