I’m sitting at a table at the Arnold Coffee in Florence, one of those bars inspired by the American Starbucks with a continual coming and going of people, a huge stack of paper cups next to the counter, enormous blackboards with an endless choice of American coffee, lattes, shakes and smoothies. It’s not my first choice in terms of quality coffee, of course. An artisan coffee shop with in house roasted coffee, lost in a back alley, a place that only you and three other people know, well, this is definitely better, or at least, it is certainly more useful in terms of image and romantic allure of foodie up-to-date with the latest trends.
But it’s raining here in Florence, I have an hour of spare time between the first official engagement as a teacher at the Florence University of the Arts and a dinner with him, I feel like writing and I need something warm to hug me from the inside. Arnold coffee is the best solution, I took an hazelnut American coffee, a triple chocolate cookies (yes, I know, I’m on a diet, my Super Ego just reminded me of this insignificant detail) and I sat down at a table.
If I turn my back to the road I feel like I am elsewhere. That young couple sitting a few tables from me is definitely elsewhere. They are lost in each other’s eyes, hands wrapped around a cup of coffee as if it were the last bottle of water in the desert, regardless of the chatter around them. That girl sitting alone in a leather chair is elsewhere, a wool hat to hide her face partially, though not enough to cover a delighted smile in front of a coffee with whipped cream and a slice of decadent cheesecake with raspberries. Yes, it could be me if I were not here to tell you what I am seeing around me!
Then, if I had managed not to get soaked in hazelnut coffee, finding myself, my hands, my skirt, my iPad and my pullover completely sticky, well, the picture would have been perfect. But without a spontaneous act of clumsiness it would not be me. Better to get into today’s recipe!
I left my comfort zone to make these skewers, one of my weekend lunches that I wait eagerly every week. I’ve made often skewers of pork, chicken or turkey, since these are tender and juicy meats, if you baste them well and cook them with a few vegetables. I was wandering through the supermarket aisles when I stumbled upon the butcher counter. Still trying to make good, simple, tempting and charming lunches for him, I decided to make skewers, but with a good cut of beef, instead the usual chicken or pork. I asked the butcher which was the best cut to use to make skewers, and his answer was instant and secure: fore shank.
It’s a fairly inexpensive cut, which in Italian is known as sorra or the priest’s hat. It is my butcher’s favourite cut for being so tasty and versatile, he often recommends me this cut to make quick beef cutlets cooked in olive oil. If you want to imagine the taste, think about the taste of red meat cutlets that your mum or grandma used to cook when you where a kid, well, that’s the flavour.
To soften the meat, take some time, start the day before and marinate the meat with extra virgin olive oil, old-fashioned mustard, the one with the grains, orange juice and lemon juice, since we are in the season of citrus fruits. Then use this marinade to baste the meat during the cooking. You’ll have flavourful skewers with a hint of citrus, perfectly suited to these rainy days.
- 500 g of beef fore shank
- Juice of ½ orange
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1 tablespoon of grainy mustard
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 100 g of fresh pork sausage
- 2 slices of wholegrain bread
- The day before. Cut the beef into small pieces no bigger than a walnut and place them in a bowl where they will sit the whole night soaked into the marinade. To make the marinade, add the orange juice and lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper and finish with a generous splash of extra virgin olive oil. Stir and cover with plastic wrap, then forget the meat in the fridge until the next day.
- The next day. Drain the meat from the marinade and keep it aside. Cut the sausage and the bread into bite size pieces. Make the skewers alternating beef, sausage and bread.
- Arrange the skewers in a baking dish, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and bake them in preheated oven to 190°C for about 35 minutes, basting them frequently with the marinade.
- Serve the skewers as soon as they are ready, with a side of baked or fried potatoes.
Skewers are a recipe that appears in many variants in different culinary cultures around the world, accompanied by characteristic sauces, marinades and dressings. How do you make your favourite skewers?
- I love the idea of these saffron and chilli lamb skewers presented by Yotam Ottolenghi, as tender as can be. Serve with saffron basmati and a dollop of yogurt.
- From lamb to chicken, discover these smoky chicken skewers on BBC GoodFood, A tapas-style canapé of marinated and grilled chicken kebabs, best served with smoked garlic mayonnaise dip.
- Still chicken, but Asian inspired, Honey Sesame Chicken Skewers. Easy and quick, for an unusual and tasty dinner.
- Lebanon and Asia, we’re missing Europe here! Try these Greek-inspired Grilled Lemon Chicken Skewers, in all of their glorious, lemon-marinaded simplicity.