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Kampachi Tartare

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Ahhhh Kampachi. If you look rather attentively through my latest posts, that fish crops up a little bit ago. A couple of weeks ago I made a few skewers, and one of them held some wonderful Kona Kampachi fish.

Well, god knows why, I decided to send a link to the photos and blog entry to Kona Blue, the people that raise the Kampachi fish, in Hawaii. The delightful bunch of people there decided that they wanted to send me a Kampachi to try a variety of preparations with – mostly cooked.

I know that the blogging world is a bit divided on whether you should take free gifts from companies or not (marketing samples if you will), and especially if you should blog about them. Well, I have no problem taking free stuff from anyone! It doesn’t mean it is going to get a good review though – the test is in the tasting, so to speak.

So, anyhow, the fish arrived on my doorstep on Friday, nicely packaged up in ice. A great looking fish it was too. I now had to decide what to do with it. This was far too much fish for just Danika and I to eat – I would never be able to cook/use it all before it would start tasting a little second hand. We decided to invite some friends over, who also invited some relatives over, and we had ourselves a bit of a BBQ (in the rain..) and Kampachi feast.

One of the friends is a big time sushi addict, and ever since I did the skewers I have been telling him that he had to try this fish. I however didn’t want to chop the fish up into sushi sized pieces for 7 adults, otherwise I wouldn’t have much of the fish left – and I wanted a bunch left over to try some experiments with – I know that the fish is amazing raw, but I wanna see how well it cooks up. I cooked some of it all the way through a couple of weeks ago, and wasn’t incredibly impressed with the result – don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad at all. It was in fact pretty decent, however it wasn’t a patch on how it tasted raw. So, Kona Blue threw down the gauntlet so to speak, and sent me the fish for me to try and cook it a few different ways.

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To make a long story longer.. I had to have a decent amount of fish left over to cook up. So sashimi was out of the question really.

So.. what to do.. Ssshh.. don’t tell the other guests, but I did cut up a decent slice of sashimi for my mate to try. I had to. I kept it quiet, so I didn’t have to had out slices to everyone. I decided in the end to do a Tartare, and serve it in the classic way – with bread. This was somewhat of a starter for a meal that looked like:

    • Kampachi Tartare
    • New Zealand lamb (the guests were Kiwi’s, and brought the lamb)
    • Carrot/Radish salad (the one I blogged about just a couple of posts ago)
    • Roasted fingerlings with rosemary and truffle oil
    • A great minty salsa verdi – to go with the lamb (recipe does follow..)

Anyhow.. I was undecided whether to write this blog post or not. The tartare was really great – the highlight of the meal for me, and a few others. Really light, very fresh, with a good balance of sharp and sweet, and soft/sharp textures.

No, the problem was the photographs. I was in a rush. A real rush. I was cooking for a bunch of people – 10 in total I think (some kids), and didn’t want to make guests wait for food whilst I snapped pictures. Therefore, I took pictures using some tartare that was left over. That is a huge shame. The tartare has a wee bit of citrus in, which “seared” the fish, making it loose that amazing translucent quality. This obviously didn’t happen immediately – it looked great when it was served, however over the course of a couple of hours between serving it, and photographing it, it lost that amazing fresh look.

So.. bear with me here. Trust me on this. The tartare was really bloody great, and looks nothing like what you see in the pictures here. Picture it 100x better.

This is actually one of the first tartare’s I have ever made. I looked through some cookbooks, and didn’t find what I was looking for. Everything seemed to be more of an Asian preparation – which is great, but not what I wanted for this meal. So sod it I thought, and decided to come up with my own.

It should be said that a proper tartare takes a ton of time. Start early, and if you can have a person helping you. For me the perfect tartare is also a presentation of the dedication of the cook to get something perfectly cut. You want to make sure your dice is really almost perfect. This takes time, and of course concentration – especially when cutting fish. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time for this one. I had to hammer through it a little bit. The dice wasn’t bad – but I would ideally liked to have spent a good couple of hours on that alone – something I just couldn’t do.

Ideally you want to have your fish in dice about 1/4″ size, and the other ingredients about 1/8″ size. I like to have the fish take center stage in texture, especially when it is as smooth and as rich as the kampachi. Any herbs in there should also be chopped up really finely – again I lacked in time here :(

What went into this bloody thing you ask, since I am droning on a bit..

Well, Kampachi of course – but you could make this with either tuna or salmon – obviously really fresh, amazing quality stuff. Added to this was some diced shallot, crushed garlic, chives, dill, a diced sharp green apple, some lemon juice, salt, and a dash of olive oil. Yep, I wanted to make this tartare a little more European, rather than Asian.

The apple gave a great texture contrast to the fish – sharp and crisp compared to slightly sweet and smooth. The herbs added a slightly floral note, the citrus some acidity, and the olive oil helped to bind all these flavor components together. The merest drop of really good quality olive oil that is.

So, I am now going to shut my cake hole, and hand over the recipe for this tartare, and also the recipe for the great salsa verdi that went with the lamb.

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Kampachi Tartare (serves 8 as a starter)

1.5 to 2lb of Kampachi fillet. You could use tuna or salmon here

1 medium shallot

1 clove of garlic

juice of 1 lemon

a small handful of both fresh chives and dill leaves (picked from the stem)

1 sharp green apple

really good olive oil

a little salt

some slices of baguette for serving

Yeah, I know, the quantities aren’t exact – this dish really needs constant tasting, and adjustments to balance the flavors, so accurate measures will be of no use. Boo Hoo.

Start by finely dicing the shallot – to about 1/8″ cubes. Try to work as accurately as possible here. Crush the garlic clove. Chop the chives and dill finely. Peel and core the green apple, and chop that into 1/8″ dice as well.

Now comes the fish. Very carefully, using a ridiculously sharp knife, cut 1/4″ slices across the fillet. Lay each slice flat on the board, and in half along the opposite direction – so you make two thin strips, about equal thickness. Now cut this in the opposite direction again – into 1/4″ dice. If you want to be ridiculously anal, you can discard any pieces that might be a triangle – but screw that, to be honest, I am not wasting good fish (or eating a bunch whilst I prep)..

When the fish is done, wrap it in plastic wrap, and bung it into the fridge.

In a large bowl add the diced shallot. Add a pinch of the garlic. Add about half of the apple, and a tiny splash of lemon juice. Now for a drop or two of olive oil, and a little salt. Now add in some of the herbs – not all of em. Give it a taste. If you taste more shallot than crisp apple, add more apple. You don’t have to use everything – use just enough to balance the flavors. If you find that you added too much lemon juice, see if you can soak some up in a towel. If it is still way too sharp, and a little sugar. Do you just taste the herbs? They should be there to compliment the flavors, and lift it all a little. Add more if you need to, but don’t overdo – remember this is all to compliment the fish.

You can keep this mixture in the fridge, covered, until needed. I wouldn’t store it more than a couple of hours though.

So, right before you are ready to eat, mix the fish into apple/shallot mixture. Give it a taste. Adjust the quantities of ingredients if required. Remember it is easy to add more, but a pain in the arse to try and remove anything – go gently.

You don’t want to mix the fish with the apple/shallot mixture way before you are going to serve it. The lemon juice sears the fish (as my pictures show..), so the presentation is no where near as good.

If you want to be all poncy, spoon this tartare into forming rounds, compress, and serve in the center of a plate with a couple of slices of bread. Or, just pile it onto to bread yourself, and let your guests at it.

This really was a great, and slightly unique tartare, that would really be worth spending a couple of hours of dicing and prepping to get it perfect.

Minty Salsa Verdi

I have done a couple of different salsa verdi’s on this blog before.. And here is another – it pushes the mint component a bit more, which is a classic flavor with lamb.

1 handful of fresh mint leaves

1 handful of fresh basil leaves

1 tiny handful of fresh flat leaf parsley leaves

1 pickle (gerkin)

1 small handful of capers

1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

really good olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

By hand, chop the herbs to a medium-fine consistency. I find that a food processor here speeds up the chopping, but also produces a nasty mush of herbs.

Finely chop the gerkin and the capers. Put these, along with the herbs in a bowl. Add half of the dijon mustard, a pinch of salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Gently stir to combine. Add a splash or two of olive oil, and gently mix. The olive oil is there to help bind everything together, as well as being a flavor component. Try not to add too much – we don’t want it swimming, but we don’t want it dry either.

If it needs a little more kick, then add a bit more dijon mustard. This is a flavor that I tread lightly with – again, it is really bloody impossible to take out if you add too much :D

Enjoy this with some great grilled lamb – served medium-rare of course.

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13 Responses to “Kampachi Tartare”

  1. Nina says:

    The tartare is a perfect starter – very elegant indeed.

  2. Judy says:

    That tartare looks incredible. Too bad you aren’t happy with the pics!

  3. Anticiplate says:

    You are crazy! Your photography is amazing. Did you see my picture from my iphone (which I am retaking tonight because I cannot stand it on my blog)? I would eat the photo….

  4. Brittany says:

    I got lost in a jealous daze once I read that you got free fish. But it looks like you may be unhappy with your pictures? Are you f’ing nuts? You’re like, my photography hero…..”shut your cakehole.”
    Damn tasty looking tartare by the way.

  5. mattwright says:

    Haha, I sound like a whinging bastard don’t I. My biggest problem with the photos isn’t technical at all – it is just that I didn’t take the shots when the tartare was really fresh, and you get the great balance between the translucent fish, and opaque apple/shallots.

    I am also a little bit of a perfectionist, and really wanted to spend more time on the dice.. but hey . It is obviously more important that my guests got fed.. they liked the tartare, so I cannot complain!

  6. I like it !!!! I like it. It is really a good recipe though The process is toooo long. Anyway, thanks for sharing with us.

  7. mattwright says:

    That’s one of the things about Tartare though. It can take 5 minutes, or 5 hours, depending on how you want to do it. I have seen people make tartare that grab a fillet, grab two sharp knives – and chop at it, faster than you would chop herbs. The result is still excellent – just different.

  8. I love wonderful Kona Kampachi fish. Its look great and tasty too. I think taste depend on a touch of magic hand.May be you have it.

  9. oh i get so stressed out when i’m cooking for more than 3 persons. great job on this. love the picture. you always make such yummy stuff! anyway, check out my blog because i’ve tagged you for an award :) x

  10. jj says:

    I think your pictures are fantastic – the dish looks marvelous!

  11. Helen says:

    How beautifully fresh and clean. I can’t believe I’ve only just found your blog, it’s stunning. It seems we have the same food philosophy too.

  12. Thomas says:

    I agree with the other posters, the picture looks great and makes my belly grawl just looking at it.

  13. [...] wanted me to try cooking it a few different ways. I didn’t. We ate almost all of it as the Kampachi Tartare. There was enough left over to cook it, but certainly not enough to try it with a few different [...]