I’ve recently been quite taken to all things Greek. After having seen a couple of programmes on TV on the country I just became smitten. (For the record, one was Clase Turista: Atenas, which was about the experiences of some Argentinians living in Greece and the other was Jamie Does… Athens).
And you can guess how the story goes. Now, that last Jamie’s series was evil. Seriously. I mean, every time I finished watching an episode, I ended up invariably drooling and wanting to make at least one of those dishes. With the episode on Andalucía I ended up making aïoli. With the one on the French Pyrenees, I had Jamie’s rustic Roquefort salad for lunch.
And with the one on Greece, well, I simply had to try my hand at souvlaki.
As Jamie says, it is the Greek answer to kebabs. I would say it is the Greek answer to the brochettes we have in Argentina. Except that people for some reason don’t eat that many brochettes when they cook outdoors. Nobody bothers. Everything is just thrown at the parrilla. But it is nonetheless delicious.
I followed Jamie’s recipe to the T except that I didn’t make tzatziki because I’m not a huge fan of cucumbers. Instead, I did the same sauce I used for my potato cakes last week, which was wicked. (I’m not starting to sound like Jamie now, am I?)
adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver in Jamie Does
main courses | serves 4 (makes 8 generous kebabs)
We Brits often think of kebabs as a guilty pleasure. But, having seen the love and attention that goes into preparing a proper Greek kebab, I can assure you there is nothing to feel guilty about. It’s all about quality ingredients and fresh zingy flavours. I’d always thought dried mint sounded a bit naff, but actually it turned out to be very delicious and it really helped create a more authentic taste. A few of these with some cold beers would be wicked. Cook them on a barbecue or in a griddle pan, depending on what’s easier for you.
• 3 sweet pointed peppers – a mixture of colours is nice
• 8 flatbreads, to serve
• 4 sprigs of fresh mint, leaves picked
• a small bunch of fresh dill, chopped (stalks and all)
• red wine vinegar
• Greek extra virgin olive oil
• 1 lemon, to serve
For the souvlaki
• 800g leg of pork, shin if you can get it, the best quality you can afford, cut into 2 cm chunks
• 1 tablespoon dried mint
• 1 tablespoon dried oregano
• juice of 1 lemon
• 100ml good-quality olive oil
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely grated
• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
• a pinch of freshly ground black pepper
• a pinch of sea salt
For the tzatziki *
• ½ large cucumber
• 200ml natural yoghurt
• 1 small clove of garlic, peeled
• 1 heaped teaspoon dried mint
• 1½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
If using wooden skewers, cut 8 to fit your griddle pan and soak them in a tray of water to stop them burning. Put all your kebab ingredients into a bowl and use your clean hands to mix everything together really well. Cover with clingfilm, then pop into the fridge for 30 minutes, or longer if you want the flavours to get a bit more intense. (I actually left mine overnight).
Meanwhile, blacken the peppers directly over the flame of your hob, in a hot dry griddle pan or under a hot grill. Turn them every so often and when they look almost ruined, pop them into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and put to one side to steam for 5 minutes or so – this will help their skins to come off.
Make your tzatziki by coarsely grating the cucumber into a sieve set up over a bowl. Add a few good pinches of salt, then use your hands to squeeze out as much water as you can. Pour the water away, then tip the cucumber into the empty bowl and add the yoghurt. Pound the garlic in a pestle and mortar with a good pinch of salt until you have a paste, and spoon that into the bowl with the cucumber. Add the dried mint and red wine vinegar and mix really well. Have a taste to make sure you’ve got the balance right, then put aside.
Preheat a griddle pan or grill on a high heat. Thread the skewers through the marinated pork pieces, leaving little spaces between them so that the heat cooks everything evenly. Cook the kebabs on the screaming hot griddle or grill for about 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally until done on all sides. Warm your flatbreads in the oven or in a hot dry pan while your kebabs are cooking.
Just before your kebabs are ready, peel and deseed your blackened peppers, then tear them into strips and put them into a bowl. Roll up your mint leaves, finely slice them and add to the bowl along with the dill. Add a few splashes of red wine vinegar, a pinch or two of salt and pepper and a lug of extra virgin olive oil. Toss and mix together, then have a taste to check the balance of flavours. Cut your lemon into wedges.
Put a dollop of tzatziki and the meat from one skewer on each warmed flatbread. Top with some of your pepper mixture **, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Life doesn’t get much better.
* Instead of tzatziki, I simply crushed a couple of garlic cloves with a pinch of salt in my pestle and mortar, mixed that into some Greek yoghurt and added some lemon juice. Honestly, I’ve never had a tastier, refreshing little sauce in my life.
** Instead of the peppers, what I did was serve it the way Jamie showed in the shop in Athens, with some fresh tomato and sliced red onion, Greek style, not unlike our very own ensalada criolla. Also, another Greek touch, a pinch of paprika on top.