A question and answer session with Chef Eric Bulpitt and his recipe for making steak tartare
By Tudor Caradoc-Davies
As a child, what was your favourite food? I definitely leaned more towards savoury, my grandma’s roast chicken or roast leg of lamb. I grew up in a family where food was everywhere so I have no particular favourites. There’s a time for everything. There’s a time for offal. I’m a big fan of that. There’s a time for fish, galjoen is my favourite. Whenever my dad goes fishing and pulls out a galjoen, it’s definitely going on the braai. Snoek too. When I go home after work, a bowl of ramen. I cook all the time. I cook at home, on my off day, when I’m depressed, when I’m happy and that (Ramen) is my go to thing at the moment. I’ve had a fascination with ramen for a while, but I flip between things. One day it’s pizza, one day it’s ramen, one day it’s tacos.
What is your favourite food now? I’m a big fan of streetfood, I think it’s one of the greatest things in the world. One of the most exciting times of my life was going to Singapore for two weeks, eating at the markets. It is phenomenal. Indian, Chinese, there’s such a variety of things. It was one of the best times of my life.
Who is your role model? Definitely my father; a hard working dedicated man with great family values and George Jardine. George was a great mentor, is a complete lover of life and all things tasty.
What is your fantasy food holiday? America and Japan. America is on fire at the moment. It’s so vast and they hahve so many great chefs like David Kinch, Joshua Skeens from Saison, Corey Lee from Beano, Thomas Keller. It’s not one trip. I would like to do five trips over five years. And then definitely Japan for the precision they bring. Japanese food is fantastic.
Favourite restaurants? Spur for the little one. We’ve been to Maison a few times. We haven’t been to Jardine in a while but it’s probably the restaurant that we have eaten the most at. Chef’s Warehouse in town is definitely one of our favorites. I think Liam is a magician with different flavours. What I love about his food is that it’s pretty but it’s also very worldly, almost a simplicity to it. Other chefs don’t get that. They can’t make a Thai dish and make it taste as authentic as Liam does. Or when he does something Japanese-inspired, it’s almost like you are transported to where it’s from. His food is really, really good. He’s a master at what he does.
Your favourite tipple? I’m a big white wine fan especially chenin blanc at the moment. If it’s not the Avondale Chenin, it will be Hope Marguerite from Beamont. I love a good Viognier, Gabrielskloof used to be my favourite.
Your biggest kitchen mistake? Setting the deep fryer alight. Emptying the deep fryer while it is still on and then all of a sudden it burst into flames. Besides that I have had a couple of occasions when I would give a new staff member stock to strain and they come back with the bones. “Where’s the liquid?” No, they have poured it down the drain. We’ve been cooking the stock for eight hours!
Any accidental successes? Definitely. One of our signatures is an onion tasty paste or marmite. We wanted to make onion powder so we took onions, left them on the coals overnight to burn completely. Then we dusted off the ash and blended them into a powder. The result is a very rich, sweet, umami-like powder. I was making this one day and I didn’t dry the onions out enough, or they didn’t burn enough and the inside of it was still soft. So I blended it, spread it on sheets and dried it. I put the tray next to me and the smell kept on wafting up next to me and it was so intoxicatingly umami-like, you want to stick your head into it.
Do you have a cooking bible?
It used to be Larousse Gastronomique. For me it’s important for you to read cookbooks, to see and understand what other chefs are doing, get ideas and insight into new techniques. That said, I’m going through a bit of a cookbook dry patch at the moment.
Any obsessions? Sour dough, the natural leavening process is fascinating me at the moment to the point of obsession. While normal guys would be on Instagram looking at cars or bikes, my wife constantly catches me looking at pictures of sour dough.
Would that be your last supper?
It would be with my family, drinking a nice bottle of white wine, maybe a braai. Anything that has family around. It would be in the Western Cape, on the West Coast, Langebaan, Paternoster, Yzerfontein on one of those still nights, just a cool breeze outside with a crayfish and snoek braai.
Eric’s Steak Tartare
Serves 2 (the mayonnaise and pickled onions can be kept for other use)
- 80g cleaned beef fillet
- 1 Shallot
- 2 Medium – large Gherkins
- 5g Chives
FOR THE MAYONNAISE:
- 2 Eggs
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
- 200ml Canola Oil
- Salt to taste
- 2 Tablespoons gherkin pickling liquid or young coriander pickling liquid
FOR THE PICKLED ONIONS:
- 20 Pickling Onions (halved)
- 100ml Spirit Vinegar
- 100ml White Wine Vinegar
- 400ml Water
- 70g Castor sugar
- 30g Sugar
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 5 Peppercorns
- Sourdough (for toast)
- Wholegrain Mustard for garnish
- White pepper
- Pickled Onions
- Finely dice the cleaned fillet, shallot and gherkins, as well as the chives.
- Mix all ingredients together well and set aside.
- To make the mayonnaise, blend the eggs, mustard and gherkin liquid in a blender.
- Slowly add in the canola oil while blending the egg mix. You should end up with a thick mayonnaise consistency.
- Season with fine salt to taste.
- Bind the meat mix with 1-2 tablespoons of the mayonnaise.
- Season with fine salt and white pepper
TO MAKE PICKLING LIQUID:
- Combine all ingredients in a pot and heat up to dissolve the salt and sugar.
- Just before the liquid reaches boiling point, add in the halved pickling onions / pearl onions.
- It is best to leave the onions in the mixture overnight before using.
- It is best to serve the tartare at room temperature
- Thinly slice your sourdough and toast in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes at 180°C.
- Shape your tartar into a 2-3cm circle on a plate, top with pickled onions and circles of gherkins and place your toasted sourdough on top
- Serve with a little wholegrain mustard