Credit: Photography by Earl Carter

Steak tartare and burgers

Annie Smithers is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria. Her latest book is Recipe for a Kinder Life. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

Credit: Photography by Earl Carter



verb: mince; 3rd person present: minces; past tense: minced; past participle: minced; gerund or present participle: mincing

1. cut up or grind (food, especially meat) into very small pieces, typically in a machine with revolving blades.

2. walk with short quick steps in an affectedly dainty manner.


It seems to me that the Oxford English Dictionary definition is particularly apt for these two recipes. Mince has a bit of a poor reputation, yet it can form some of the luminaries of the culinary repertoire. Here, we substitute the flavourings you find in steak tartare, a classic dainty dish that can indeed step off a menu in a particularly dainty manner, into a burger patty, a stalwart of the gaudily painted fish-and-chip shop menu, and latterly a darling of the food truck and hipster scene.

Both dishes also use up meat that is a little superfluous to other uses. In the case of tartare, it is best made with fillet steak. When cleaning whole beef fillets down into portions in a restaurant, there is quite a bit of “waste” product. When paying a huge price for a premium cut of meat, there can be no waste, so the offcuts can be hand minced and served as tartare.

Mince for burgers falls into a slightly different category. For every two eye fillets, porterhouses and scotch fillets on a beef carcass, there are hundreds of kilograms of other meat. A lot of this can become mince and is completely at the other end of the scale from the meticulously collected and hand-minced fillet scraps that form the tartare.

Yet the classic flavourings work just as well in each dish. By adding them to the beef in a burger, the ordinary becomes a savoury and slightly sophisticated morsel. For burgers, I like to use a slightly fattier mince. For the tartare I use the tail of the eye fillet and parts of the head of the fillet, but you can treat yourself by just buying a fillet steak.


Steak tartare

Serves 4

Time: 15 minutes preparation

  • 350g trimmed beef fillet, diced into 5mm cubes
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 very fresh egg yolks
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp capers in brine, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped chives
  • 6 cornichons, finely chopped
  • Tabasco sauce, to taste
  • toasted baguette slices rubbed with garlic, to serve
  1. Combine the beef, Worcestershire sauce and mustard in a bowl, season well and beat for one to two minutes to combine and until mixture holds together.
  2. Divide among serving plates and make an indent in the centre of each pile with the back of a spoon. Place an egg yolk in each indent and serve with little piles of shallot, capers, chives, parsley and cornichons to mix in at the table, along with the Tabasco sauce.
  3. Serve with toasted baguette.


Serves 6

Time: 15 minutes preparation + about 4 minutes’ cooking on each side for a well-cooked burger.

  • 750g beef mince
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 cornichons, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tiny salted capers, rinsed
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp Tabasco sauce (optional), or to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh continental parsley
  • 70g (1 cup) breadcrumbs, made from day-old bread
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 hamburger buns, halved
  • 6 eggs
  • chutney, relish or sauce
  1. Place the mince, shallots, cornichons, capers, mustard, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, parsley, breadcrumbs and egg in large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix with your hands until evenly combined.
  2. Divide the mixture into six equal portions (you can use a half-cup measurer if you like). Shape each portion with your hands into a burger about 10 centimetres in diameter and 1.5 centimetres thick.
  3. Place the burgers onto a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to rest. (Chilling the burgers will help them hold together when cooked. This also allows the flavours in the burgers to blend and develop.)
  4. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  5. Heat half the olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over high heat and cook half the burgers for about two minutes on each side or until browned. Place in the oven to finish cooking to your liking. Repeat the process with the remainder of the burgers.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat the grill on high. Place the hamburger buns, cut-side up, under the preheated grill and toast for one minute.
  7. To serve, top the bottom halves of the toasted hamburger buns with the burgers, then top each with a fried egg, sprinkle with salt and pepper and then cover with the hamburger bun tops. Of course lettuce, tomato, bacon, mayonnaise and tomato sauce can be added.
  8. Serve with an array of garnishes and chutney for people to add what they prefer.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 9, 2022 as "Mince words".

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