Warm Ethiopian Steak Tartare

By • September 10, 2010 8 Comments

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Author Notes: Kitfo happens to be one of Ethiopia’s most popular dishes. It’s a steak tartare that has been warmed in butter infused with a bunch of spices – amazing. It’s typically served with the country’s famous flatbread, injera, and a side of spiced collards. The first time I tried it, I was in sensory overload. The warm creaminess of the butter, the texture of the meat, the strong heat hitting me at the back of my tongue, the spice combo – it was, by far, the most delicious and unexpected steak tartare I had ever had.

For my version, I used top round from Dickson Farmstand Meats. All of their beef is dry-aged, all natural, humanely raised – basically fantastic quality. For working with a raw product like this, I wanted to make sure I was using a high quality source. They coarse ground the top round for me, and I would never advise using ground beef for a raw application. Ground beef has a higher bacterial count; you’re better off using a steak you’d feel comfortable eating rare and grinding as close to consumption as possible. I chose top round over sirloin or tenderloin because it keeps a great texture. It stays a bit toothsome and doesn’t become mushy, which I can’t stand.

This dish is extremely easy to make, and there are limited ingredients. So it’s important to develop the flavors. Mine differs from authentic kitfo with the addition of shallots and garlic and because I like to toast up the spices first in the butter. Browning the butter, making beurre noisette, adds even greater complexity. I typically serve this on a sliced baguette sprinkled with chives, but it would be equally delicious on toast or pita points. Oh, and Ethiopians eat the tartare several different ways – t’ire (raw) or leb leb (medium rare) and sometimes cooked further, so go ahead and cook to your preference. Enjoy!

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • ¼ tsp cardamom, ground
  • ½ tsp black pepper, finely ground
  • 1 ½ tsps cayenne pepper, ground
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb top round, freshly ground to your desired texture
  • Salt to taste
  • Chives, minced
  1. Let the beef come to room temperature. Adding it to the pot cold brings down the temperature of the butter and would necessitate reheating, which could then overcook the beef.
  2. Heat butter on low-medium heat. When it melts add the cardamom, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Cook stirring for a few minutes and notice how the smell becomes nuttier. Add the shallots and garlic and cook another few minutes until softened. Butter should brown, and this is actually desired. Crank the heat a little if it hasn’t.
  3. Let the butter cool slightly. You should be able to dip your finger in the pot without burning yourself. Add beef and stir to combine thoroughly. You don’t want to cook the meat (if serving rare), just warm through, so make sure the heat is off. Add salt to taste and serve sprinkled with chives. You won’t be disappointed.

More Great Recipes: Beef & Veal|Appetizers|Entrees|Hors d'oeuvres|Steak

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Comments (8) Questions (0)


almost 5 years ago thirschfeld

I made this tonight. I did go traditional and made the teff injera and the greens with cottage cheese. What an out of this world recipe. So so good. Thanks.


almost 5 years ago aliyaleekong

Thanks, thirschfeld. So simple yet delicious. I'm so glad you enjoyed it!


almost 5 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Wow--this is why i love Food52--the opportunity to learn about and try making wonderful food like this. Thank you for posting it!


almost 5 years ago aliyaleekong

Thanks, drbabs!


almost 5 years ago thirschfeld

OK this maybe one of the coolest recipes I have seen in a long time. I have been interested in and getting into African food and this just looks amazing. I just made some Ethiopian spiced collards with the cottage cheese mixed in and I have been making injera. I think I have tomorrows dinner menu.


almost 5 years ago aliyaleekong

That is fantastic! I love that you are making your own injera. You have the traditional menu down. I haven't posted here but on my blog i also have the recipe for ni'tir qibe - clarified spiced butter that Ethiopians use to scent and spice stews at the end. I actually use it to saute and infuse a number of dishes. Let me know how it goes!


almost 5 years ago nannydeb

Looks and sounds incredible!


almost 5 years ago aliyaleekong

Thanks, nannydeb! It's unexpectedly delicious - like nothing you are used to tasting is what i found...