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What’s cooking today: Beef espetada on the braai



What’s cooking today: Beef espetada on the braai

Tony Jackman's beef espetada. The centre one was cooked on the only branch available on my small bay tree. Otherwise, interspersed bay leaves also do the trick. Photo: TonyJackman)

These traditional Madeiran beef skewers are all about the bay leaf.

You may know espetada from your Portuguese restaurant where they’ll be suspended dramatically from metal skewers in the modern version of presenting them. But traditionally they’re cooked on slim bay branches. There’s plenty of garlic and coarse salt too but the overriding flavour is of bay, and it’s just splendid.

This recipe accompanies this column.


600 g beef fillet in thick chunks

4 fat garlic cloves, chopped

10 bay leaves

Bay branch skewers

Coarse salt

Black pepper

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp olive oil


Start the day before or early in the day.

Chop the garlic finely. Remove the bay leaves from the branch/es and crumble them. Combine the garlic, bay leaves, coarse salt, pepper, olive oil and red wine vinegar in a bowl and stir.

Cube the beef and add to the marinade. Rub the marinade into the meat and refrigerate overnight or for 8 to 10 hours.

Prepare plenty of very hot coals.

Skewer the beef cubes. Intersperse the cubes with more bay leaves.

Braai on very hot coals (naked flame is also okay, within reason) for only three or four minutes on the first side, then turn, and cook for only two or three minutes more so that they’re medium rare at the centre. Leave to rest for five minutes. DM/TGIFood

Platter by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.

To enquire about Tony Jackman’s book, foodSTUFF (Human & Rousseau) please email him at [email protected]

SUBSCRIBE: There’s much more from Tony Jackman and his food writing colleagues in his weekly TGIFood newsletter, delivered to your inbox every Saturday. Subscribe here. Also visit the TGIFood platform, a repository of all of our food writing.


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