Pretty much every time I head to Greece, there is one thing that is always on my mind, and that is the good ol’classic and oh so tasty Greek Gyro (pronounced yee-ro). Honestly, it is one of the best things I have tasted in my life, hands down! To say it’s kind of like a kebab, just wouldn’t do it justice. The ingredients are so fresh, the tzatziki is just pure garlicky goodness, and the meat is just some of the most tender and succulent – what’s not to love about that?! Oh, and of course, last but not least, the pita bread. This is no ordinary ‘pocket pita’ you typically find in supermarkets. I am talking soft, chewy pita bread which really is closer related to a flatbread. Smothered with extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and dried oregano, the pita bread itself is good enough to eat on its own! So, all in all I am pretty obsessed with this quintessentially Greek dish. Really, I could easily have Gyros anytime of the year, but when it comes down to it, Greek summers and an indulgent Greek Gyro just go hand in hand.
There are two way you can traditionally get a Gyro – one features a long meatball, or ‘kebab’, and this is usually made with beef, lamb or a combination of the two. The second way is still amazing, and involves cut strips of BBQ’d/grilled pork shoulder…AMAZING!
The recipe below is the ‘kebab’ version, and really comes as close as possible to the very famous ‘Thanasis’ joint in central Athens, which is famous for their kebab Gyros. If you haven’t been, trust me it is worth the visit, but get ready for a long wait!
So on with the recipes, hope you enjoy! And by all means, let me know how it all goes!
Homemade Pita Bread
330 grams plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp dried active yeast
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil (bit extra for brushing)
90 mls lukewarm water
90 mls warm-hot milk
Combine all the ingredients until a rough dough is formed, and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth.
Set dough aside for 30 minutes in a warm place to rise.
Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll each piece into 7 inch rounds.
In the meantime warm a frying pan on a medium heat. No oil should be added to the frying pan at this point.
When the pan is ready, brush the bottom with olive oil and fry the pita bread for 2-3 minutes on each side. Make sure to brush both sides of the pita bread with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.
Once the pita bread is cooked, place all cooked pita bread in a plastic zip lock bag and seal, until you are ready to serve – this will ensure the pita bread remains moist & chewy.
250 grams Greek Yoghurt (preferably full fat)
1 heaped tsp dried dill
2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ cucumber, grated
Salt, to season
Prior to combining all the ingredients, the cucumber needs to be grated – with the skin on.
Once grated, make sure to squeeze as much excess water from the cucumber, as possible – you can either do this with your hands, or by placing the cucumber in a kitchen towel and squeezing.
Combine the grated cucumber with the rest of the ingredients, and give this all a good stir. Check that the seasoning is perfect, the dip is garlicky enough (very important!) and it’s ready to serve.
The tzatziki will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.
500 grams beef mince, at least 15% fat
½ red pepper
1 red onion
1 tsp dried cumin
1 tsp dried sweet paprika
1 heaped handful dried breadcrumbs
1 medium potato (i.e. Maris Piper), microwaved until soft & then grated
handful flat leaf parsley, diced finely (just the leaves)
1 large egg
Salt and Pepper, to season
To start off, blitz the red pepper and the red onion in a food processor, until entirely broken down. This mixture should be a bit watery.
In a medium bowl, combine the blitzed red pepper and red onion with the rest of the ingredients, apart from the salt. Knead the mixture until smooth and slightly ‘pink’ in colour, about 5 minutes.
Cover with cling film, and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. If you can, leave this mixture in the fridge overnight, this will really help the flavours set in.
When ready, remove the bowl from the fridge, and season the mixture well with salt. Divide the mixture into 8 equal size pieces, and roll each piece into a ‘kebab’ shape. If the mixture starts to stick to your hands, just wet them with water and this will really help. Brush the kebabs well with olive oil before cooking, and set aside.
You either have the option of grilling the kebabs on a griddle pan for about 6-8 minutes on each side, on medium heat, or you can place the kebabs under a high grill in the oven. If you are going to go for the grill, cook the kebab for 12 minutes on one side, then flip, and cook the other side for a further 8 minutes – so 20 minutes in total.
Remove the kebabs from the oven or griddle pan, and place in the middle of your pita bread, along with generous lashings of tzatziki, and alongside fresh slices of tomato and red onion. And you’re done!