Summer. For me summer is synonymous with Greek Islands, intense heat, blazing blue skies, Frappé coffee, giant sweet watermelons, ice-cold Amstel beer and night skies littered with thousands of stars. And Greek pork souvlaki with tzatziki and homemade pitta bread of course!!
Whenever we do find ourselves in Skiathos (our usual Greek summer destination) there’s one thing that my husband and I make a beeline for – the Time Out stand at the entrance of Papadiamanti Street for several orders of what is very affectionately dubbed as ‘dirty’ souvlaki. It’s not that the souvlaki or the meat is ‘dirty’ it is just such a guilty pleasure for us and something we usually only indulge in while on holiday*.
*Greece is where I grew up but it hasn’t been home for more than half of my adult life – home is London and I am heart-glad to be back whenever I return from a holiday.
Traditional Greek souvlaki is the perfect portable street food – meat grilled on a skewer and served in pitta bread with tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, onions and, sometimes, fries. Made well and served fresh, it is absolutely delicious – just the thing to eat after swimming all day (or after going out drinking all night).
Turns out it is also easy to make at home – the ideal barbecue food to share with friends. Copy the souvlaki stand method of having all the fillings and sauces prepared and laid out and everyone can fill their own pittas as soon as the skewers are off the grill or barbecue.
- For the tzatziki
- 300g | 10.5oz Greek Yoghurt (I used 0% Total)
- 150g | 5.3oz cucumber (about half large cucumber)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh mint, very finely diced
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil to drizzle
- For the pitta
- Makes 6 medium pittas
- 300g | 10.5oz pasta or white bread flour plus more to dust
- 100g | 3.5oz Greek Yoghurt
- 150ml | 5fl oz water
- 3 tbsp olive oil plus more to fry
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp dry active yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- Pork souvlaki
- Serves 3-4
- 460g | 1 pound diced pork (pork shoulder steaks trimmed of fat work well)
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 tbsp each of dried oregano, crushed chilli flakes, garlic granules to season
- (you can use an Italian herb/spice mix if you prefer)
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- To serve
- 2 large vine tomatoes, sliced thinly
- 1 large red onion, sliced very thinly and mixed with 2 tbsp of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- a little smoked sweet paprika to dust
- To make the tzatziki, coarsely grate the cucumber (remove the seeds first if there are a lots) in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let it stand for 5 minutes and then use a cheesecloth (or your hands) to squeeze most of the moisture out. Mix well with the yoghurt, garlic, mint and lemon juice and drizzle with olive oil. Cover and put in the fridge until needed to allow the flavours to develop.
- To make the pitta bread dough, put the flour, sugar and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. Briefly mix together using the dough hook. Put the yoghurt, water, olive oil and salt in a measuring jug and mix together. Add to the flour while mixing on low speed. Keep mixing until the dough forms a ball. Cover and let it rise for an hour.
- Tip the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and divide into 6 sections. Form them into balls and flatten using the palms of your hands. Lightly roll out using a rolling pin. Heat a large non-stick frying pan and wipe with a little olive oil. Pan fry the pittas for a few minutes on each side until brown spots appear. Set aside and cover with a damp cloth.
- To make the souvlaki: if you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes so that they don't burn. Thread the meat onto the skewers. Mix the seasoning together and liberally season the meat on all sides. Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice. Let the meat marinate for up to half an hour.
- Heat a large frying or griddle pan and wipe with olive oil. Fry the skewers over high heat, turning frequently so that they cook evenly. Season with salt and pepper.
- When you are ready to serve, pan fry the pittas to warm them up (or brush with a little olive oil and briefly grill on the barbecue) then fill each with a little onion, tzatziki and tomatoes. Add the meat (off the skewers) and season with a little smoked paprika. Wrap the pitta around the fillings, using a little greaseproof paper to hold everything together if you like. Eat immediately!
• If you are cooking the skewers on a barbecue, brush with a mix of olive oil and lemon juice while grilling. They meat only needs a few minutes to cook.
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