05 April 2009

ever so slightly charred

So now it's official - winter is over.

Yesterday, we had the first official barbeque of the year. And damn, I have been missing this. The rest of the family insisted on sausages (we're Germans, after all), but I had been hungering for something else.

The meat skewers that were on my mind already when it was still snowing outside are called 'shashlik' here. I bet they have very little in common with their eastern original, apart from the fact that they are on skewers. They have some vaguely Hungarian connotations here, but I have never seen anything like this anywhere outside a German supermarket.

Yet the combination of marinated meat, bacon and vegetables isn't only extremely tasty, it's also something quite... archetypal. You know, one of those combinations that work just this one way, and click and fit together as if it had never been intended otherwise. I love shashlik, and in the rare cases we have some leftovers, I eat them cold the next day.

One thing I had to learn with these skewers is that they only taste real good once they are ever so slightly charred. It's quite inevitable anyway, with pointy vegetable corners peeking far into the fire, but still. Think of Italian antipasti, where the bell peppers have to be thorougly blackened before marinating. It would taste bland if not, and it's mostly the same here.

Try it, it is a great and unique addition to any barbeque repertoire. (And a great opportunity to get some vegetables into my otherwise strictly carnivorous wife...)

(Serves two to four, depending on how greedy your folks are. It's generously enough for my wife and me.)

400g lean beef (we use rumpsteak end cuts)
juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 slight teaspoon chili or cayenne pepper
some ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

350g bacon (one chunk, not slices for frying)
2 bell peppers, one green, one red
2 medium onions

Cut the beef in chunks of about 5 by 5 centimetres.

In a bowl, mix the lemon juice, olive oil and spices, but no salt. Marinade the meat for a few hours, best over night.
There is no need to add salt to the marinade, as the bacon will be more than salty enough.

Once you've lit the coals, cut the bell peppers, the bacon and the onions in into chunks that are about as large as the pieces of meat and keep at hand. Take a look at the picture, you'll see what I mean about the sizes.

Start putting the ingredients onto skewers, beginning with bell peppers, then onion, meat, bacon, bell peppers, and so on. Try to end each skewer with a piece of bell pepper, as they'll hold best.
It may be pure superstition, but I try to get the meat always wedged in between some onion and some bacon, as those are the two ingredients adding some taste.

Once you are done, baste the skewers with the remaining marinade and set aside until the fire's ready.

Grill on direct heat, medium to hot, until the vegetables start charring. Serve immediately, with some bread and the condiment of your choice.
If you want, you can baste the skewers with some of the remaining marinade immediately after grilling for some extra juiciness.


Anonymous said...

Meat, bacon, vegetables. Yep!

Reuben Morningchilde said...

So say we all.

Thanks for dropping me a line!