Beef Tataki with a Ponzu Dressing and Micro-Cress Salad

‘Tataki’ is a cooking method that involves searing meat very quickly at a very high temperature before plunging directly into an ice-bath to suddenly halt the cooking process. Quite high drama for a kitchen – plunging a freshly seared fillet of beef into a bath of ice!

What I found more unexpectedly exciting while writing this recipe though, was getting to know micro-cress. An extremely dorky admission, but sadly true. Tiny cress plants might not look like much, but they really punch above their weight when it comes to flavour, and there are new varieties becoming available all the time.

In order to do justice to the cress salad and the beef, this recipe includes two different dressings. This means a long list ingredients, but don’t be put off – once you get into it, things really are a lot more straightforward than they appear at first glance.


(Serves 4)

  • 400g highest quality beef tenderloin fillet
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large cloves of garlic – finely sliced
  • 1 spring onion (green part) – finely sliced on an angle
  • 75ml sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Tataki dressing

  • ¼ cup sake or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons ponzu
  • ¼ cup (loosely packed) dried bonito flakes
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice

Micro-Cress Salad

100g mix of tiny baby leaves and cress, including any/all of:

  • Astina cress
  • Mustard cress
  • Rock chive cress
  • Shiso cress
  • Small leaves of bull’s blood lettuce
  • Small beet leaves
  • Small watercress leaves

Salad Dressing

  • 1 Spring onion (white part) – very finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ponzu
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil

_ _ _

Begin by making the tataki dressing: heat the sake, soy sauce, and ponzu in a small saucepan, over medium heat until just before boiling. Remove from the heat, then add the bonito flakes. Set aside to infuse for 5 minutes, then strain out the bonito flakes.

Return the liquid to the saucepan and reduce over medium heat until it thickens slightly. Not to a glaze consistency, but until is it a little less watery and beginning to look a little glossy. Add the lemon juice and put aside to sit at room temperature until needed.

Prepare the beef by trimming it carefully of any extra fat or sinew. Season with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Next, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice cubes and a little water.

Heat a dry, non-stick skillet pan over high heat for a few minutes until it becomes smoking hot. Sear the beef fillet on each side for a maximum of 10 seconds per side. One you have an all-over sear and no more raw meat exposed, plunge the fillet straight into the ice bath in order to cool it rapidly. Remove after a few seconds of cooling, and pat the fillet thoroughly dry using paper towel.

Now, wrap the fillet very tightly in cling film, rolling to tighten, and twizzling the endsof the wrap in the style of a sweet wrapper to tighten even further. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours.

In the same pan you used to cook the beef, heat the sunflower and sesame oils together until hot, and shallow fry the sliced garlic and spring onion until golden brown. Take care not to burn these as they cook very fast. Drain on paper towel and store at room temperature until ready to use.

Make the salad dressing by combining all the ingredients and stirring thoroughly to dissolve the sugar. Store the dressing in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To serve, remove the beef tataki from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, before unwrapping and slicing into 5mm rounds with a sharp knife.

Next, toss the cress with a little of the dressing.  The extra dressing can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Now, pile the cress salad neatly at one end of a serving platter, arrange the tataki slices along the length of the platter, and top with the garlic and spring onion chips. Last of all, drizzle the tataki dressing scenically around the edges of the beef before serving.