Ok I’m back, from eleven glorious days basking in the Greek sunshine (I’ll skim over the fact that it should have only been ten but I missed my flight home… bonus!)
It’s painful to think that that’s it for another year, so with a bit of imagination and a prayer for some sunshine I intend to re-live what is always a holiday highlight and host my own Greek night this summer.
Greek night (normally held on a Saturday on the islands) consists of traditional music, fire dancing, plate smashing, ouzo, Mythos and amazing BBQ food.
Actually barbecue is not a term often used in Greece, the preferred reference being grilling. But it’s a timeless tradition turned into a culinary artform which graces every celebration from a casual get together to a full on Greek wedding.
And whilst there is often a huge variety of foods available at such gatherings, there are some traditional dishes that will ALWAYS be found on any self respecting Greek table.
Souvlaki is one of the most popular street foods in Greece and for good reason! Juicy and well seasoned meat garnished with cooling tzatziki sauce, served on skewers or wrapped in a delicious crispy pita. The joy of the souvlakia is whilst absolutely nothing beats the flavour and aroma of a charcoal barbecued lamb souvlakia, the classic Greek chicken and pork souvlaki skewers will happily substitute and bring variety and affordability to the table.
The most important step in making the perfect, traditional Greek souvlaki is the marinade! For this traditional recipe, the meat is first marinated to soak up all the wonderful Mediterranean flavours and then grilled, to get all crunchy, nicely coloured and juicy.
Select some good quality lamb leg or shoulder and season with a selection of Greek spices like oregano and fresh thyme, coat with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice and flavour with garlic and chopped onions.
For approximately 1 kg of lamb leg or shoulder your marinade should go something like this:-
80ml olive oil (approx. 5-6 tbsps)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
juice of 1 lemon
2 red onions, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme or some fresh thyme, chopped
½ tsp smoked sweet paprika (optional)
½ tsp cumin (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
Try and allow at least four hours marinating time (overnight is better) to allow the flavours and aromas to infuse the meat. Try adding the paprika to your pork souvlaki for a smoky flavour and the cumin to chicken to spice it up a little.
Now you may be thinking ‘souvlaki, isn't that just a fancy word for kebab?’ Well no, because in Greek cuisine a kebab is an entirely different kettle of fish (although no fish is actually involved)...
Greek lamb kebabs are made from ground meat flavoured with no less than ten different herbs and spices for a truly authentic flavour. Packed firmer and tighter than a burger mix, grinding your meat with all the other ingredients in a food processor allows the flavours to fully penetrate the mixture. To ensure evenness of cooking it helps to lightly sauté the onions and garlic before adding to the food processor.
So the perfect combination of herbs and spices for your Greek lamb kebabs goes like this:-
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsps olive oil
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp powdered all spice berries
2 tsps salt
½ tsp pepper
½ a bunch parsley, chopped
1 tsp tomato puree
½ tsp pepper cayenne (optional)
This mix is suitable to season 500g of lamb, or you could use a combination of lamb and beef mince.
To further bring the taste of the Aegean to your plate this marinade gives a fresh lemon zing to succulent pork chops:-
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
Again, allow the chops to marinate for at least four hours or longer. This also works well using a pork tenderloin which can be grilled to perfection on the BBQ then sliced before serving.
There are two essential accompaniments to EVERY Greek feast. The salad and the tzatziki.
First, you will never find a leaf in a traditional Greek salad recipe. You will always (in fact only) find tomato, sliced cucumber, green pepper, sliced red onion, black olives and of course feta cheese.
It must be seasoned with dried oregano and salt and dressed with good quality extra virgin olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar.
Slice your salad ingredients (the Greeks always peel their cucumber, and serve it chunky) toss them in the olive oil and red wine vinegar, stir in the olives and finish with a topping of crumbled feta cheese and oregano.
This is proper traditional Greek salad, fresh, healthy, simple and absolutely delicious.
Tzatziki… the jewel in the Greek Crown!
If anybody thinks tzatziki is just yogurt and cucumber mixed in a bowl then you’d better think again. Get the tzatziki right and any other imperfections in your authenticity will be overlooked.
This is what goes into a PROPER Greek tzatziki:-
½ of a large cucumber (unpeeled)
1 ½ cups full fat Greek yoghurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
After grating the cucumber drain as much liquid away as possible, and mop up the rest with kitchen roll. Some Greek restaurants serve their tzatziki with the garlic sliced or chopped. I find this a bit harsh (and antisocial) and prefer it minced. Combine all the ingredients, mixing well, and add salt to taste. Chill in the refrigerator and serve topped with a swirl of olive oil, a sprig of dill and a black olive. This delicious creamy dip/dressing can be served atop all your meat dishes, on the side with the salad or simply on its own with pitta bread.
And of course, if the weather is less than Aegean (or Ionian) then all these dishes can be successfully cooked under the grill. And whilst you might want to swerve the plate smashing and fire dancing, make sure you download some traditional Greek tunes and pour out that Ouzo. Yammas!
Of course all your efforts could be wasted if your meat isn’t up to scratch. Step forward Kedington Butchers in Haverhill.
Their selection of the finest, locally produced meat and fresh ingredients mean you can BBQ with absolute confidence that you will serving succulent, quality meat (and vegetables, cheeses and fish!)
Their fresh produce at prices to rival the supermarkets, and quality that beats them hands down can be delivered straight to your door in Haverhill and surrounding areas.
Kedington Butchers in Haverhill have gained an enviable reputation for personal, friendly service and hold a coveted five star rating. They will guide you through the best cuts of meat to use to recreate the perfect Big Fat Greek BBQ!
Please click here to find out more about Kedington Butchers - Master Butchers in Haverhill.
Member since: 6th November 2012
I am a long-term resident of Haverhill and love sharing information and advice on the best places to visit, businesses to contact and people to speak to!