30 Mar Za’atar Beef Skewers
Whenever I share what could be construed as a BBQ recipe, I always find myself making excuses for the weather. “Don’t worry if it’s raining,” I shrill, pretending to be fine about the likely possibility of rain. “This recipe will still be delicious eaten inside if the sun doesn’t shine!” Writing BBQ recipes is a bit sad in Ireland, because our BBQ weather is so fleeting and unpredictable.
But, look, rest assured we will get another few sunny days this year. And when we do, you’ll have already tried and tested this beef skewer recipe, so you’ll have it up your sleeve to whisk it together at a moment’s notice.
At any rate, the sun is not an essential ingredient in enjoying this dish. I’ve used the Middle Eastern flavours of za’atar and preserved lemons to thread a little sunshine onto the skewers.
This week’s relies on the wonderful spice mix that is za’atar. It’s a combination of dried thyme, oregano, marjoram mixed with toasted sesame seeds and salt. It’s thought to have originated in the Levant, which is Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria today.
Preserved lemons are another favourite ingredient in my storecupboard. I buy them from my local North African food store, Timgad, which is located on the South Circular Road in Dublin 8. Preserved lemons are very easy to make at home and you’ll find plenty of recipes online to help you find out how to preserve them.
I’ve served these skewers with some pitta bread and a citrus yogurt, but a nice green salad would also make a good accompaniment.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
300g diced beef steak
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 heaped tablespoon of za’atar
Salt and pepper
3 preserved lemons
1 red onion
4 tablespoons of natural yogurt
1 clove of garlic, finely diced
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
Handful of feta cheese
Freshly chopped mint
2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds
1. Start by soaking six wooden skewers in a cold water. This will stop them from burning on the BBQ or even on the griddle pan.
2. Place the beef in a large bowl and add the olive oil, za’atar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix everything well so that the beef is evenly coated in the oil and spices.
3. Chop the preserved lemon and red onion into quarter wedges.
4. Thread a piece of beef steak, a quarter of preserved lemon and a wedge of red onion onto a skewer. Repeat a second time and finish your skewer with a piece of beef. You should have enough to make six skewers.
5. Pre-heat your oven grill to a high setting. Place the beef skewers on a tray lined with foil and grill for 15 minutes, turning often to make sure the beef cooks evenly.
6. Meanwhile, place your natural yogurt in a bowl and add the finely diced garlic clove and lemon juice. Mix well. Toast the pitta bread.
7. Serve the beef skewers with some crumbled feta, freshly chopped mint and pomegranate seeds scattered over the top, with the yogurt and pitta breads on the side.
Storecupboard Essential: Za’atar
This delicious Middle Eastern spice mix is lovely sprinkled on pitta breads and toasted in the oven for a quick snack. You’ll find it in Middle Eastern grocery shops as well as in the aisles of well stocked supermarkets, right next to the sumac.
This recipe first appeared in The Irish Independent on Thursday 30th March 2017