Posts Tagged ‘pinchitos’

AbdesalemWe all have our memories of The Moroccan Restaurant and its owner, chef, maitre-d, waiter and great Gibraltarian character that was Abdesalam.

Sadly, the surly-comic character that was Abdesalam passed away this week and since hearing of his passing, many turned to social media to pay their respects and proclaim his pinchitos to be “the best in town!”

For those that knew where his establishment was hidden, it was a little jewel tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of Main Street, in humble Turnbull’s Lane.  With only a few tables inside; 6 could sit comfortably, 8 would be a squeeze as no-one wanted to sit infront of the sliding door that unveiled the toilet!

In summer, Abdesalam would set up a couple of tables outside and even though this extended his restaurant he wouldn’t necessarily want the demand.  As Abdesalam’s approach was not that of a multi-tasking chef catering for several tables at a time.  His was a methodical table-by-table approach.  Pre-ordering was an advantage known only to some, otherwise, when you arrived he would take your order and start prepping and cooking especially for you; whoever arrived after you would have to wait until your table’s order was complete!

Not the sort of place to go to in a rush.

When at The Moroccan Restaurant it was like being stuck in a time machine where everything ran on Abdesalam-time – and everyone was the happier for it.

I remember once pre-ordering several pinchitos for a group of 6 of us (approx 30 pinchitos) and a family arrived off a cruiseHeiniken
ship and ordered chicken tagines and cous-cous.  They were on a tight schedule; we were having a leisurely lunch with the endless supply of green Heineken bottles from the self-service fridge!  The more anxious they became, the more thorough he seemed to stoke the BBQ to get the perfect white-hot charcoals to cook on. Thankfully they had been to Gibraltar before and had done all the tourist sites previously!

Several people have recalled Abdesalam’s mantra, “Para gente de familia, no borrachos!” (A family restaurant not for drunkards) and, “Esto es un restaurante, no un bar.” (This is a restaurant not a bar.)  As one of his pet peeves was people sitting at his tables drinking the cold drinks he was chilling for his clients.

pinchitosAbdesalam took great pride in providing you with his taste of Morocco whether it was a tagine (chicken or lamb), pinchitos (beef or chicken), cous-cous or even a simple tomato and onion salad.  He would tell me that the reason why his beef pinchitos were the best was because he would buy good quality beef (carne de calidad amigo!) and then meticulously trim off the excess fat before marinating in his ‘secret’ spice rub.

Not to everyone’s tastes; the decor with its chintzy relics of Morocco, dusty souvenirs of the red fez, babouche slippers and mint teapot variety adorning the cobwebbed shelves above the bar, the sliding door for the toilet that hung on a hinge and the service that ran on Abdeslam-time but I liked it, as did many.

I am sad to say that I will miss being sat outside on Turnbull’s Lane with a green bottle in my hand, watching Abdeslam stood in the archway to The Moroccan Restaurant,  fanning the flames of his pinchito bbq with his raffia fan, wafting the smoke over in my direction as if sat around a tuareg campfire in the Sahara, salivating at the smell of meat caramelising on hot coals…

Gastrorob

My article as it appeared in Calentita! press.

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The Neanderthal in me; challenged as I strategically pile the charcoal around the fire lighters, comforted as I watch the sunset-red flames dance around the coals, rapturous as I fan the fire to make sure the black coals are turning white. BBQ season is upon us. And in my household (i.e. me!) it means being as adventurous grilling as it does cooking in my kitchen.

Yes, grilling. Not barbecuing. In much of the English-speaking world, “barbecuing” and “grilling” are used interchangeably. However, in USA’s South “barbecue” describes a cooking method in which food is cooked slowly over the indirect heat and smoke from a charcoal or hardwood fire. The food is never placed over the hot coals hence closing the lid helps to create an oven-like environment to retain the heat.

Whether you have a large family-sized terrace, garden or 2m x 1m balcony, cooking over a live fire is neither a weekend ritual nor a professional technique. Everyone can do it. And in Gibraltar, during the Summer months, everyone does. As you walk around the different housing estates, you can smell the characteristic chemical smell produced by firelighters or alternatives and burning charcoal. But if you’re really lucky you also get to smell the delicious offerings the grilled meats and fish fill the stifling, summer evening air with.

“Pinchitos, burgers, sausages, steaks, ribs, lamb kebabs, seafood…”

BBQ Rack of Maple-Glazed Ribs

1st: Once the flames have died down on the barbecue, place a saucepan onto the grill and add butter, maple syrup and dark muscovado sugar. Mix together.

2nd: Rub olive oil, salt and pepper onto the rack of ribs and place onto the grill. If your bbq set has a lid on it then you can choose to “barbecue” it. Make sure to place the ribs on the coal-free area as you are cooking indirectly.

3rd: Regularly baste the rack with the maple syrup glaze.

4th: Once the ribs are cooked, it is always a good idea to split the individual ribs to give it one final basting on all sides.

Fork test: stick a large fork into whatever you’re cooking and try to pick it up. If the fork slides out of the meat without grabbing onto it, it’s done; otherwise, keep cooking.”

Essential Grilling Tools

Having the right tools will undoubtedly make the task easier. A pair of heavy-duty, long-handled, spring-loaded tongs are the undisputed number one grill tool. Like an extra hand that doesn’t get burned, they are ideal for placing food on the grill, moving it around whilst it’s cooking, picking it up to check for doneness, and taking it off the grill. Don’t buy those cheap supermarket barbecue kits with tongs & spatula as they are both disastrous to use!

Convenience is the order of the day, especially if there are guests. Use disposable skewers for pinchitos and kebabs and disposable foil trays. Foil trays have many uses other than being disposable. Whilst grilling, they are ideal for covering thick cuts of meat or bone-in chicken that’s not quite done but that you don’t want to burn to a crisp. Without the use of a lid you can create a mini-oven.

Next to tongs, your favourite beverage, may be the most indispensable grilling tool. It helps keep you calm and collected while you’re tending the fire – a key to success.

So why not relish in the near-mythic social ritual that is the barbecue and stand, like Homer Simpson, with tongs in one hand and beer in the other.

Do it alone, invite people round, keep it cheap or go crazy at the supermarket – either way light the fire, open a beer and grill away… come on…unleash your inner caveman!