“The preparation of good food is merely another expression of art, one of the joys of civilised living” (Dione Lucas).
With all the rice, bread, curries, pastas, pizzas and even burgers, it’s recipes such as these that give me a break, that are simple because “good food is very often, even most often – simple food” (Anthony Bourdain). Yes, it’s true, no matter how much of a foodie I might be, at times I get bored of the same genre of food and I embark on a find that will give my tastebuds a truly different yet absolutely lovely experience of flavour. I personally love recipes that dont require much time or effort and at times are not in my staple Asian flavours. I guess that’s the best bit about being a curious foodie, you just want to know what others eat. I will be honest, I have never been to Greece but I have read books about it and I have explored it on the internet and by books I mean food books. The fascinating thing is, every country has their own signature herbs and spices and once you learn how to use those, you can easily recreate any dish from that particular cuisine as Plato said it wisely “Knowledge is the food of the soul”. Having said that, even though I am a hard fan of home cooking but there are certain foods that take exception i.e. the raw street food culture of a country, that is where I have always found the real awesomeness that’s called flavoursome mouth-watering food and Greek Gyros or Pita Pockets are one of them.
In fact, if you really dive into the cuisine it becomes evident that Greek food and Turkish food have similar traits and at times even the same name e.g. Tazitziki sauce is a part of both food cultures, as is Baklava and roasted greens and vegetables along with heavy use of olives and cheeses. So, it is right to agree that “Greek food has been influenced by Izmir, Istanbul and the surrounding areas coming to what it is now, a mixture of the Ottoman Empire and the Balkans. However, every recipe, like every song or dance, travels from place to place, gets moulded and takes on a different character. In Greece some dishes share the same names as the Turkish ones and have kept their original name until now. The differences are small and simple and they just take a bit of a different character but there is no secret if you think about it, each place adds it’s own flavour to the dish” (Elias Mamalakis). It was in Istanbul when I had Gozleme and Pita Pockets that it became an instant hit with me and I wanted to make it as often as I can and somewhere down that exploring route I stumbled across the Greek Gyros that captured my immediate attention and I became eager to try variations of it and hence, my love for Gyros came into being.
Coming to the recipe, like I said pretty simple; these pita pockets are amazing twofold; one, they are extremely easy to make and assemble in under 20 minutes and two; they are packed full of flavour. This is a dinner everyone will chip in to assemble and cook, which makes it a perfect bonding food. The meat is cooked in Greek seasoning with a touch of smoked paprika and paired with lettuce salad and feta cheese and served with a Yogurt sauce. The Yogurt Sauce I used is not Tazitziki sauce which has dill and cucumber in it but I made a simple yogurt sauce with a few spices and the earthy tone if cumin powder. It paired beautifully with the whole pocket making it whole.
For meat, I used beef strips and if you are really time pressed or just want to get over with the cooking part so that you can start enjoying it without too much efforts, I suggest you add meat tenderize or raw papaya paste to the meat marinade and leave it for 20 minutes before cooking. This will soften the beef and speed up the cooking process. It does not effect the taste of the marinated spices in any way. The kick to the marinade comes from the smoked paprika but if you don’t have smoked paprika available to you, you can substitute it with the normal paprika powder or red chilli powder and if you have time and are in the mood, go ahead and smoke the prepared meat filling by smoking it with coal before making the pockets. The feta cheese is a signature Greek cheese and it provides a creamy texture to the piquant and slightly spicy meat filling whereas also balancing the heat making it pleasantly spicy in flavour. The freshness of Salad in any Gyro or Pita pocket is always refreshing and offers beautiful crunch to each bite making it gorgeosly light hearted in flavours.
This is a dish everyone can come together and prepare as a family; one can do the salad, the other the yogurt sauce and one who can toast the Pita while someone is cooking away the meat filling, which honestly cooks itself, you just have to provide it heat and stand back and once its done everyone can fill their own Pita Pockets. I guess that’s what makes it a bonding food recipe.
The flavours are very Greek and Turkish at the same time. It’s fulfilling and it will definitely make you hum. It’s very light on your tummy and a sensuous experience for the palate. This gorgeous dish will have you grabing for seconds and thirds for sure. I sincerely hope you enjoy this just as much as I did or perhaps even more.
1. Pita — 4
2. Lettuce leaves shredded — 1/2 bunch
3. Cherry tomatoes — 1 cup
4. Feta cheese — 1 cup
5. Red onions — 2
6. Lemon — 1 tsp
7. Beef strips — 800g
Greek Seasoning ~
1. Salt — 1 tsp
2. Black pepper — 1 tsp
3. Garlic powder –1 tsp
4. Oregano — 1 tsp
5. Parsley — 1 tsp
6. Smoked paprika — 1 tsp
7. Lemon juice –2 tsp
8. Meat tenderizer –1 tsp
9. Worcestershire sauce — 2 tbsp
10. Red chilli powder –1 tsp
11. Oil — 2 tbsp
Yogurt Sauce ~
1. Yogurt — 1 cup
2. Red chilli powder — 1/4 tsp
3. Black pepper powder — ½ tsp
4. Cumin powder — 1 tsp
1. Prepare the beef
a. In a bowl, add beef strips with the Greek seasoning and leave to marinate for 20 minutes.
b. In a deep skillet, heat oil and add the beef strips.
c. Cover and let cook for 15-20 minutes.
d. Add a little water if the beef is still not cooked and let cook until the beef is tender and the sauce has thickened.
e. Turn off the flame and let the beef rest for 5 minutes.
f. On a chopping board, chop the beef strips.
2. Prepare the fixings
a. Quarter the cherry tomatoes and dice the red onions. Mix them together with a little squeeze of lemon juice.
b. Wash and separate the lettuce leaves.
c. Crumble the feta cheese or cut it into cubes.
d. Prepare the yogurt sauce.
e. Heat the pita breads on a fry pan and cut into halves.
f. Open the halves carefully, not to tear it.
g. Spoon the yogurt sauce in covering the sides.
h. Place the lettuce leaf to one side and add chopped beef, tomato and onion salad, feta cheese and top with prepared beef again and a little feta cheese and yogurt sauce.
i. Serve warm.
~ Happy Foodieating ~