This is what wikipedia says is steak tartare:
“….Steak tartare is a meat dish made from finely chopped or minced raw beef or horsemeat. It is often served with onions, capers and seasonings (the latter typically incorporating fresh ground pepper and Worcestershire sauce), sometimes with a raw egg yolk, and often on rye bread….”
Nutrient profile of red meat
Here is an excellent paper on the nutrient profile of red meats from the University of Wollogong in Australia. As you can see it’s absolutely packed with vitamins and minerals and particulary rich in zinc, potassium, magnesium and B12.
So what kind of steak should we use for tartare? Well it should be organic of course, that’s a no brainer – we don’t want to be eating the antibiotics that the cow has been fed on. Also, it must be frozen. Either bought frozen or kept in a home freezer for at least a week to kill any potential parasites. This is very important. We don’t want to end up with a tapeworm or Toxoplasma! Freezing will not affect the taste, texture or nutrients in any way.
Why grass fed?
Is it important to get grass fed beef? I think so. Personally, I think the most important difference between grass fed and grain fed beef is that grain fed beef does not have a healthy balance of omega 3 and omega 6 oils. The point of the Seignalet diet is to get back to what our caveman ancestors were eating and their meat came from game animals that ate grasses and had high levels of omega 3 oils in the meat. We can’t eat aurochs, the wild ancestors of domesticated cattle like early modern man but we can at least choose to eat grass fed animals. As Hugh Fearnly-Wittingstall says, “Cows eat grass, is it really too much to ask to just let them?”.
Some aurochs survived in wilderness areas of Easstern Europe until 400 years ago when they became extinct. The aurochs was much bigger than modern cattle, as well as being “athletic, swift and aggressive”. Domestication, which produced the precursors of the modern cow, started in the neolithic, between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago in India and the Middle East. At least five different “Jurassic Park” type projects are trying to bring back the aurochs, some using “back breeding” from modern cattle breeds which have still have some aurochs genes, and one using genetic material found in aurocs remains. A 2015 British resarch project found aurochs ancestry in these British cattle breeds: Highland, Dexter, Kerry, Welsh Black, and White Park. (Steak from some of these breeds may sometimes be available from Farmison.) Here is an extract from another Australian study (Ponnamplalam et al 2005):
“….There was a significantly higher level of total omega-3 (n-3) and long chain n-3 fatty acid in grass-fed beef (P< 0.0001) than the grain-fed groups regardless of cut types….” and this: “…Data from the present study show that grain feeding decreases functional lipid components (long chain n-3 FA and CLA) in Australian beef regardless of meat cuts, while increasing total trans 18:1 and saturated FA levels….”
Where to source? Cost?
Where to source your grass fed beef? I live in the UK. I used to go to Iceland, a frozen food store here in the UK and buy their Pargaguayan, grass fed rump steak but last time I looked this has been discontinued. I now get grass fed steak from the UK online supplier Farmison. Here is my email exchange with Farmison , “Hi, You make the claim “grass fed” for your beef. But to my knowledge cattle are taken off pasture in the winter in the uk. So do the cows eat grass all year round? Or just in the spring/summer months?”. Here is their reply: “Our beef is sourced from farms that farm their cattle on grass the whole year round. Breeds like Galloway, Hereford etc are kept out all year, some of the smaller breeds like the Dexter might come in when the weather turns colder but they are continued to be fed on grass during that time. One of our farmers basically doesn’t see his cattle until he leads them down from the hills ready for slaughter. So our claim is indeed true and we know that breeds like our Galloway will be among the best beef you will ever taste. Absolutely delicious”. I buy fillet tails which cost £13 ($17). I cut the tail into four portions and put them in the freezer. So including a salad made from lettuce and avocado, the meal costs around £4.50. So it’s cheaper than a Big Mac meal.
Nigella’s classic recipe
So what is my recipe? Well here are the tradiitional recipe ingredients. From Nigella’s recipe on the BBC website:
- 100g/3½oz organic beef fillet, finely chopped
- 2 gherkins, finely chopped
- 1 tsp capers, rinsed and drained, finely chopped
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- few drops Tabasco sauce
- ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 slice dark rye or pumpernickel bread
- 1 free-range egg yolk
Make it “food combining” and Seignalet legal and make it simple
My recipe is much simpler and takes about 5 minutes to make. First of all, I ditch the egg yolk. I have been following food combining principles for the past 17 years as well as eating mostly raw animal protein: fish, eggs and meat for the past 3 years. (Note: if eating raw animal protein or just the thought of it makes you gag, Seignalet allows light cooking, like steaming).
According to food combining theory, the amount and timings of gastric juices vary for particular foods and different types of protein affect the stomach’s secretions differently, so types of concentrated protein should not be combined. For example fish and meat, or nuts and eggs etc. etc. should not be eaten together at the same meal. That said, I don’t think it makes that much difference in terms of the Seignalet diet if you want to go ahead and use the egg yolk. Food combining also forbids eating concentrated carbohydrates with protein at the same meal. In terms of food combining I don’t think that one slice of rye or pumpernickel bread is going to make much difference and I would see this as more of a condiment than anything but the bread is not Seignalet legal.
So you might use Nigella’s gourmet recipe if you are having friends for dinner or if you want to be indulgent but without the bread if you are doing the Seignalet diet.
Do you need all those condiments?
Also, I ditch all of the condiments except for french mustard and I use Thai fish sauce (Nam Plah). I want to eat food as simply as possible. Our caveman ancestors probably ate just one food at a time at a meal and would have had a highly developed sense of taste and smell. I believe that the “Instinctos” are correct in saying that when the organism of a caveman ancestor needed the particular nutrients in a particular food that food would smell and taste delicious to them and when the body had had enough of the nutrients in that food it would lose its sensory appeal. Seignalet believed that this was correct. Like Seignalet though, I don’t think it is practical or possible in modern day society to go back to this instinctive way of eating even though it is still hardwired in our brains if we care to re-discover it. However, I do avoid complicated recipes which are primarily designed to titillate the taste buds. I try to get as close to a natural palate as possible – but I can’t do without some french dressing on my salad!
My five minute recipe
Always, always, wash your hands thoroughly before touching food.
So here is my recipe. Trust me, it’s just as delicious as Nigella’s recipe and takes a fraction of the time (particularly shopping time) to prepare.
You will need a Chinese chef’s knife. It looks like a meat cleaver. Chinese chefs use these knives exclusively for all cutting and chopping.
Get your Chinese chef’s knife really sharp. I use a little gadget called a “Multi-Sharp Knife and Scissor sharpener”, much easier to use than the chef’s proper sharpening steel. Make sure you clean off the swarf. Have you ever seen a TV chef clean off the swarf after doing this before straight way using the knife for chopping food? No! While we are on the subject, have you ever seen them washing their hands after shaking hands with the TV interviewer and then handling food? Again, no! (My tip: avoid eating in restaurants.)
Chopping board hygiene
You will also need a chopping board. Make sure you get a bamboo chopping board. These do not warp when they get wet from cleaning. Incidentally, if prior to cooking it you ever cut or chop raw meat that has not been frozen, you must never use the board to prepare other food, without first sterilizing the board. Pour boiling water over it into the sink and scrape it thoroughly with a knife, then repeat boiling water and scrape etc. If you don’t do this you could easily infect yourself or others with Toxoplasma gondi eggs, a parasite spread by cat faeces and implicated in schizophrenia (!) and very often eaten by cows, sheep and goats.
(Another good reason to avoid eating in restaurants) The parasite is killed by cooking or freezing. In our case we are using frozen beef so this problem does not apply to us. (Seignalet does not mention this danger).
Which cut to use?
Any lean cut will do. I prefer rump over sirloin because I think it’s a bit leaner. If you are budget conscious, tails are a good lean cut and quite cheap. You definitely do not want to use cheap mince which has loads of fat in it. That would really be disgusting!
Lay your beef on the board. Cut out any obvious bits of sinew. Draw your knife across the beef while holding it down with your fingers. Be careful not to cut yourself. Do cuts as close together as possible along the length of your piece of beef. Turn the board round and do the same thing again. Then chop, chop, chop with your knife. As you are doing this you can pick out any small bits of sinew. The object is to turn the beef into a paté like paste.
Now put your beef paste into a small bowl. Add one heaped teaspoonful of french mustard (per person) and a good dash of Thai fish sauce. Mix well together. That’s it. Dip into your steak tartare with your fork as a side dish to a large salad. To make the salad, simply put a nice head of lettuce into a large serving bowl. (How to buy and prepare lettuce will be another blog entry). I like to add some plum tomatoes and whole avocado pear and some nocellara olives. To make french dressing (for one), put one teaspoonful of french mustard in a dish. Sprinkle on a little (very little) Guerlande sea salt (available on amazon). Add one tablespoonful of raw, organic cider vinegar. Whisk with a fork until the mustard and salt have dissolved in the vinegar. Then add two tablespoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil and whisk until you have a nice smooth emulsion. Then pour onto the salad and give it a good stir. I end the meal with a small bowl of miso soup (more on miso soup in another blog). That’s my delicious, Seignalet legal, food combining legal meal. It takes virtually zero shopping time or thought. You can buy a stock of several frozen steaks to put in your freezer. The meal takes about 7 minutes maximum to prepare and trust me – its delicious.
Thai fish sauce
In the UK, you can get a litre bottle of genuine Thai fish sauce (“Squid” brand) at most supermarkets. Make sure you get real Thai fish sauce not some horrible ersatz rubbish. Make sure it’s got Thai writing on it. Fish sauce is made by adding salt to anchovies and letting them ferment. (The phoney stuff is made from “anchovy extract” – read the label carefully) The result is a super umami flavour. The flavour actually comes mostly from the abundant glutamate. I just hope I am not going to find out one day that the Thai fish sauce factories cheat and add loads of msg! The other day I ran out of fish sauce and had to use tamari (wheat free soy sauce). Not good. It’s really the fish sauce that makes it.
Salt and iodine
I will address this subject in detail in another blog. How much salt should you eat? Seignalet says much less. He thought the French ate 4 times too much salt. In the english speaking world we probably eat a lot more than the French, especially if you eat a lot of processed food which is absolutely packed with the stuff. How much did our stone age ancestors eat? Either very little or none at all, we can’t really be sure. Personally I think some groups who lived close to the sea shore would have eaten a lot of seaweed like samphire which is pretty salty but groups who lived inland probably ate none at all. One thing I am absolutely sure of though is that all our modern day vegetables and fruits are iodine deficient because grown in iodine depleted soils. Table salt has to be iodized by law. So if you are cutting right down on your salt or using real sea salt in small quantities it is essential to supplement with at least 4 drops of Lugol’s iodine in a glass of water every day. Contrary to yet another malignant medical myth spread by the drug companies and the AMA to make sure our health is always subpar so we always need their drugs, supplementing with a little Lugol’s iodine is NOT toxic to your thyroid even if you are not on a low salt or no salt diet. It is essential! Just make sure you don’t use tincture of iodine, that is a poison!
Why some “health” diets can lead to hypothyroidism
So Dr. Jean Seignalet and Sally Fallon who advocate cutting right down on salt and Lauren Cordain who tells you to avoid salt together, all without telling you to supplement with Lugol’s iodine are all leading you to hypothyroidism with their advice. Only Gerson whose diet includes 4 drops of Lugol’s a day was giving correct advice on this subject.
These opinions are the author’s own (Chris Parkinson’s) and are not necessarily shared by the Seignalet family.SUPPORT CHRIS