Madeira Espetada

Madeira Espetada

Madeira Espetada

Jan 20, 2020

The island of Madeira has a very peculiar culture, which is reflected in its traditional delicacies. You will get to know a little more about our gastronomy, more specifically about Madeiran espetada, one of the most known and loved dishes by the Madeiran population.

The typical Madeiran espetada  (a sort of a kebab) is made with tender beef, bay leaf, salt, garlic and is then placed on the laurel stick to be roasted. This dish is found in other countries, with different denominations and cooking methods. In Madeira it is particularly different, as only beef and bay leaf are used, which take on the role of the skewer.


Madeira Espetada


The Origin and History of Madeiran Espetada

Currently,espetada is consumed by any citizen of the island who has an interest in preparing it. However, it was not always so. In the past, due to the price of beef, this delicacy was not consumed regularly by the most deprived populations, it was only possible to taste it in festive events,festivals or in the Madeiran pilgrimages.

These religious festivals were very important, not only for commerce, but also for the Christian faith, people from distant parishes gathered these days to celebrate and enjoy some “privileges” that were not always available to them.

These commemorative meetings have some bonfires and skewers next to the food and drink stalls in order to facilitate the making of this delicacy. The skewers were made from laurel branches, this plant had several uses, it could be used to cover the lower part of the flagpoles, which were used as decoration at parties, and also served to cover the upper structures of the tents. These skewers continue to be used today, always with the main purpose of giving a specific flavor to the meat.

As an accompaniment to the meat, wine cannot be missing. Traditionally, Madeiran espetadas were accompanied with wine, which could be purchased in the various stalls around the festivals, however, with the passing of time and the advent of soft drinks, this tradition was slightly changed. Together with the wine they started to mix “ Laranjada ”(drink produced on the island of Madeira since 1872) with the main purpose of diluting the high degree of acidity and reducing its alcohol content.

Due to the success of this dish, there were some changes in relation to its preparation: the laurel skewers were replaced by aluminum or iron skewers, as it makes cooking simpler, however, laurel skewers are still used today by those who are interested in giving the meat a particular taste. When it comes to side dishes it started to be served with potatoes, fried corn, bolo do caco and salad; with regard to seasoning, salt was first used, but over time people also started using garlic, ground pepper and laurel, placing them in the meat before roasting it

Thanks to these traditions, the island of Madeira was gaining more and more status in terms of gastronomy and culture, residents began to become interested and invest more in our customs, facilitating accessibility to this type of traditional delicacies. Nowadays, these customs, traditions as well as our gastronomy are one of the biggest attractions of the destination Madeira.

Its Introduction in Restaurants

Its introduction to restaurants took place in the mid-1950s, when Francisco da Silva Freitas inaugurated the first espetada restaurant in Madeira. This restaurant was opened in the parish of Estreito de Câmara de Lobos, starting with a small establishment when only a small number of people were aware of its existence. People gathered for the main purpose of eating the traditional espetada. Over time, this establishment gained more and more fame, and more and more people began to appear originating the creation of a restaurant. The restaurant owner never had much concern in choosing the name of the restaurant, but people quickly associated it with the name “Vides”, as it was the material with which the brazier was made to roast the meat. The brazier was made with this material because there was a lot of it and due to the fact that, when burned, it did not release any odor capable of changing the flavor of the meat. 

After this event, several restaurants started to open specializing in this dish.


Madeira Espetada

How to Make  Madeira Espetada - Cooking Method

Currently, espetada is one of the most consumed dishes at parties and pilgrimages or even in family and private gatherings, where people have the main purpose of celebrating and fraternizing. Here we will explain how you can make this delicious delicacy, typical among the Madeiran population.

 Ingredients for the “traditional espetada”

1kg of beef tenderloin

1 branch of green laurel

 2 heads of garlic

coarse salt



Espetada Recipe

Cut the meat into cubes or small cobblestone sized chucnks and set aside;

 Crush the garlic heads and the laurel in the mortar;

 Place the meat on the laurel skewers (if you don't have it, you can choose to use iron skewers) placing the fat all facing the same side;

 Season with salt, garlic and bay leaves;

 Bake well on both sides;

 When removing from the brazier, shake the skewers together in order to eliminate excess salt;

 Remove the meat from the skewer as you serve;

 Serve with fried corn, bolo do caco and garlic butter.

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