Oh man I felt the pressure this week. Not only is France my favourite country but the choices of what to cook were endless. Did I make the Beignet’s I used to buy on the beaches of the Sud de France? What about Moule Marinere – which I would guess I have eaten over 250 times? Should I choose Soupe de Poisson or risk offending people with Foie Gras? I found it really hard to decide.
Last summer, as I lay by a pool in Cucuron (see earlier blog post) in Provence I calculated that I am only about 4 weeks short of spending an entire year in France spread over various holidays. I literally cannot get enough of the place. Every summer throughout my childhood we would pack up the car and drive for two days until we reached the sun-baked South Coast and Argeles. Every day revolved around food. We would get up and walk to get croissants and baguettes which we would nibble the ends of on the walk home. In the morning on the beach we would buy the Beignet’s and chocolate covered nuts from guys who walked up and down. At lunch time we would head back to our Villa and have Le Vache Qui Rit on left over bread with Pate de Campagne and Cornichons. For dinner we would barbeque (always) and it had to be Merquez Sausages which are popular in France due to the North African influences there. Late night we would stroll along the beach into Argeles town and my brother, sister and I would buy Boules of Glace (ice cream) and my parents would drink another Bierre. It was the best.
I did, however, feel that for this blog I needed to create (not cook) a dish I had always wanted to eat, but for some reason (be it by chance or fear I am not sure) I had not had before……Steak Tartare. Steak Tartare is raw beef and there is no trickery – it is absolutely raw. Added to this, if you make it traditionally (which I did) you have it with a raw egg. The simplicity of the dish does strike some fear into people and I have no doubt that if you mention it to a group of your friends, at least half will turn their noses up at it. The recipe is this: Dice 350g of Filet Steak, a large handful of parsley, 20 small Cornichon and 6 Shallots. Mix them all together with some salt and pepper and put them into a patty. That is all until you add the egg.
Psychologically I found it strange slicing the raw meat and then popping a bit into my mouth. It just seemed a bit wrong, but when presented as the dish it seemed much more appropriate.
Pouring the raw egg onto the meat divided the four of us (my brother and his wife were round for dinner). My brother and I had zero issue with it, but Des (wife) and Sam (Sister in Law) were not quite as keen – although did persist throughout and ate it all.
I was thoroughly surprised at how delicious it was. It didn’t seem at all like I was eating anything strange or wrong and the texture was not bad in the slightest. The overall feel of the dish was fresh, comforting and I felt a little smug. I had dared to do what many others wouldn’t and eaten uncooked meat – and it was brilliant. I understand why some people wouldn’t want to eat a raw egg, but I’ll tell you what – it isn’t a bad and you feel like you are eating something which is really good for you – you can almost taste the protein.
I highly recommend, but remember to use fillet steak or it could be a lot less tender.