Popular bar snack: The Gilda. Photo: Marina Oliphant
I cooked last year at an outdoor food festival where our custom-made charcoal grill produced more than 500 kilograms of meat served on skewers over four days of perfect weather. It was a blast. To me, nothing is more festive than a person sweating behind a hot grill, creating that incredible aroma of smoky meat over charcoal. It's not hard to link it back to ancient times, when cavemen killed an animal, chopped it into pieces and cooked it on a stick. There is certainly something very satisfying about eating this way.
In the 1970s, there was the simple cheese cube and pickled onion, or the more daring ''devils on horseback'', a prune wrapped in bacon and grilled. Both nibbles were held together by a toothpick.
In Spain's Basque region, food on a stick is a popular bar snack, called pintxo. The Gilda is a classic version, with pickled guindilla peppers, white anchovies, and green olives on a toothpick. I have added a piece of tomato and the combination is fantastic with a beer.
Festive: Chicken skewers marinated with paprika and oregano. Photo: Marina Oliphant
THE GILDA: WHITE ANCHOVIES, GUINDILLA PEPPER AND GREEN OLIVES
4 roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into 2cm chunks
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
12 white anchovies
1 handful flat-leaf parsley
12 guindilla peppers*
125g tinned Spanish olives stuffed
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
Sea salt, to sprinkle
Dust the tomato chunks with paprika. Drain the anchovies. Place five whole fresh parsley leaves on an anchovy, then loop the fish over to form a horseshoe shape. Skewer a guindilla onto one end of the toothpick. Follow with the anchovy, a piece of tomato and finish off with a stuffed olive. Repeat with remaining anchovies, guindillas, tomato and olives. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and then sprinkle with sea salt.
*Guindilla peppers are Spanish chillies, long and narrow with a slight curve. They are medium-hot with a sweet flavour and are sold green, pickled in white wine vinegar. You can buy them from good specialist delicatessens.
CHICKEN SKEWERS MARINATED WITH PAPRIKA AND OREGANO
1kg skinless chicken thigh meat, cut into 2.5cm chunks
2 tbsp smoked sweet paprika
1 tbsp cumin seeds, roasted and ground
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1 tsp fine sea salt
125ml extra virgin olive oil
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge overnight. Thread the chicken meat onto 12 metal skewers. Heat a charcoal grill or barbecue flat plate to high. Cook the chicken skewers for five minutes, or until cooked through, turning regularly. Cool slightly, then serve. This marinade can also be used for quail or rabbit.