The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD- FILE - JP McMA­HON

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.

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