Secret no more

After some considerable moral pressure to reveal the recipe to my infamous tartare sauce, here goes.  This recipe comes with the same caveat as all my recipes: it does not contain exact measurements as I tend to do my cooking by eye or intuition, so please take the stated measurements as a guideline rather than a catholicon and tweak them to suit your own preference.

Anyway, for tartare sauce for four eaters you will need:

1 cup of mayonnaise, homemade or out of a jar/tube.  If it is homemade, it should not be made with olive oil as the taste is too strong for this sort of sauce. Have the mayo in a bowl large enough to do mixing and stirring in.

Some fresh parsley, finely chopped (the classic English recipe would use curly parsely but flat-leaf makes no difference).

Generic cucumber pickles and capers in vinegar.  As a rule of thumb I go for 1/2 a pickled cucumber per person and 1/4 teaspoon capers ditto, giving you two cucumbers and one tsp capers for this recipe.  These do not have to be fancy or expensive brands.

2 hard boiled eggs.  If you don’t know how to hard-boil an egg God help you, but there is always the internet.

An ungenerous pinch of dried tarragon.  This adds a certain mellow complexity to the overall taste.  Do not add more as the taste can become too strong.

A small amount of finely chopped onion or shallot or spring onion.  This is optional.  Some people do not like the after-taste of raw onion.  In my opinion the sauce is just as good without the onion.

A bottle of English beer such as Spitfire or London Pride or anything from the Young’s brewery.


Once you have everything ready open the bottle of beer, pour it into a glass and drink it.  Then finely chop the cucumber, pickled capers and parsley.  How fine you chop the ingredients decides how chunky the resulting sauce will be – I like mine very chunky, so they are chopped pretty coarse.  Halve the boiled eggs.  Pop the yolks onto a fine metal wire sieve and push through with a plastic or bamboo spatula into the bowl containing the mayonnaise.  Reserve the solid whites.


The resulting sieved egg-yolk should look like this:


It is important your eggs are hard-boiled, otherwise the yolk doesn’t blend properly with the mayo and you get unsightly yellow chunks in your tartare sauce.  The next thing to do is mix the yolk and mayonnaise until they are homogenous.  Chop the egg whites as fine or coarse as you want.  Then add your chopped egg white, parsley, dried tarragon and cucumber/caper pickles to the mayo mixture.  In my experience four halves of egg white are a bit much and I only add three halves to the sauce; I deal with the remaining half by eating it and washing it down with beer.

Mix everything well with a spoon and chill before serving.  There you have it; my infamous tartare sauce.  I have known dinner guests to secretly eat this with a spoon, and when I asked the memsahib what was the best fish dish I ever cooked for her, she replied “The one you served with the tartare sauce”.  There are numerous ways you can experiment with this, such as adding small amounts of horseradish, white pepper, chopped green chillies or mashed garlic; there is no set codex.  Those who like their food well-seasoned might feel it needs a pinch of salt.  Please give it a try and even better, let me know how it turned out.



6 responses to “Secret no more

  1. I don’t know how to hard boil an egg, will drinking beer help me work that out?

    Love this post, had me salivating at my desk.

  2. If you need half the amount of sauce, can you just double the beer?

  3. Hi love your blog. We had a small dinner party and I used your tartar sauce recipe as a starting point. We found that the base sauce is good on its own since it was close to a traditional tartar sauce so we used this for the kids. For the adults diners we fancied it up some and it was delicious, heres what we added:
    a couple spoons of sour cream, horseradish, salt, white pepper, white wine vinegar, dill, dash of tabasco sauce, red onion, squirt of lemon juice and small pinch of sugar. Try it sometime, its really nicely balanced and worked really well with our fish and scallops.

    • Hi robin,
      Thanks I am glad you enjoyed the tartar sauce.
      I can see how the dill would be good too – sometimes I have made this tartar with cucumbers pickled with dill and sugar. Next time I will try it with Tabasco as you recommend! Horseradish definitely good too (one of my favourite other sauces is “Russian” sauce).

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