The season of no-cooking cooking has arrived at last.
By which I mean: mangoes and stone fruit eating drippingly over the sink, or with granita or sorbet on the side. Salads of tomatoes and burrata, dressed with the last of the wild garlic pesto saved in the freezer. Hunks of sourdough and plates of cheese and prosciutto. And this plate of carpaccio, with its own rocket and fennel salad.
One of carpaccio’s advantages is its ease of preparation, especially if you ask your butcher to slice your fillet for you. (As you’re eating it raw, it is worth going to a butcher you trust for this steak.) The meat itself is lightly seasoned, dressed with lemon and olive oil, and garnished with capers, served alongside a light salad of rocket and fennel, finished with a good crunch, courtesy of lightly toasted pine nuts, and ample shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano.
Another advantage is its stylish sprezzatura: this is exactly the kind of dish to make for a summery dinner party, or to savour in the garden as a casual supper, drinking in the late-setting sun like it’s wine. Actual wine, too, is an ideal accompaniment, and it’s hard to find a more likeable bottle than Ovum’s EZY TGR Red Table Wine. Made from 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s alive with red fruit, but has a menthol, herbal underbelly that prevents it from being a mindless glugger. To match that character, I mixed some fresh oregano leaves through the salad and used them as a finishing touch on the plate.
If you’ve never had carpaccio at home before, that’s understandable – to me, it has always felt most like “restaurant cooking”. But knowing just how simple it is to prepare, and how satisfying it really is, especially with some top-tier wine on the side, should be motivation enough to make this your next summertime pairing.
Beef Carpaccio with Rocket and Fennel Salad
For the carpaccio:
300g fillet steak
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
2-3 tablespoons capers, drained
For the salad:
100g pine nuts
1 bulb fennel
Large handful fresh oregano leaves, plus extra to garnish
100g Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved into big flakes, plus extra to garnish
100ml extra virgin olive oil, divided
Juice of 1 lemon
1. First, prepare the steak. If yours hasn’t been pre-sliced, place it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, or until frozen enough to cut through relatively easily. Slice as thinly as you can. Place in the fridge and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, start prepping the salad components. Begin by toasting the pine nuts: place in a small frying pan over medium-low heat. Toast, tossing frequently, for 5 minutes, or until evenly golden brown. Turn off the heat and set aside.
3. Next, prep the fennel. Slice off the stems and base of the fennel bulb and remove the outer layer if browned or discoloured. Using a mandoline or a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, shred the fennel into long strips.
4. Remove the steak slices from the fridge. If you’d like them even thinner than they already are, transfer to a cutting board in a single layer, place a piece of parchment paper on top and roll with a rolling pin until very thin. Transfer to two large plates and arrange so the steak slices are just overlapping. Season to taste with flaky salt and pepper, then drizzle over the olive oil and squeeze over the lemon juice. Scatter over the capers and set aside.
5. Next, build the salad. In a large bowl, add ⅓ of the rocket, ⅓ of the fennel, and ⅓ of the pine nuts, oregano and Parmigiano Reggiano. Season with flaky sea salt, drizzle over ⅓ of the olive oil and squeeze over a good drizzle of lemon juice. Lightly toss so that everything is well mixed. Repeat with the next third, then the final third (this layering method ensures the entire salad is evenly seasoned and dressed, rather than just the top), remembering to set aside a small quantity of pine nuts, oregano and Parmigiano Reggiano for a garnish.
6. To serve, sprinkle those reserved garnishes evenly over both plates. In the centre of each plate, add a good mound of the salad (you may have some salad left over; serve in a separate bowl so you can top your plate up) and serve right away.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our Natural Wine Killers wine subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings plus expert tasting notes for three amazing wines like this one every month.