After traveling to Greece in 2010, I still think of my favourite meal of the trip: it was lunch at Thanassis Taverna in the heart of Plaka in Athens. We ordered lamb souvlakis with proper Greek salad, double cream tzatziki and pita bread. Thanassis is a bustling taverna – frequented by lots of locals (always a good sign) – with blue and white checkered tables on the cobbled sidewalk. Their service is fast and friendly, and their food is simply scrumptious.
This is my attempt at recreating that fantastic, yet simple, meal. Lamb mince is not as commonly available as beef in SA, but you can ask you butcher to grind some for you. Otherwise get some from Melissas’s – they stock excellent quality frozen Karoo lamb mince, coarsely ground.
The tzatziki is key in this meal: only use double cream Greek yoghurt, and be sure to deseed and drain your cucumber as mentioned below. It makes a huge difference in the texture! And with added olive oil and fresh garlic, it is dangerously addictive.
These flavours will whisk you off to beautiful Greece in no time. Happy feasting!
Ingredients for koftas:
- 500 g lamb mince
- 1/2 onion, grated
- 1/2 t dried oregano
- 1 T freshly chopped mint
- 1 t salt
Ingredients for greek salad:
- 2-3 ripe tomatoes, sliced in wedges
- 1/2 onion/ red onion, finely sliced
- 1/2 cucumber, deseeded and sliced
- 1/2 cup olives
- a block/slab of feta cheese
- 1/4 t dried oreganum
- extra virgin olive oil
Ingredients for tzatziki:
- 1/2 cucumber, deseeded and coarsely grated
- 250 ml double cream Greek yoghurt
- 2-3 T chopped fresh mint
- 1 T olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- For the tzatziki: spread grated cucumber on a clean tea towel over a wire rack, sprinkle with salt, and drain for 15-30 minutes. Make sure that most of the water is removed from the cucumber by wringing it lightly in the tea towel if necessary. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix yoghurt, mint, olive oil and garlic. Add drained cucumber and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- For the salad: in a salad bowl, mix sliced tomato, cucumber, onion and olives. Top with a slab of feta, sprinkle with oregano, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
- For the koftas: In a mixing bowl, mix lamb mince, grated onion, oregano, mint and season with salt. Using wooden or metal skewers, shape koftas securely around it. Heat a griddle pan to high heat (or use a fire grill), brush pan/grill with olive oil, then grill koftas on high heat until all sides are charred but the middle should still be slightly pink and juice. Remove from grill and serve immediately with warm pita bread, greek salad and tzatziki.
I like to put my kofta inside the pita, along with the salad and the tzatziki, but you can also eat it separately.
Note: I use store-bought pita bread.