Lockdown Recipe of the Day: Espetada

Lockdown Recipe of the Day: Espetada
Espetada on the coals, after its marination. Photo: Louis Pieterse

Portuguese friends told me, way back in the Nineties, that Espetada originates in Madeira. There, they said, the tradition was to use actual bay branches – slim, young ones, you understand – to skewer the chunks of meat, and then cook them over hot coals, once marinated. So that’s what I do. In your local Portuguese restaurant, however, these days you’re likely to be served them on one of those theatrical, horizontal metal spikes. They look great but, believe me, they’re not quite the same.

1 very lean beef fillet, membrane removed

Bay tree branches, slim – leave the leaves on

8 bay leaves

10 or 12 fat garlic cloves

125ml olive oil

125 ml Madeira

Coarse salt

Roast the garlic, in their husks, for 15 to 20 minutes, in a dry pan in the oven. Remove and let cool.

Don’t be afraid to let the flames do their work on the meat, imparting a superb smoky flavour. But not for too long… Photo: Louis Pieterse

Combine the olive oil and Madeira (or sherry, or half sherry and half red wine vinegar) in a large bowl. Tear off oregano leaves and add. Add plenty of coarse salt (you judge this, I tend to be generous). Squeeze the softened garlic out of their husks, mash and add. Stir. Cut the fillet into fat cubes, about 2.5 cm thick. Add to bowl and massage the marinade into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for up to 48 hours, but even four hours will give them a good flavour. Skewer onto bay branches, pushing the leaves through too. It can be done. Braai over very hot coals, and let the flames get to them too. The tips of the branches may burn away and that’s okay – you’ll find the meat gets a wonderful smoky flavour. DM/TGIFood

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