Duo of Horse Steak with a Warm Bean Couscous

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Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: March 24, 2013

With all the recent news about ready made meals contaminated with horse meat, I wanted to try it for myself.  Us Brits and the Americans revile horse meat but I’m not entirely sure why?  I can understand the anger over eating horse meat when it was meant to be beef, especially when the horse isn’t the type bred for its meat; but I can’t understand why we don’t eat horse that is bred specifically for that purpose?  I realise horses are seen as companion animals but when they are bred like sheep, pigs or cows for their meat – what’s the difference?  Pigs (or mico-pigs) make great pets, they are highly intelligent, very clean and they get lonely without you or someone else to keep them company. But we eat pork without question.  We eat spring lamb without a seconds thought that up until it reached our plate it was a fluffy, happy new-born lamb.  So I don’t see the logic in rejecting horse meat.  That said, I can understand why horse owners or breeders wouldn’t want to eat it in the same way that a dog owner wouldn’t want to eat dog!

Horse Haunch
Horse Haunch

Doing a horse meat recipe on the site is a little risky.  It probably won’t be a popular post and I doubt it will see much traffic but I thought since I went to the effort of buying horse meat and cooking it, I might as well share the experience.  Some of you might be disgusted by the mere thought of eating horse, some might be interested in what it is like but are a little uneasy about the idea of it and finally some of you have already had horse meat, like it and want to know how to do it yourself.  I’m not going to be able to say much if you are in the former of those groups, but for the latter two you’ll be surprised to hear it’s actually quite easy to get hold of horse meat in the UK.  The supermarkets and most butchers won’t have it but you can easily order it online.  Sadly delivery costs for meat are fairly high, so what is otherwise a cheap meat gets fairly expensive (unless you do what I did and buy a bunch of other exotic meats with it – water buffalo will be another recipe to cover!).  I got my meat from Ank Marvin, I looked at a couple of places and they seemed to come in at a good price with reasonable delivery costs and they only stock sustainable meat.  There are other online butchers who will sell a whole range of exotic meats, so shop around.

I decided to buy two types of horse steak – haunch and fillet.  Horse meat in general is sweeter, richer and more tender than beef while also being very lean.  People often describe it as a mix between beef and venison and that’s about right.  I dealt with the haunch first, as I felt it would be the tougher steak (much like rump vs fillet with beef).  The first thing that I was struck by, is how lean the haunch is; if I was using a beef rump steak I would get an edge of fat all the way around, along with a few bits of gristle through the middle.  With the haunch there was none of that, it was virtually pure meat.  To the touch the haunch steak is thicker and tougher than horse fillet.  Horse fillet is very tender and has almost no fat on it, aside from the very deep dark colour to the meat I would not have been able to tell it apart from beef fillet.

Horse Fillet
Horse Fillet

As I had never tried horse meat before, I went through the few horse recipes I could find.  I decided I wanted to do something that would emphasise the flavour of the horse meat.  Since I had two different steaks, I would do them two different ways.  For the haunch I decided on a rosemary, garlic, chilli and white wine vinegar marinade.  With the fillet, I picked a rice wine vinegar and soya sauce marinade.  I didn’t want to marinade the meat too long as I wanted to taste the true flavour of the meat and not hide it!  The vinegar based marinades would bring some acidity to the dish while enhancing the flavour, particularly the rice wine vinegar which is very good at bringing out the sweetness in an ingredient.  To accompany the meat, I made a warm bean couscous.  I had intended to use cannellini beans but I only had a can of mixed beans in the house so I used that instead.  Couscous, as I mentioned in an earlier recipe, is fairly neutral in flavour.  Together with the beans it gives a nice change in texture but is flexible enough to go with either of the marinades.  Couscous also helps keep the meal light as horse is a very protein dense meat.

When it comes to cooking horse, you need to keep it short.  A very high, intense heat for a short time is all it needs.  As horse meat is so incredibly lean, it doesn’t have any fat to render so the longer you cook it, the tougher it gets.  What starts out as a very tender cut of meat will soon become very tough, so I wouldn’t cook it any longer than medium to rare.  A well-done horse steak without any larding or barding will be as tough as boot leather.  I cooked the haunch for just over 3mins a side (as it was quite thick), the fillet I did for no more than 2mins per side and that was about medium-rare.  Oddly, this meant the couscous takes the longest to cook.  The entire cooking process for this recipe is done in 10mins flat – so if you want a quick and easy meal, this is it!


Ingredients (serves 2):

2x 150g Horse Haunch

2x 150g Horse Fillet

1x 400g Can of Cannellini / Mixed beans

200g Couscous

350ml Chicken Stock

2 Sprigs of Rosemary

1 Red Chilli

1 Clove Garlic

4 Tbsp Red Wine

3 Tbsp Dark Soya

3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tbsp Light Soya

2 Tsp Rice Wine Vinegar

2 Tsp Light Brown Sugar

1 Tsp White Wine Vinegar

1 Tsp Sesame Oil

Small bunch of Coriander



1.  Start by making the marinade for the haunch steak.  Chop and de-seed the chilli, then chop the garlic and pick the rosemary.

2.  Crush the rosemary, garlic and chilli in a mortar and pestle until it is a paste.  Add 1 or 2 tbsp of the olive oil near the end to help.

3.  Combine the paste, remaining olive oil and the white wine vinegar along with some salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well.  Then add the horse haunches, coating both sides and leave in the fridge for an hour and half, turning occasionally.

4.  Now make the marinade for the fillet steaks, mix the dark soya, light soya, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil in a bowl, add a pinch of salt and pepper.  Then add the horse fillets, coat both sides and leave in the fridge for an hour to an hour and a half.

5.  Place the couscous in a bowl and add boiling chicken stock, stir and cover for 5mins.

6.  Open the can of beans and rinse with water, then add to the couscous, stir well and leave covered for another 5mins.

7.  Set a grill pan and a frying pan to a high heat, brush the grill pan with oil and add about 2 tbsp of oil to the frying pan.

8.  Once up to heat, start cooking the haunches first as they will usually be thicker.  Cook for 2-4mins each side on the grill pan, depending on how you prefer your steaks.

9.  Once the haunches have been cooking for about 1min, add the fillets to the frying pan and again cook for 2-3mins.

10.  Remove all the steaks from the heat and keep warm, add a pinch of salt to the steaks if required.  Then add the red wine, sugar and remaining fillet marinade to the frying pan, reduce to a syrup.

11.  Chop the coriander and add to the couscous, giving it a final stir before serving.  Drizzle the red wine reduction over the horse fillets and plate the haunches on top of the couscous and serve.



– You could substitute the horse for beef (sirloin and fillet would work), although that defeats the point of trying horse meat, the marinades will work for beef as well as horse.

–  Conversely, horse can often be used as a substitute for beef in most recipes, so if you try this and like it, it’s often easier to look for beef recipes and use horse as an alternative than to go searching for horse specific recipes.

–  Some finely sliced ginger added to the couscous would add a nice twist to this dish.


Drinks Matching:

Cocktail: White Russian – Creamy sweet with an alcoholic coffee hit.  The higher alcohol content ensures that the creamy sweetness doesn’t linger but it still provides a nice contrast to the lean meat.

Regular Drink: Red Wine – Just like a beef steak, red wine matches nicely with this dish.  A low tannin red is required, due to the low fat content and neutral couscous.  Chianti Classico or a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc would match well.

Non-Alcoholic: Soda water and lime – It’s tough to match this one.  The soda water is refreshing and the lime adds a bit of flavour.  Coke or another sweet fizzy drink is going to be a little too sweet.

2 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. chef_cerro says:

    Fair point, although I wasn’t really reviewing horse meat, but since you asked… I’d say it was really nice, surprisingly so! As a steak, I would still pick a ribeye steak over a horse steak, the marbling of fat gives it that extra flavour. But, if I compared it to an equally lean cut of beef, like fillet, I would pick the horse. It’s everything a steak should be, juicy and full of flavour but without the need for the fat and it has a more complex flavour compared to beef.
    Would I have it as a regular meal? Probably, if it was easier/cheaper to get hold of. The online prices, mean it’s on a par with the more expensive cuts of beef when it could be a much cheaper alternative. If that was the case, I would make it a more regular meal.
    That said, I don’t think it’s fair to judge it simply as a beef substitute. The sweetness would go with more fruit sauces, I think it would work well as a long slow braised dish and I would be tempted to cook it with some bacon to add in some fat to see how that worked. I’d love to see how someone like Gordon Ramsay uses it.

  2. Anne says:

    So what did you think of the meat as you haven’t really said???


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