Brenda’s hearty French beef stew was so fitting for a snowy day in Minneapolis. I wanted to cook beef, and given that I am in such a warm climate I thought about the way that hot French colonies use imported ingredients like beef and work them their own way. I have read romantic tales of the kebabs sold in markets in Marrakech. So a bit of investigation… and quite a bit of artistic license later… here are some spiced kebabs and a truly interesting salad.
Roll call… stewing steak, lime juice, ras el hanout*, and olive oil.
*Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice mix that is unique to each spice seller. It means ‘top of the shop’ and is regarded as the shop’s finest blend. It is available online in the States from places like Dean and Deluca. In Australia, I like the Simon Johnson tin.
There are a number of recipes for it online if you are feel like getting in the mix. Most versions include spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, coriander, clove, cumin, nutmeg, pepper, and turmeric.
I bought this meat already diced, but if you are doing the dicing, it is in pieces of roughly 1 inch (2 1/2cm) cubed. Ideally the meat should be marinated for around 10+ hours. I was organised enough to manage 24 hours. Because I used a ‘cheaper’ cut of meat, I wanted the citrus to have time to tenderise the meat well.
Juice the limes and pour over the meat, along with the olive oil.
Mix thoroughly and refrigerate covered in plastic wrap. I tumbled the meat around again after 10 hours just to make sure it was evenly coated.
Soak the bamboo skewers in water for ten minutes to prevent them burning, and then thread the meat straight on.
Ready to barbecue.
I kept the barbecue on a low heat, so I could cook the skewers for an hour. I chose a stewing meat rather than a fine fillet to get more of a charcoal and rustic flavour. I cooked these with the lid down on the barbecue. While they were cooking I made the salad outlined below.
The cooked kebabs were that great mix of tender and rough meat, with a smokeyness from the coals.
Dice the half red onion. This is my tried and true method. Slice off the top of the onion. Keeping the base of the onion in tact, slice lengthways but not entirely to the end.
Then slice across the onion, and voila, you have diced onion. The unchopped base is then thrown away.
Put a teaspoon of salt and a cup of luke warm water in to a bowl, and allow the onions to soak for 20 minutes. This takes away some of the ‘bite’ out of the onion and is a great method whenever you are using raw onion in a salad as it is easier on the stomach. This onion is drained and rinsed before adding to the salad.
In another bowl add juiced lime, minced garlic, pitted and chopped olives, sultanas (or raisins).
Mix well and let sit while you prepare the couscous.
Follow the directions on your couscous packet, as they all vary. But this one was a matter of pouring an equal quantity by volume of couscous to water.
Mix and leave sit for five minutes.
Then fluff up with a fork.
And roughly chop mint.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas well.
Then put all of the ingredients together and mix well. Taste for salt and pepper, and add more lime juice if needed.
Pile a serving of the salad on to a plate, I added some extra green by the way of coriander (cilantro) because I can’t resist having fresh greens. Place a couple of the cooked kebabs atop.
750g/26 oz Angus (or good quality) stewing steak cut in 1 inch cubes.
2 tablespoons ras el hanout spice mix
1/2 cup lime (or lemon) juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
In a bowl that will fit easily in your fridge, rub the spice mix evenly over the cubed meat, then pour lime juice and olive oil over. Mix well. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 10 hours but ideally 24 hours.
On a low heat barbecue cook for an hour or until meat is tender. Turn after 30 minutes.
1/2 medium red onion diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup raisins
juice of three limes (or one largish lemon)
3/4 cup couscous
one can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
2 stalks of celery, diced
more lime or lemon if needed
fresh ground pepper
Dice onion and soak in a bowl with a teaspoon of salt and a cup of luke warm water for 20 minutes.
In a large bowl combine minced garlic, olives, raisins and lime juice, mix well and leave to sit while you prepare the other elements.
Cook the couscous according to the directions on the packet.
After fluffing couscous with a fork, add it, the celery and mint to the large bowl.
Drain and rinse salted onion, and also add to the salad.
Taste for salt and pepper, and additional citrus juice if needed.
Serve the salad at room temperature.