In an age of microwave meals, few foods feel more primal and effortless than meat on a stick. Skewer some protein and throw it on the braai and you’ve created a prompt summer meal. But give kebabs a bit more attention – a home-made marinade, some well-chosen add-ons, a sauce alongside – and you can create the best kebabs on the block. You have a smorgasbord of options to explore here: stick to the classics by marinating lamb in yoghurt with Indian spices and pairing it with a classic combo of courgette, peppers and onion. Soak beef in a teriyaki marinade and skewer it alongside Japanese-style accents, such as spring onions and pickled ginger. Or try citrusy prawns with the Italian trio of prosciutto, tomato and basil. By mixing and matching proteins, vegetables, marinades and sauces, you can create the taste you crave most. When it comes to meat on a stick, you’re in charge of your own delicious destiny.

1 Pick your protein

For 4 servings, start with about 700g of meat or seafood cut into 2.5cm chunks. Kebabs cook through quickly, so crank up the heat for a good sear.

Go with boneless, skinless breasts and/or thighs. (We’re thigh men ourselves – dark meat is more flavourful.)
Cooking time: About 5 minutes

Rump steak has the best balance of tenderness and beefy essence.
Cooking time: About 2 to 4 minutes for medium rare

Think of tuna as steak of the sea. It’s a perfect fish to serve rare, letting the marinade’s flavours shine through.
Cooking time: About 2 minutes for rare

Its bold flavour stands up to a spicy marinade. Pick boneless leg or rib chops for maximum tenderness.
Cooking time: 2 to 4 minutes for medium-rare

For the right-size mouthful, seek out medium prawns that have been shelled and deveined. You can tell they’re done when they’re firm and pink, with a bit of char.
Cooking time: 3 to 4 minutes

2 Choose your marinade

Small chunks of protein absorb a marinade’s flavour in just an hour. Reserve some marinade before you add the protein and serve it at the table for extra juiciness.

Curried Yoghurt
1 cup full-fat yoghurt + 1 tsp curry powder + 1 tsp salt + ½ tsp ground pepper

1 tsp minced garlic + 1 tsp minced fresh ginger + ½ cup soy sauce + 1 tbsp sugar

Spicy Moroccan
In a blender, purée 1 roasted red pepper + 3 tbsp olive oil + 3 garlic cloves + 2 tsp red-pepper flakes + 1 tsp each of salt, ground cumin and coriander

Black Olive and Caper
½ cup finely chopped and pitted Kalamata olives + ¼ cup olive oil + ¼ cup chopped capers + 3 minced garlic cloves + 1 tbsp lemon juice + ground black pepper

⅓ cup olive oil + 1 tsp grated lemon zest + ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice + 2 finely chopped garlic cloves + 1 tsp salt + 1 tsp ground pepper

3 Mix it up

Have fun experimenting with add-ons. Cut them into 2.5cm pieces as needed and then thread them onto skewers, alternating with the meat or seafood.

COURGETTE Red Pepper / Onion
This classic combo is a nod to Italy – and to summer. Skewer 1cm courgette slices through the skin so they don’t spin as you turn the kebabs.

Prosciutto / tomato / Basil
Wrap a slice of prosciutto around
a cherry tomato before skewering, and alternate with the meat and
whole basil leaves.

GREEN PEPPER / smoky Bacon
Bacon crisps up nicely on a grill, adding a smoky note to the peppery green.

Green bean / Potato / Mush­room
These add-ons elevate kebabs to a full-blown meal. Use halved button mushrooms, along with baby new potatoes that have been boiled for 15 minutes and then halved.

Spring onions / Pickled Ginger
These ingredients add instant sweet and savoury Asian flavours. Use them with steak for a version of the Japanese beef dish Negimaki; with tuna, the result isalmost like grilled sushi.

The finishing touch

Easy Lemon Aioli
This flavourful French mayonnaise adds a creamy kick to kebabs. To make it in minutes, use a short cut: a jar of shop-bought mayo. Whisk together ½ cup of olive-oil mayonnaise with 1 finely chopped garlic clove, 1 tsp grated lemon zest and 2 tsp lemon juice. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Coriander Chimichurri
This simple South American sauce adds freshness to grilled meats. In a food processor, combine 1 cup coriander leaves, ½ cup olive oil, ⅓ cup lime juice, 2 garlic cloves and ½ tsp each of red-pepper flakes and salt. Pulse the ingredients until they’re finely chopped.

Spicy Chilli Sauce
Smear on this hot and sweet sauce during grilling for an extra layer of heat or use it for dipping at the table. (Have a beer nearby to extinguish the chilli flames.) To make it, stir together ⅓ cup of Asian chilli sauce with ⅓ cup of syrup and mix in 2 finely chopped spring onions.