There is a saying that goes along the lines of ‘the whole is greater than the sum of all the parts’. For me this summed up Greece in the Euro 2004 championships. A rank outsider, Greece went on to do what some considered impossible at the time – they won the competition. Having got through the group stage they then went on to beat France, the Czech Republic and then a hotly fancied Portugal in the final. I currently live in Melbourne which has the biggest Greek population for a city outside of Athens (in 2006 Greece played a friendly with Australia in Melbourne and over 95,000 fans attended). The celebrating here was incredible, partly under a cloud of disbelief, but mainly with praise and adulation for a team that on paper was going to struggle to qualify. The owner of my local deli here still has the ‘Greece Euro Champions 2004’ stuck to the wall, ten years later.
This time round Greece has qualified by the skin of its teeth for the second round. Needing to beat Côte d’Ivoire it was level at 1-1 when in the dying seconds of injury time Greece were awarded a penalty. Can you imagine the pressure on Samaris, the Greek player who was taking the penalty? Not only was the weight of hope of a whole nation on his shoulders, but there was the little consideration of a global audience of a couple of billion people. Coolly he stepped up and scored and in the same breath took Greece in to the second round of a World Cup for the first time in its history.
Next it faces Costa Rica, another unfancied team that has blown its group away. On paper the Central Americans should get through, but with 2004 as inspiration who would bet against Greece doing it again.
When it is Greek New Year our neighbour usually has a whole lamb on a spit, and the smell is just amazing – and for me that sums up Greek food; it’s real comfort food that celebrates Greek ingredients. I love dolmades for their vine leaves, spanakopita for its harmony of spinach and feta in crunchy filo, lamb slowly cooked in olive oil, crunchy and salty whitebait, pickled octopus and one of my all-time favourites, a bowl of warm chilli marinated Kalamata olives.
Today, I have attempted a classic Greek dish that really should only belong in a place that has a rotisserie and time to produce the succulent and fatty meat that the dish is synonymous with. But alas, I am sucker for that tasty marinated meat with garlicky tzatziki in a warm dough flat bread wrap and so I have attempted to recreate at home, the gyros. I admit that it is not like the real gyros, but it is still a beautiful version of it.
There is also somewhat of a sentimental reason in making it. My first memorable trip to London was during my very early teenage years and it was during this visit my flavour sensors were awoken with something very close to gyros; a Turkish kebab. Being from Yorkshire I was brought up on homely and traditional food, so I had never tasted anything so exotic before; slow grilled meat, sauce with a punchy garlic kick all set off with zingy lemony tomato. To me it was an awakening and I fell in love with those flavours, and this gyros captures those flavours.
Serves: 4 | Preparation: 20 minutes + 2 hours marinating | Cooking Time: 20 minutes
For the meat:
1kg Boneless pork loin |
2 tsp. Sweet paprika |
1½ tsp. Sea salt |
1 tsp. Dried oregano |
2-3 tbsp. White wine vinegar|
For the tzatziki sauce:
1 Lebanese cucumber | Deseeded and diced. Lebanese cucumbers are smaller than continental cucumbers.
1 large Garlic clove | Chopped.
½ lemon Lemon juice |
1 tbsp. Fresh dill |
200g Greek yoghurt |
Pinch Sea salt |
Grapeseed oil for frying
To serve Warm doughy flat bread |
To serve Thick slices of ripened tomato |
To serve Red onion | sliced (optional)
For the meat: create the marinade by grinding together the sweet paprika, sea salt and oregano. Slice the pork in to thin strips. Now using a rolling pin or meat mallet bash each strip so it’s about ½cm thick. In a large flat bottomed dish put a layer of the flattened pork. Now sprinkle over some of the marinade and a little drizzle of white wine vinegar. Repeat the process for the rest of the pork and marinade building up the layers of meat. Cover the dish and leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours to marinate.
For the tzatziki: add the cucumber, garlic, lemon juice and dill to a food processor and blend to a puree. Mix the puree and sea salt in to the Greek yoghurt and leave in the fridge until ready to use.
Once marinated cut the pork in to 1cm wide strips. To cook the meat put a large non-stick frying pan over high heat. When really hot add a teaspoon of cooking oil and a handful of the pork strips. Cook the pork until it goes a golden and deep brown allowing some of the edges to crisp a little. Put the meat in bowl and keep warm whilst you cook the rest, using a little cooking oil each time.
To serve, warm your bread and spread over a generous spoon or two of the tzatziki sauce. Lay down some slices of ripe tomato and a good serving of that beautiful pork. Spoon over some more tzatziki sauce, fold over the bread and eat hot.