There really is no meat in this tartare

The National Week Without Meat starts on Monday. This is the second time the Action Week has been held, and I remember feeling some resistance to such imposed vegetarianism last year. Something in me, I wrote at the time, would like to eat sausages, slafins and schnitzels every day for about a week.

But some novelties get used quickly. This year I think: of course there is a national vegan week. If the Week of the Fries has the right to exist, the National Tapas Week, International Coffee Day and Peanut Butter Day, then certainly a National Week Without Meat. After all, the national meat consumption is still too high and everything that helps us to eat plant-based more often has been included.

So we’re in this place. Today a recipe to get into it: beetroot and mushroom tartare. The beets give it the appearance of a real steak tartare, the chestnut mushrooms provide a meaty bite and ditto umami undertone. Meatless meat it is, almost eerily real. At least, that’s what I thought after I came up with the recipe and made it a few times.

Then I sent it to my most carnivorous friend for testing. L prefers to eat meat raw – after she gave birth I went to see her for a maternity visit with a pound of carpaccio, that’s work. She had had little faith in it, she emailed me back a week later, “because I LOVE raw tartare SO much, and this one isn’t, but it has a lot of the same flavors, so I’m going to miss it extra.”

Well, there was something in that. I have also long found that meat substitutes should not look like meat. In fact, I had serious objections to the word meat substitute alone. But my attitude has changed there too – duh, otherwise I would never have come up with this recipe. Anyway, L went on to say that missing it had been easier for her and that she really liked the tartare. To end her e-mail with a heartfelt “still prefer VLEESCH”.

Not long after, I presented the same beet tartare to a friend who is a long-time vegetarian. He hardly dared to eat it. “There’s really no meat in it,” I encouraged him. He took a cautious bite. Then a big smile appeared on his face. “Wow,” he said, “that I would taste this again.”

You understand: now I’m terribly curious about what you think.

Biet tartare

(4 people)

olive oil; 300 g chestnut mushrooms, halved; 300 g cooked (roasted or boiled) beetroot, peeled; (optional vegan) mayonnaise; Ketchup; dijon mustard; finely chopped onion; finely chopped sour pickles; finely chopped capers; finely chopped flat-leaf parsley; Tabasco.

heat a dash of olive oil in a frying pan or wok over high heat and fry the mushrooms with a pinch of salt until golden brown. Take your time and bake them until all the moisture has evaporated.

Leave cool and chop coarsely.

cuts the beets into small pieces. Place the mushrooms and beets together on a cutting board and chop until you have a fine, but not too fine tartar.

Bring lightly season with salt and freshly ground pepper – not too much because there is still a lot going on at the table.

make nice mounds of the mixture on 4 plates. Serve all other ingredients in separate bowls or make small heaps on the plates, like satellites around the tartare. Other than that, you know what to do, right?