Grilled Skirt Steak Swirls and Pumpkin Custard

Ah, autumn! Crisp, foggy mornings with somewhere to go, watery blue skies to snooze under at naptime, rustling leaves to stroll through before dinner. And the dinner foods - oh, the foods of fall! Apples and peppers appear in bags in the shops and baskets at the market next to the muted jewel-tones of fresh nuts, figs, and chestnuts, and the earthy lusciousness of various mushrooms and braids of garlic. As far as I'm concerned you can take any two from that list and have a foolproof start on a delicious meal. Add fine weather and a firepit, and you really can't fail.

This is a long weekend in Germany because tomorrow is the day of unification, celebrating the dissolution of East and West Germany and the reestablishment of greater Germany as a single land and people. It's therefore a great excuse to get together with friends and neighbours and cook over an open flame. So we did.

Yesterday our two multi-family homes closed the gates to our shared driveway and set up benches, tables, a few giant salads and a charcoal barbecue. We all brought our own drinks and meat, and the last of us finally left the tables standing and the fire to burn itself out 8 hours later. The food was not the main attraction, but I was so pleased with how my experimental dish came out that I wanted to share it with you.

Have you ever seen a food and been romanced by the idea of it after the fact? In the butcher counter at the grocery store I saw skewers of coiled beef with a layer of roasted red peppers. Because pre-done foods like that often contain MSG and/or other unsavoury savouries, I'd rather try to recreate them at home from things I can identify and feel sure of. I'm not a total masochist though: I bought the peppers pre-roasted. As a treat, I also put lactose-free cream cheese in the cart.

A little Googling and I hit the jackpot: one recipe with seasonings that appealed, and another with the technique I was looking for. With pictures. Unfortunately those'll have to do because my camera is still out of commission, but trust me that I ended up with two perfectly round swirls of red, white and meat on each of 6 bamboo skewers.

Skirt Steak Swirls (or Snails, as you like)

4 beef roll-ups (Rinderrouladen - usually skirt steak @ 10x25x1/2 cm)
200 g roasted red peppers in olive oil
1/4 c cooked shredded spinach (from the freezer section)
100 g cream cheese
frozen Italian herb mix - red onion, garlic, basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley
fresh basil leaves (optional)
salt and pepper
olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  1. Rinse your meat and pat dry. Pour plenty of oil and vinegar into a leak-proof bag and set meat to marinate for at least an hour. 
  2. Do whatever needs doing to get the spinach ready; for me that just meant defrosting, but if you're starting from fresh there'll be more involved. Squeeze it out very well. Now squeeze some more. Try putting it in a muslin square and wringing it. Add the cream cheese and herbs and mix well. Refrigerate.
  3. Set 5 to 10 skewers to soak.
  4. When you're ready to start cooking, set up an assembly line with a large flat tray or pan at the end.
  • Rinse some of the marinade off one of the pieces of meat and lay it flat on a board. 
  • Scoop out a quarter of the cream cheese mixture and spread it on the meat, leaving a bit of edge free. 
  • Fish out a pepper and wipe or rinse it off, then (for whole peppers) split it into about three pieces. Lay them out on the meat, leaving a good 10cm free at the tip. 
  • If using fresh basil, pick 3 leaves, rip them up and put them on top of the peppers.
  • Starting at the wider end of the meat, roll it all up as tightly as possible.
  • Place rolled meat to the side of your tray.
  1. Continue until all 4 steaks are rolled. Then do like Noah and arrange them two by two at the top of your tray.  
  2. Drive skewers through two rolls at a time, about 3cm apart. With a very sharp carving knife, trim the scraggly edges off either side (save for breakfast scramble) and slice between the skewers. Pepper both sides, and lay in your tray. My daughter brightly observed that they looked like Bs; the flat side plumped up during cooking.
  3. Grill for 3 to 5 minutes per side. Be impressed at how colourful and professional they look. Accept compliments from onlookers.
    Tonight was another grill party, this time very last-minute with friends we haven't seen in ages. I said I'd bring a vegetable. When I looked in the fridge to take stock for a salad I spotted the butternut squash I'd roasted yesterday, waiting to be processed. Mixed with eggs, cinnamon and coconut milk it's still a vegetable, right?

    Pumpkin Custard
    Recipe based on this one at Balanced Bites

    2 c pureed squash. A hand mixer is not enough to puree effectively, it turns out. 1 Tbsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground ginger
    1/2 tsp nutmeg
    pinch of sea salt
    4 eggs
    1/4 c maple syrup
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    2 c coconut milk (full fat) This amounts to just a little less than 500mL, for those of you who can get the half-litre TetraPaks of coconut milk

    Blend all ingredients thoroughly. Bake in a glass dish in a bain marie at 175C for one hour or until set. Serve warm or cold. Swoon.

    With the other cup of pureed squash make grain- and dairy-free autumn muffins. Recipe to follow!

    What are your favourite flavours of autumn?

    1 comment:

    1. Sounds DELICIOUS Lauren - I love pumpkin - not matter what time of year.