There isn’t much cooking involved here, just a little frantic scorching and some very thin slicing.
The seared crust of the beef is given a gutsy punch from an excess of rosemary and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. The brief cooking time leaves the centre of the meat entirely raw.
It almost goes without saying that if you’re going to eat raw meat, make sure it’s the best you can get. This essentially means fillet steak, with all the fat carefully trimmed away until you’re left with a long, slender chunk of pure beef.
Fillet costs a fortune, but a small amount goes a long way when prepared for a carpaccio. 400g is enough for a starter for six.
First, pull the leaves off a few big sprigs of rosemary and chop them very finely. Season generously with salt and pepper and spread the leaves out on a chopping board.
Roll the fillet in the rosemary, pressing down firmly, so that the herb clings to the meat. The fillet should be completely crusted.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat and add a glug of olive oil. Gently place the fillet in the pan and cook for a minute or so on each side, keeping the heat high. The idea is to create a crust, but leave the middle entirely raw.
Remove the fillet to a plate and allow to cool completely, before resting for an hour or two in the fridge.
To slice the beef, use a large, very sharp knife and aim for slices thinner than a pound coin. If you can get them thinner, all the better.
Stretch each slice out gently with the back and face of the blade, and lay them on a large plate.
When you’ve sliced the whole fillet, very lightly season the meat, dress with some thinly sliced cherry tomatoes, red onion, chopped red pepper, spring onions – really anything you have to hand – and sparingly dress with a simple dressing of three tablespoons of olive oil, half a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and a little lemon juice.
The seared crust is enough to encourage those who swear they’ll only ever eat well-done beef into trying just a little.
The results are stunning. The beef is soft and velvety, with the occasional tang of mustard and a stab of lemon or pepper, the rosemary is bitter and crisp.
I served this on Christmas Day as a way around the ‘is a first course really necessary given the colossal size of that turkey?’ question. This was a great half-way point – a big platter of carpaccio, served for people to collectively pick at.
Best of all, it kept everybody out of the kitchen for a good half an hour…