I have Greek-Cypriot heritage, so often cook Cypriot food at home. One thing I love to prepare for dinner are simple, yet tasty souvlakia – or to the non-Greek speakers, kebabs!
What is souvlaki?
In Cypriot cuisine, souvlaki refers to both the skewered, grilled meat as well as the whole package of it served inside a pitta bread. Souvlaki can be made with pork, lamb or chicken, Cypriots love pork though! Accompaniments with souvlakia (the plural!) are often kept simple – some diced onion, fresh parsley, yoghurt or tzatziki and always a squeeze of lemon juice!
Souvlakia are a popular take-away food in Cyprus, and I have many fond childhood memories on holiday in Larnaca and walking to the local kebab shop with my family to buy this delicious dish. I remember one particular place that smeared the inside of the pitta bread with houmous then added the meat – it was sooo good, and it’s how I still like to make my kebabs now.
I always marinade the meat – either pork or chicken – I rarely make lamb kebabs, to give them extra flavour. For around 500g of meat, I mix the following ingredients together:
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ olive oil
- 2 tbsps Greek yoghurt
The marinade gets poured over the cubed meat, mixed together and then left for a couple of hours, before skewering onto metal skewers. In the warmer months we get the barbecue out and cook souvlaki over charcoal, but they cook just as well under a hot grill.
Whenever I prepare souvlakia at home, I put everything out so that we can all build our perfect kebab. I will always find time to make homemade houmous and tzatziki, which are two dips I can’t even begin to think about not having with Cypriot food! I also put out some olives, diced white onion, chopped flat leaf parsley and lemon wedges.
How to make tzatziki
Tzatziki is a yoghurt dip – use Greek yoghurt if you can, but a natural/plain yoghurt will also work. It’s wise to remove the seeds from the cucumber too – they’re full of water and can make your tzatziki watery – not nice! Scoop them out by running a teaspoon along the middle of the cucumber. You can, if you like, salt the cucumbers to draw out even more liquid, but that is way too much faff for me!
- 300g Greek yoghurt
- ½ cucumber, deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 tsps dried mint
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- salt to taste
Put all of the ingredients into a bowl. Mix together – add more seasoning if you wish!
And finally, you need warm pitta bread to pop all these yummy foods into! I’ve NEVER made pitta bread in my life, but decided to be brave and have a go. I used BRITA filtered water, as I do with all of my cooking, and they were a lot easier to make than I thought they would be!
A little forward planning is required as the dough needs to prove until it is double in size, but I’m pretty sure that now I’ve made these myself, I won’t be buying them again!
- 250g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
- 7g instant yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 160ml BRITA filtered water
- 2 tsp olive oil, plus extra for kneading
- In a bowl, mix together the flour, yeast and salt. Add 120ml of the BRITA filtered water and 1½ teaspoons of oil. Mix the ingredients together. Gradually add the remaining water and oil until all the flour has come away from the sides and you have a soft dough.
- Pour a little oil onto your work surface and then knead the dough on top for 5-10 minutes. To start with the dough will be wet, but it will come together to form a smooth dough.
- Brush a little oil inside a clean bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to double in size - up to 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 250C/Gas 9 and place a clean baking tray on the middle shelf to heat up.
- Dust your work surface with flour and tip the dough onto it. Knock it back by folding it inwards over and over, then split into 6 balls. Roll into oval shapes around 0.5cm thick.
- Dust the heated tray with a little flour and place the pita breads onto it.
- Bake for up to 10 minutes until just browned.
- Best served warm - be careful when splitting as hot air will be released!