I wrote about Prague in the first issue of The New European, when only four
editions were planned in the wake of the Brexit referendum. If you’re reading this, I imagine you’re thankful the paper has continued.
In that first piece, I recalled a European Interrailing trip many years ago. The Czech capital was my third stop on a long road, one that swallowed Dutch cigarettes, Berlin nightclubs, and after plenty of Prague lager, bowls of restorative goulash in Budapest.
I’d like to say my visit to the Czech Republic last week was much less intense and a little more mature. Alas. Thanks to Budvar, the state-owned beer brand, I might have even managed as many pints as my teenage self. On a chilly brewery tour through 130-year-old cellars, we were dosed up with 200-day-old lager, made to the same recipe as it was centuries ago. It hits hard, just as it did for all those thirsty monks.
The food was possibly a little more refined and sophisticated this time around. Schnitzels and potato salads have proven to be consistent but steak tartare with fine cuts of beef, from one of the country’s most famous chefs, is a new experience for me in Prague.
In a busy bar, Jirka Horak danced about and served up pickled carp with carrots, ’nduja-hewn mince on toast, and this: a layered tartare, sweet with mustard and tart with vinegar; refreshed by sprigs of fresh lovage and chives.
It is an outstanding preparation of steak tartare – and, so I observed, quite simple to prepare. I imagine getting the balance correct is the trickiest part. Happily, Horak was happy to share his recipe with me. Here it is.
For the mayonnaise
4 eggs, boiled for no more than five minutes and then finely chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
0.5l sunflower oil
Salt and pepper to taste
For the steak tartare
700g steak mince, minced with 50g finely chopped ’nduja salami
Pinch of salt
A generous handful of mustard seeds pickled in cider vinegar (see below)
Wild garlic (if in season)
For the cider vinegar
A little apple cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
A few peppercorns
Tbsp of water
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt
Pickle the mustard seeds in the cider vinegar mixture.
For the mayonnaise, mix together the first three ingredients, then add the sunflower oil.
Mix thoroughly again until you get a luscious mayonnaise consistency.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Squeeze the mayonnaise across the serving plate, ensuring a fine covering. Add the prepared steak tartare (should be served at room temperature) on top.
Dress with the lovage, chives, fried and wild garlic (if latter is in season) and the pickled mustard seeds.