When I was a young child, I loved steak tartare. I still do, and I’ve never gotten sick from it. I’ve eaten kibbeh and kafta (raw lamb dishes) in Middle Eastern restaurants, and I regularly prepare raw meat dishes at home. The key, I think, is to avoid using anonymous factory-farmed meat. For raw meat dishes, I use 100 percent grass-fed beef or lamb that have been previously frozen for at least 2 weeks.
Is there a risk of getting sick?
Yes, there is. There’s a risk of getting sick from cooked meat as well. We engage in activities every day that involve some risk. We get into cars, hop on planes, buses and trains. We take risks when we eat in restaurants. However, the risk of E. coli infection in meat from 100% pasture-raised animals is miniscule. Here’s why:
According to an article that appeared in Mother Earth News (August/September 2007) by Alison Rogers, posted on AmericanGrassfedBeef.com, “Grass-fed beef is much less likely to harbor acid-resistant E.coli. A diet consisting primarily of grain creates an acidic condition in a cow's digestive system, and the bacteria that survive this pH level are resistant to a human's stomach acid. The result is not pretty. However, a natural diet of grass does not create this acidic environment, and study after study has confirmed that there is much less E. coli in grass-fed meat products. (Read News from Mother: Why Grass Fed is Best for more information.)”
For charts showing the difference between grainfed and grassfed meat, click here
Why the difference between grainfed and grassfed meat?
“Feeding grain to cattle makes their digestive tracts abnormally acidic. Over time, the E. coli in their systems become acclimated to this acid environment. When we ingest them, a high percentage will survive the acid shock of our digestive juices. By contrast, few E. coli from grass-fed cattle will survive because they have not become acid-resistant. When cattle are fed their natural diet of grass, our natural defenses are still capable of protecting us,” says Jo Robinson, author of Pasture Perfect and Eat Wild, the number one site for grass-fed food and facts.
The choice is yours
If you decide that you want to try raw meat, you will not be alone. Many people do so every day, and many cultures from around the world have been eating raw meat for centuries. Some traditional raw meat foods include Middle Eastern Kibbeh, French Steak Tartare, Italian Carpaccio, Korean Raw Beef, Spanish Ceviche, Hawaiian Lomi Lomi, Japanese Sushi and Sashimi (the last four all being raw fish). They do it for the flavor, the texture, and the purported health benefits of eating meat that has undenatured proteins and more readily available amino acids.
This is lamb tartare with steamed Brussels sprouts tossed with mustard vinaigrette and steamed carrots doused with flax oil (I was temporarily out of olive oil). I find raw meat and cooked vegetables much easier to digest than the grain and bean-based meals I ate during my vegan years.
This is one of my favorite recipes for making steak or lamb tartare. I frequently vary the fresh and dried herbs, spices, and other flavorings. Sometimes I use recipes for Moroccan or Mediterranean lamb burgers or kafta kabobs, serving them raw (e.g., this recipe makes great Lamb Tartare; I omit the bread crumbs; for the unspecified amount of coriander seeds in Cat Cora's recipe, try 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander).
Prep: 15 minutes/ Cooking: 0/ Yield: 3 to 4 servings
Rather than serve this as an appetizer, as is done in fine restaurants and in France and the Middle East, I like to serve it as a main dish on a bed of salad greens tossed with vinaigrette or topped with sliced avocado and salsa, or with parboiled vegetables and a salad dressing. I usually serve fresh raw or poached fruit for dessert.
Note: Transfer frozen meat to a pan in the refrigerator 24 to 36 hours in advance. To grind your own meat, chop tenderloin, top round or sirloin steak into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse on and off until the pieces are about 1/8 inch in size, about 10 seconds. A Vita-Mix also works if you grind small batches.
1 to 1 1/4 pounds lean ground (grassfed) beef or bison, frozen for at least 2 weeks and completely thawed
1/2 cup minced onions (Walla Walla Sweets or Vidalias are very good) or scallions
1/4 cup minced shallots, optional
1/4 cup minced parsley leaves, no stems
1 to 2 tablespoons prepared mustard:
Dijon, stoneground, creamy white, Jalapeno-, smoked green chili-, or garlic-flavored
1 to 2 raw egg yolks (they contain lipase, which aids digestion), optional
1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt or 1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce, optional
1/4 to 1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper or ground chipotlé, or to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, optional
Hot sauce, optional
1. Combine everything except hot sauce in 2-quart mixing bowl. Mix with fork. Form into a mound in a bowl or shape into 4 smaller mounds or patties on a platter.
2. Serve immediately, or cover and chill for 2 to 4 hours before serving.
3. Cover and refrigerate leftovers and use within 2 days.
1 serving beef (1/4 recipe): 175 calories, 25 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat, 17 mg calcium, 382 mg sodium
1 serving beef (1/3 recipe): 233 calories, 33 g protein, 8 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat, 23 mg calcium, 509 mg sodium
* Tex-Mex Steak Tartare: Omit shallots, mustard and lemon juice. Mince and add 2 garlic cloves, 2 seeded, finely minced small green chiles (you can leave them out and use ground chipotle in place of black pepper) , plus 1/8 to 1/4 cup lime juice. If desired, replace parsley with fresh cilantro (sometimes I double the cilantro). If you like, add 1 cup peeled, seeded, finely chopped tomato to the meat. Serve over a green salad topped with avocado or guacamole and other colorful vegetables.
* Lamb Tartare: Replace beef above with ground, 100% grassfed lamb.
Source: The Garden of Eating: A Produce Dominated Diet & Cookbook by Rachel Albert-Matesz & Don Matesz (Planetary Press 2004).
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