Monday, July 11, 2011

Lebanese Gyro

A classic Lebanese kafta minced meat meatloaf gyro!
     Gyros are popular in Greece, Turkey, the middle east, America and just about everywhere.  In America, gyros can be found on almost every Greek restaurant menu.
     The vertical slow turning meat loaf on a large skewer roasting next to a flame is called a doner kebab.  Doner kebabs originated in Turkey.
     Many food historians say that pita bread (khubz arabi) was created in Turkey or Persia.  Some historians say the India is where pita bread was first made.  The only thing that is certain is that pita bread was popular in Arabian countries long before it became popular in Greece or western countries.  In western countries, the name was changed from khubz arabi to pita bread for marketing purposes in late 1900's.
     America, Lebanon and Turkey are where the meatloaf style gyro is popular.  Lebanese gyro meat loaf is usually a kafta minced meat recipe or a modified kafta recipe.  The meatloaf style kafta for gyros originated in Lebanon.
     Gyro meat loaf (kafta mince meat) is highly seasoned.  Kafta minced meat can be served as a meat loaf, kebabs or as meatballs.  The minced meat can be shaped around small skewers or a very large doner style skewer.  The word kafta sometimes refers to the minced meat mixture, but the word kafta literally translates to meatball or a ball shape.  There are many ways to spell the word kafta in regional dialects.  There are many kafta seasoning mixes, but most recipes share a similar basic spice and herb foundation.
    Many people become confused about the difference between Lebanese gyro and Lebanese schawarma.  Schawarma is a whole roast of meat on a doner skewer and it is not minced meat.  Lebanese gyro is always made with minced meat.  Schawarma looks like sliced roasted meat.
     Gyros are popular in Greece.  In Greece, a gyro is rarely made with the minced kafta meatloaf.  A real Grecian gyro is usually made with sliced roasted pork or lamb.  I used to get sliced roasted pork gyros and sliced roasted lamb gyros at a Greek restaurant in Philadelphia.  The pressed meatloaf style gyro meat was not even on the menu.  The cook at the restaurant said that meatloaf gyros are not really Greek, they are middle eastern.
     During the early 1900's in America, many middle eastern people opened Greek restaurants, because Americans recognized and liked Greek food.  Arabic food was not easy to sell at that time.  My step grandfather was Lebanese and he joked about how sometimes he had to be Greek in the restaurant business.  He then attempted to hide his big Lebanese Arabic nose in a comical way to entertain us kids.  After researching this topic, I now know what he meant by saying "sometimes I have to be Greek."
     The early 1900's is when the Lebanese pressed kafta meatloaf style gyro meat was first introduced in America.  Now nearly every Greek restaurant in America offers kafta meatloaf gyros.  Even the Greek restaurants that are owned by Greeks offer the meatloaf style gyros.  Grecian roasted meat gyros are now not easy to find in America.
     The standard sauce for a Lebanese gyro is tzatziki sauce, but tzatziki has a different name in Lebanon.  Every country in the middle east, Greece, the Balkans, Turkey and India all make a sauce, soup, salad or dip out of cucumber and goat milk yogurt.
     In Lebanon, gyros are considered to be an appetizer, snack or lunch.  The aroma of a good Lebanese kafta meatloaf gyro is mouth watering!  The flavor is rich with garlic and spices.  Tabuli is a Syrian Arabic chopped salad of tomato, onion and parsley and it is sometimes placed on Lebanese gyros.  Most Lebanese gyros have sliced onion and tomato on the sandwich with no lettuce.
     Lebanese Gyro Meatloaf:
     Depending on how much meat is put in the gyro, this recipe makes enough for 2 to 3 gyros!
     Place 7 ounces of ground lamb in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 ounces of ground beef.
     Add 1/2 cup of fine bread crumbs.
     Add 1 whisked egg.
     Add 6 cloves of finely minced garlic.
     Add 1/3 cup of finely minced white onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely minced mint leaves.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of finely minced Italian parsley.
     Add 4 pinches of oregano.
     Add 2 pinches of basil.
     Add 3 pinches of marjoram.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.
     Add 2 teaspoons of cumin.
     Add 1 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1 teaspoon of fenugreek.
     Add 3 pinches of allspice.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Refrigerate the meat mixture for one hour, so the flavors meld.
     Shape the meat mixture into a thick, rectangular meat loaf shape.
     Place the meat loaf on a roasting pan.
     Bake the meat loaf in a 300º oven, till it becomes fully cooked and lightly browned.
     Allow the meat loaf cool to room temperature.
     Place the meatloaf on a plate.
     Cover the meatloaf.
     Refrigerate the meatloaf for 24 hours.  (The meat loaf must be refrigerated, so the juices gel.  This step will keep the meatloaf from crumbling, when it is thinly sliced!  The flavors will also mellow and meld after 24 hours.)

     Tzatziki Sauce:
     This recipe makes 3 to 4 servings of tzatziki!
     Place 1/2 cup of finely minced peeled seeded cucumber in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 tablespoons of finely minced mint leaves.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 cup of plain Greek style goat milk yogurt.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Add just enough warm water, while whisking, to thin the tzatziki to a medium thin sauce consistency.  Be careful not to add too much water!
     Chill the tzatziki sauce in a refrigerator for 1 hour.
     Lebanese Gyro:
     Cut about 7 or 8 long thin slices of of the Lebanese gyro meatloaf.  (A 6 to 8 ounce portion is large.  A 5 ounce portion is average.)
     Place the meatloaf slices on a baking pan.
     Add 1 tablespoon of water.
     Reheat the meatloaf slices in a 300º oven.
     Just bake the meatloaf slices, till they become warm and not browned.
     Warm an 8" to 10" pita bread (khubz arabi) in the oven.
     Place the pita bread on a cutting board.
     Place several slices of tomato on one half of the bread.
     Place some thin sliced onion rings on the tomatoes.
     Place the warm gyro meatloaf slices on top of the tomato and onions.
     Spoon a generous amount of the tzatziki sauce over the gyro meat.
     Fold the sandwich in half.
     Pin the sandwich together with a long toothpick or bamboo skewer.
     Garnish the toothpick with an Italian parsley sprig.
     Place the gyro on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian parsley sprig, Persian pickled wild cucumber, Persian pickled pink turnip and Arabic scratched green olives.
     This is a great tasting gyro!  The gyro meatloaf looks much better than frozen pre-made gyro meat that is sold at grocery stores.  The tzatziki sauce adds a very nice cool refreshing flavor.
     Frozen pre-made gyro meat has a high amount of low quality fillers. Excess fat is converted into a solid "meat like" substance with a slurry making technique that is similar to how cheap hot dogs are made.  That is why many people get a sour tummy from frozen pre-made gyro meat.  Fesh home made gyro meat has a better quality and flavor.
      If you have been looking for a better gyro recipe, then you will be pleased with this old original Lebanese gyro meatloaf recipe.  Yum!  ...  Shawna

1 comment:

  1. Its really looking great. Another way to “dress up” your event especially when you have selected a plated meal is to add a menu card to each place setting.

    Food presentation