Saturday, May 14, 2011

On the lamb: Jamie’s gorgeously minty, lemony tartare

Autumn. It gets me every time.

I will be going about my business, and then it happens. Perhaps the light catches a vase of flowers just so. Or a break in the clouds illuminates the world so exquisitely that I can’t help but inwardly gasp — and then comes the intense, hollow longing; an unidentifiable nostalgia so acute that I tear-up, for no reason other than the autumn light is so beautiful, so tragic.

It only happens at this time of year, my favourite season. And it’s not a bad feeling, exactly. It’s ... bittersweet.

Maybe it feels tragic because it’s a portent of the cold months to come.

Or maybe I just need to refill my Prozac prescription (or should that be ‘Prosaic’?).

After reading one of Kate Liquorish’s posts, I decided to call on a butcher she recommended at the Neighbourgoods Market, where I relieved him of a beautiful piece of free-range lamb loin. Later I roasted two thirds of it, but first I cut off a chunk and made this molto delicious lamb tartare from Jamie At Home. Please do make it the next time you have a piece of good-quality free-range lamb. It is fresh (thanks to the mint and lemon juice), tasty and deliciously juicy and meaty. I far prefer it to beef tartare.

Just a note: I served the tartare with caper berries instead of cornichons, and only used lemon juice, leaving out the orange juice, and it worked out just dandy.

It’s the perfect dish — with a good red — for an autumn afternoon, when the sunlight is thin and slanting... (Oh dear, there she goes again.)

PS: Check out my Q&A at iAfrica Food (if only to see a very unflattering photo of me eating an ice cream in Melbourne).

PPS: I have a new 'About' as well as a new masthead. What do you think? Prefer the old one? I'm undecided...

[Jamie’s] really very delicious lamb tartare   
Serves 4

You might be surprised to hear this, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating raw lamb, just as there’s nothing wrong with eating raw beef. Carpaccios and steak tartares are pretty common in France and Italy, and for quite some time now we’ve been featuring lamb tartare on our menu at Fifteen. It always goes like hotcakes and people clean their plates, so I’d love for you guys to give it a go. It’s quick to make, contemporary, slightly restauranty but absolutely delicious.

In Italy I tasted this with new season’s olive oil, which was just delicious. Try to get hold of some because a good oil can make all the difference, rather than using cheap gear.

As far as the cut of meat is concerned, the fillet or loin is traditionally used to make tartare, but with lamb you can use slightly tougher and tastier cuts like rump and leg, as long as the sinews are removed (this is really important, the butcher can do it for you) and you give the meat a good bash with a tenderising hammer, or something heavy, before you start chopping it up.

450g trimmed best quality lamb meat
1 fresh red chilli, halved and deseeded
a small jar of little gherkins
a small bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped, baby leaves reserved
1 teaspoon French mustard
Juice of one orange
Juice of one lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
8 x 1cm thick slices of ciabatta bread
2 handfuls watercress, washed and spun dry

1. Get yourself a large chopping knife. Put your meat on a chopping board and slice it up, then chop it until you have a coarse mince. Push this to one end of the board and finely slice your chilli on the other. Add the gherkins to the board and chop these up on top of the chilli, then add the mint on top and finely chop again.
2. Put the meat and all the flavourings from the board into a bowl and stir together, adding the mustard and orange and lemon juice. Mix up and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour in a few glugs of olive oil. Mix everything together so that all the meat is nicely coated and dressed in the lovely flavours — have a taste. This is your opportunity to have a little more heat if you want it, with mustard or chilli, or a little extra lemon juice to cut through. Seasoning it well is also really important.
3. When the meat is tasting really good, heat up your grill or a griddle pan and toast the ciabatta slices. There are two ways I like to serve this dish. You can give each person a couple of ciabatta slices on their plate, topped with a spoonful of tartare, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a little lemon-dressed watercress. Or, if you want to be a little more family style, you can put all the tartare onto a platter and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Place a couple of extra gherkins on the side and scatter over the reserved baby mint leaves. Serve with a bowl of lemon-dressed watercress and a basketful of toasted bread next to it, and let everyone dive in and help themselves.


  1. Interesting! I am a tartare addict but, for some reason, just assumed that you should only eat beef raw and no other red meat. I am so happy to be proved wrong!

    I love your About section - and I am holding thumbs for your cabbage idol to realise its dream in the near future!

  2. Beautiful post, and I love the masthead. Lamb tartare is very popular in the Middle East as kibbeh. Yum! This one WILL be made and savoured.

  3. Wonderful! I've never contemplated eating lamb raw, but this looks absolutely divine, and your description is very tempting..

  4. When I get some good fresh lamb I will give this a go; looks divine. O also like the new look.