Hot food: Smart skewers
Lamb skewers with green tahini. Photo: Edwina Pickles
What is it?
Food on skewers. Kebabs, brochettes, satays, spiedini, kushiyaki, you name it, just about every cuisine from Japanese to Jewish does something skewered, spiked or speared. Meatballs, blah. Meatballs on a skewer, hurrah!
Where is it?
Melbourne Pub Group's Paul Wilson was quoted last year as saying, ''Anything on a skewer is the next big thing''. He promptly designed a special robata grill for Asian yakitori at St Kilda's Circa gastrodome and started grilling Fremantle octopus with native dessert-lime caramel, and lemongrass prawns with mango and lemon-myrtle chutney.
At the cheap and cheerful Malaysian diner Mamak, the charcoal grill is crowded with dozens of sticks of smoky, charred chicken satay ready to dip into sweet peanut sauce.
At Bar Lourinha, the big order is for grilled whole northern king prawns, skewered in the shell from head to tail and served with chilli salt and lime. Chef Matt McConnell is a skewer fanatic, returning from a recent trip to Istanbul with a number of Turkish metal skewers in his luggage.
''In so many different cultures, food is cooked on sticks,'' he says. ''It's such a great way to cook and a great way to eat.''
Criniti's is a charcoal-fuelled shrine to the skewer, with a range of spiedini from organic saltbush lamb with mixed herbs, salmoriglio and garlic aioli, to char-grilled king prawns, scallops, calamari and octopus with garlic aioli.
At the new Palings Kitchen at ivy, chef Chris Whitehead skewers Vietnamese-inspired meatballs, cuttlefish, prawns and rich, melting belly pork, ready to wrap in leaves with herbs and a coconut-water dressing.
And at The Animal in Newtown, chef George Diamond sizzles up ornate skewers of wagyu tri-tip, chicken or – the best – lamb leg, marinated overnight to break down the connective tissues, grilled and served with plastic tubs of tomato salad, tzatziki, lemon and grilled flat bread.
"You can skewer and grill anything you can think of," Diamond says.
"Kangaroo fillet, quail, chicken livers, you name it."
His tip? "Don't cut the meat too small; it should be a good size, so you don't easily overcook it."
Why do I care?
Because it's the fastest, easiest way to capture the thrill of the grill.
Can I do it at home?
Of course. Flat metal skewers will stop the skewered meat from spinning around (or double up and use two), but don't give yourself grill marks - they get searingly hot. Bamboo skewers burn easily, so soak them in water for a few hours before use. Or come up with your own skewers - wooden chopsticks, rosemary stalks or lemongrass spears.
Circa Prince of Wales Hotel, 2 Acland Street, St Kilda, 9536 1122.
Mamak 366 Lonsdale Street, city, 9670 3137.
Bar Lourinha 37 Little Collins Street, city, 9663 7890.
Criniti's 291 Church Street, Parramatta, 1300 274 648. Also Darling Harbour and Woolloomooloo.
Palings Kitchen and Bar level 1, ivy, 330 George Street, city, 9240 3000.
The Animal, Newtown Hotel 174 King Street, Newtown, 9557 6399.
Lamb skewers with green tahini
500g lamb rump or beef fillet
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
Sea salt and black pepper
150g natural yoghurt
2 tbsp tahini (ground sesame paste)
1 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbsp coriander, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 medium zucchini
12 cherry tomatoes
4 rounds of flat bread
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
1. Cut the meat into generous bite-size pieces, toss in olive oil, oregano, sea salt and pepper, and marinate for three hours.
2. Whiz yoghurt, tahini, cumin, parsley, coriander, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper in a blender. Thin out with a little water if too thick, and refrigerate.
3. Heat the barbecue or flat grill. Cut the zucchini into two-centimetre rounds and skewer alternately with cherry tomatoes on four long metal skewers. Thread the meat on another four long metal skewers, and brush with olive oil. Grill the skewers for three to four minutes or until well marked, then turn and cook for a minute or two to your liking. Serve on grilled flat bread with green tahini and lemon.