If there’s one thing that I’ve learned so far on my culinary journey, it’s that freshness is the key. The difference between a warm, soft and juicy tomato that’s bursting with life, and one that’s hard, cold and spent a week locked in the fridge, well it’s night and day. All good chefs know that the ingredients are the stars of the show, and for an epic dish freshness is everything.
No country celebrates the joys of fine produce better than Greece. Some of the finest meals I’ve ever eaten have been in tiny Greek cantinas, offering simple menus that celebrate what’s in season right now, picked or caught earlier that day. Having recently discovered allotment life in our beautiful Cotswold town of Stroud, as well as the joys of picking your own beautiful fresh produce, life in the kitchen has got better and better this year. The ingredients we’ve grown ourselves have been noticeably tastier, but the satisfaction of watching, waiting and then excitedly picking them is just magic. Even better when you have a tiny toddler helping you out, although we’re still learning to pick rather than squish what we’ve grown, and that soil does not taste as good as what grows in it!
The courgettes in this dish were as fresh as they come. The key is to pick them whilst they’re young, about finger sized. They’re simply griddled in a pan (but on a barbecue could be even better) then partnered up with other ingredients that perfectly compliment them – the slight bite of pine nuts (which taste ridiculous by the way!), the sweet caramelised onions, salty feta, heat of chilli, all finished off with fresh herbs, lemon and olive oil. So simple but absolute heaven to eat. It’s as summery as it gets and is the ultimate accompaniment to any barbeque, whether it’s served alongside my delicious lamb koftas or some perfectly grilled fish, you’re in for a treat!
I can’t believe I’ve got this far and not even mentioned the chicken…It’s sensational! It instantly transports me back to the beautiful turquoise island of Lipsi and a best friend’s wedding a couple of years back. We went for lunch at the most perfect little cantina set just above this tranquil little beach. The restaurant is known for their chicken gyros, it was the best I’ve ever eaten…but this one comes a close second! Thanks to the craziness of this summer, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting away this year, but it’s nice to bring a little bit of Greece back home to us.
A big thank you to Nagi over at recipetineats after searching high and low for an authentic chicken gyros recipe, hers came up trumps!
Ingredients 500g chicken breast or thigh, cut into large chunks Gyros marinade 4 cloves of garlic, crushed 2 tbsps Greek yoghurt Juice of half a lemon 1 ½ tsp dried oregano A good pinch of salt and pepper Courgette salad 200g courgettes, finely sliced at an angle (flowers reserved) 1 onion, finely sliced and caramelised (1) 30g toasted pine nuts 40g feta (the best you can find) ½ a hot red chilli, very finely sliced A small handful of dill A small handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley 8 large mint leaves, finely sliced A squeeze of lemon 1 tbsp olive oil A couple of lemon wedges to serve
1. Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the chicken and marinade for an hour or two, or overnight if you have the time.
2. In a very hot griddle pan, griddle the courgettes for a minute or two each side until nicely charred. In a bowl, combine with all other salad ingredients and gently toss, season and taste. (2)
3. Griddle the chicken for 3 minutes each side, then a further 2 minutes each side or until cooked through (3). Allow it to rest for 5 minutes in a warm place, then give it a final grind of pepper before serving.
(1) Put a small pan on a medium heat. Add a teaspoon of butter and stir onions thoroughly to coat. Gently stir every so often until golden and sweet.
(2) Don’t forget to wash your hands very thoroughly afterwards, those chillies really burn!
(3) If you cook meat regularly, you’ll soon be able to tell if it’s cooked just from touching it but if you’re not there yet, a meat thermometer can be invaluable. Once the chicken hits 75°C it’s good to go.