“Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers”

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


Traditionally tartare (spelt ‘tartar’ in the US) sauce is served with fish and seafood, famously in the ’70s with the ubiquitous scampi. In fact it also goes well with steak and  lamb.

But whatever you serve it with,  don’t even think of buying ready made tartare sauce, this version is SO much better, and it keeps in the fridge for ages.


Why not to use gherkins, tabasco, or Worcestershire sauce

The purpose of tartare sauce is to cut through the greasiness of batter-or-breadcrumb-covered fried food. Some people add gherkins, but in my view it makes the sauce just too sharp, but capers on the other hand give the oomph that’s needed but without the vinegary harshness of the gherkins. However, don’t  use the ones in brine – see recipe below.

Another variation is to add Tabasco or Worcestershire sauce, but in my view that makes the sauce hot and spicy AS WELL AS piquant – it’s trying to do too many things at once. So, after much experimentation, this is my version.


Tartare sauce was the Desert Island luxury chosen by broadcaster Ludovik Kennedy.


Recipe for a cheat’s version of tartare sauce


  • 300ml/1¼ cups/half a 600g jar mayonnaise – Hellman’s is fine. Cottage Delight even better. Or you could also use half mayonnaise and half crème fraiche
  • 2 tbsp capers (not the ones in brine – but if they are in salt rinse thoroughly and then soak in milk for half an hour)
  • small bunch parsley, chopped (do NOT use the stalks – usually it’s fine but not for this)
  • 1 banana shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ tsp grainy mustard
  • juice of a small lemon (or two tbsp of the squeezy type… but only if desperate)


To make, you simply collect all these ingredients together and mix. Couldn’t be simpler. Remember to TASTE!


What Is A Youth, from the Zeffirelli film of Romeo and Juliet

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