Monday 19 March 2018

Forkful's easy suppers: Za'atar Beef Skewer

Za'atar beef skewers. Photo: Mark Duggan
Za'atar beef skewers. Photo: Mark Duggan

Aoife McElwain

Whenever I share what could be construed as a barbecue recipe, I always find myself making excuses for the weather.

"Don't worry if it's raining," I shrill, pretending to be totally fine and relaxed about the likely possibility of rain. "This recipe will still be delicious eaten inside if the sun doesn't shine!"

Writing barbecue recipes in Ireland is a bit sad, because our barbecue 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. And I'm not just saying that to make us all feel better.

I've used the Middle Eastern flavours of za'atar and preserved lemons to thread a little sunshine on to the skewers.

This week's recipe relies on the wonderful spice mix that is za'atar. It's a combination of dried thyme, oregano and marjoram, mixed with toasted sesame seeds and salt. It's thought to have originated in the Levant, a region which is Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria today.

Preserved lemons are another favourite ingredient in my store cupboard. 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 prepare them.

I've served these skewers with some pitta bread and a citrus yoghurt, but a nice green salad would also make a good accompaniment.

Za'atar Beef Skewer

Serves 2

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 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 yoghurt

1 clove of garlic, finely diced

1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

Pitta bread

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 barbecue 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 on to 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 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 yoghurt in a bowl and add the garlic clove and lemon juice. Mix well. Toast the pitta. 7. Serve the beef skewers with some crumbled feta, freshly chopped mint and pomegranate seeds scattered over the top, with the yoghurt and pitta bread on the side.

This week's storecupboard essential:

Za'atar: A combination of dried thyme, oregano and marjoram, this delicious Middle Eastern spice mix is lovely sprinkled on pitta breads and toasted in the oven for a quick snack. You can find it in Middle Eastern grocery shops as well as in the aisles of well-stocked supermarkets, usually right next to the sumac.

Irish Independent

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