Let them eat horse: Everything you wanted to know about horsemeat but were afraid to ask Tesco

Out here in the Balkan wilderness, horsemeat is less of a scandal, more of a delicacy. Here’s a quick overview of horse restaurants and recipes from around the region, including fruity horsemeat roast and Croatian horsemeat zgvacet

Picasso, “Minotaur and Horse” / i.e. “Beef vs Horsemeat”

Horsemeat panic has spread across Europe, with a food supply chain so vast and complex that even Luxembourg is involved. Naturally, the culprit behind what is being called a “scandal”, “disaster”, and a “criminal conspiracy”, is a country in the Balkans, a region naturally prone to neighborly bloodshed and the production of human sausage.

The beef is basically that some frozen horse lasagne ended up in the freezer sections of Tescos across Great Britain, and in more than a dozen supermarkets in France. The French, for whom horsemeat is a rare but integral part of the national cuisine, were naturally horrified to learn that the microwaved horsemeat they were consuming had originated from a “desolate abbatoir in remote Romania”, in a town with the unfortunate name of Roma.

The shadowy “abbatoir” (which is European for “slaughterhouse”) has allegedly been receiving an unprecedented number of horses recently due to the implementation of a Romanian law which states that horses cannot be used as transportation to pull carts on major roads.

The Brits, in the trending europhobic fashion, have threatened lawsuits against “certain continental countries”. Romania, meanwhile, has remained obstinate. Sorin Minea, head of Romania’s food federation, told one German newspaper that the Western European importers must have known that they were not buying beef. “Horsemeat has a particular taste, a particular color, and a particular quality,” he said.

Horse: “a particular taste, a particular color, and a particular quality”.

Questions about human exposure to a medication used to treat lameness in horses have helped fuel the panic. Unlike Americans, Europeans have the luxury of expecting that their meat will not be pumped full of all manner of obscure animal drugs.

While the media and health officials in France and Great Britain frighten the populations of their respective countries over the alleged dangers of Romanian horsemeat lasagne consumption, a survey of studies from other Balkan countries offers some startling reassurance. In an article entitled “Horsemeat and Hippophagia” published in the July/August 2008 issue of the University of Zagreb’s publication MESO, The First Croatian Meat Journal, the authors assert that “…a higher content of water, proteins and glycogens, and a smaller content of fat in horsemeat make it more suitable for nourishment, particularly of more demanding people, in comparison to pork or beef.”

Wikipedia informs us that in Serbia, doctors often prescribe horsemeat to individuals suffering from anemia. And the sheer volume of horsemeat delicacies, served both in homes and restaurants across the Balkans, should assure anxious Brits that the 60% horsemeat Tesco Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese they just nuked and fed the kids who slopped it down in blissful ignorance as they watched the telly was probably just fine, and quite possibly, delish.

There are many restaurants in the Balkans with horsemeat on the menu, servin’ it up at both the low and high ends, with plenty of Balkan trash or flash and at a price that won’t break the bank. Here is a list of some of those places:

Pri Kmeta Mayor’s Pub
3 Parizh Street
Sofia, Bulgaria
A great place for lovers of fine beer, the Mayor’s Pub brews its own and also serves dried horse, which according to Trip Advisor user Steven P., “goes perfectly with their red beer”.

Horse Burger
Maksima Gorkog 1a
Novi Sad, Serbia
The name of this establishment tells you nearly everything you need to know. It has a menu about five items long, all heavy on the horse, and, curiously, “nacho cheese”.

13 Vojvode Bogdana
Belgrade, Serbia
A restaurant for Belgrade’s well-heeled elite (and occasionally criminal) class, this place serves what it calls “traditional Mexican food”, a claim so ludicrous you’ll choke on your horse steak.

Hot Horse
Celovska Cesta 25
Ljubljana, Slovenia
The Slovenians have been hot on the horse forever. Ljubljana’s Hot Horse, which is situated in Tivoli Park, allows you to “build your own” horse burger. According to one fan of the burger stand, “it’s the healthiest burger around and much better than McDonald’s”. See?

If you’re curious about experimenting with horsemeat and like to cook (but don’t like Tesco’s frozen lasagne), try out one of these recipes, curated here on Bturn and unedited from around the Internet:

Fruity Horsemeat Roast:

Recipe ingredients
1 1/4 lb. (6565 g) horsemeat roast, wrapped in pork fat
1 Tbsp. (15 mL) oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) lemon juice
1 cup (250 mL) canned sliced peaches
1/2 cup (125 mL) sliced fresh or preserved mangoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cup (375 mL) beef broth
1/2 cup (125 mL) plain yoghurt (1%)


Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
In an ovenproof pot, brown the roast on all sides in oil.
Add the onion and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove roast.
Deglaze with the lemon juice, add the peaches and mangoes and salt and pepper.
Add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Return roast to pot.
Cook in the oven, covered, at 350°F/180°C for 50 minutes, until tender.
Remove the roast from the pot and keep warm.
Add the yoghurt to the cooking juice, stirring using the back of a spoon.
Slice the roast and pour the sauce on the slices or present the whole roast on a service platter with the sauce in a gravy boat.
If necessary, thicken the sauce with cornstarch diluted in a bit of cold water.

Horse Meat Salad

Recipe ingredients
1 1/4 lb. (565 g) horse tenderloin, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup (60 mL) extra light olive oil *
1/2 cup (125 mL) red wine
10 cups (2.5 L) mixed gourmet lettuce
1/3 cup (75 mL) fresh chopped coriander
1 onion, minced


In a bowl, mix slices of horsemeat, garlic, 30 mL (2 Tbsp.) oil and red wine; macerate 30 minutes.
In a frying pan, heat the rest of the oil; cook the slices of horsemeat with the marinade over medium high heat; bring to a boil; lower heat; cook about 5 minutes, turning meat only once. Keep hot.
Put lettuce on a plate; sprinkle with coriander.
Add onion; place slices of horsemeat on the salad; lightly cool the marinade; pour over the salad. Serve.
Horsemeat is best when served rare.

Horsemeat Fajitas

1/2 red onion, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, minced
1/2 green bell pepper, minced
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) safflower oil
1/2 cup (125 mL) medium salsa
1 lb (450 g) strips of horse meat surlonge steak
To taste salt and white pepper
4 plain tortillas
1/4 cup (60 mL) 1% sour cream


Sauté the vegetables in oil. Add the salsa. Keep warm.
Quickly sauté the horse meat until pink in the middle.
Mix the meat, the vegetables and the salsa.
Adjust the seasoning.
Spread the sour cream on the tortillas.
Spoon the mixture on the tortillas.
Fold the fajitas and serve.

Croatian “zgvacet”

500 g horse meat
500 g beef (muscles)
2 onions, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 cups tomatoes (strained tomatoe)
100 g bacon (pancetta, very finely minced, in small cubes)
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 cup wine (white, preferably Istrian malvasia)
10 g salt
5 g pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil


1 First slice the meat in peaces 2-3 cm large.
2 Put the olive oil in a pot and sauté the onion until it is soft. Add the meat, salt pepper and bay leaf. Sauté it for 15 minute When the meat relief the water, add bacon, garlic, majoran and basil and sauté for 5 more minutes; than add the wine and sauté until wine partly evaporates.
3 Add tomato and cook 30 min on easy fire. If there’s not enough liquid add some water.
4 Cook it for about 60 min; or until the meat is soft. Before eating leave it still for 10 min., and add some more olive oil (to taste). If you taste it is too sour, you may add some sugar (sometimes tomatoes are sour, plus wine, it can be too sour).
5 Serve with potato gnocchi, noodles or mashed potato.