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Carpaccio 101

Wow your guests by following these easy recipes to make your own.

01 Jan 2012

Carpaccio is a simple dish, which allows the bold flavours of quality ingredients to shine. It's fabulous as a starter or light lunch, and is relatively quick and easy to make. Carpaccio is actually shavings of raw meat, and it is said that the slices should be so ultra-thin that one should almost be able to almost see the plate through them. The result is delicate morsels, which have a vibrant flavour and almost melt in one's mouth.

Scroll down for 5 carpaccio recipes to wow your guests with this summer.

Traditionally carpaccio is made from a tender fillet of beef, but these days it's becoming increasingly trendy to make carpaccio from game such as venison. This is fantastic news for South Africans as we have a cornucopia of game readily available at our fingertips, allowing us to create more exotic interpretations of this great Italian dish using local produce such as ostrich and kudu meat. However, whether you decide to make beef or game carpaccio, make sure you use only the finest fillet that is absolutely fresh.


Harry's bar is a Venetian institution and since its inception in 1931 it's been a place to see and be seen. The legendary writer Ernest Hemingway was a regular, and the bar has not only been immortalised in one of his novels, but in the writings of the celebrated romance author Judith Krantz. Numerous celebrities have been spotted dining there, however the bar is more than simply a place to star gaze, it's also an important culinary landmark, for it was here that that two of the most delectable 'modern' Italian classics were invented, namely the Bellini and carpaccio.

While the Bellini, a dreamy cocktail of peach juice and Italian champagne, is definitely worth mentioning, it is carpaccio that has taken the culinary world by storm and that has been imitated by restaurants around the globe. Carpaccio was created by the proprietor of Harry's bar, Giuseppe Cipriani, in 1961 for a countess whose doctor had put her on a strict diet that forbid any cooked meat. Although created for a countess, the dish was actually named for the famous Italian painter Vittore Carpaccio. The painter was renowned for using vibrant reds in his paintings, which one can only presume were reminiscent of the deep red of carpaccio.

How to prepare:

Just because you don't eat meat doesn't mean you have to miss out, carpaccio can also be made by thinly slicing sashimi-quality fish such as salmon or tuna, or even fruits and vegetables.

There are a couple of different ways in which carpaccio can be made, but regardless of which method you choose the key is to get the slices of fillet ultra-thin. The most basic method is to simply slice the raw fillet. Many recipes suggest freezing the fillet before carving it; this makes it much easier to cut really thin slices. Alternatively slice the fillet and place the pieces of meat between two sheets of cling film, then gently hammer them out and roll over them with a rolling pin until wafer-thin. An electrical meat-slicer similar to what is used when carving a big roast can also be used for carving.

The outside of the fillet can also be crusted with peppercorns or other seasonings and seared before slicing. Searing the fillet gives carpaccio the impression of being rare meat rather than raw meat, and this is perhaps the best way to introduce carpaccio to those who have never eaten it before. You may be able to convince your butcher to slice the seared fillet for you using a biltong slicer. This doesn't always produce the neatest slices of carpaccio, but it does guarantee you'll end up with thin slices of meat without risking your fingers.

All that's left to do is to artistically arrange the slices of carpaccio on a plate, scatter with capers and onion slices or Parmesan shavings and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, a vinaigrette or a light mayonnaise or mustard dressing. Pile up some salad in the middle of the plate, carpaccio goes fantastically well with peppery greens like watercress and rocket, and serve with some fresh ciabatta bread or a foccacia. Buon appetito!

5 Carpaccio recipes

Marina's ostrich carpaccio

Halloumi and beef 'carpaccio' salad with fried capers

Kudu carpaccio salad

Beef carpaccio with red hot pesto

Watermelon carpaccio


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