Tastes of the Med: Wood-grilled Lamb Souvlakia

IMG_7680

This recipe inaugurates our August food event Grilling with friends.

Though pork souvlakia is the most popular grilled food here in Cyprus, lamb is equally as delicious cooked over wood coals. Its’ naturally intense flavor is mellowed by being cooked so close to the hot wood charcoal, as well as absorbing the aromatic smoke during the cooking process. What you get are deliciously crispy cubes of lamb that are still tender and chewy on the inside and virtually free of fat, as it has been all grilled away. Here at Cerines, we cook more pork souvlakia than lamb simply because of its price: lamb is two times more expensive than pork in Cyprus. So, whenever lamb is on sale, we always put it on the menu.

The menu of Cyprus is closely related to Lebanon, with strong Greek influences. Many of the traditional menu items found in Lebanon have similar names to those found in Cyprus. This is most likely owing the ancient trading relationship that existed between the two countries. Ioanna’s mother told us that growing up, lamb souvlakia was more abundant than pork, as slaughtering a lamb was a less arduous process– before the advent of corner butcheries and the availability of butcheries in supermarkets made pork the more affordable and popular choice.

Choose a small leg of lamb, about 2,5 kg (5 1/2 lbs.) Ask your butcher to cut the meat away from the bone. If you butcher is good, have the meat cut into 3 cm (@ 1 inch) cubes. Alternately, you can bring it home and cut it yourself with a sharp boning knife, in order to ensure that all the pieces are cut evenly. In any case, make sure the pieces are free of any excess fat before skewering them.

Wood-grilled Lamb Souvlakia

serves 10-12

Prepare your wood charcoal grill, making sure the coals on top are ash white  and the ones below are glowing before grilling.

In a large bowl, combine:

2 kg (@ 4.4 lbs) lamb, cut into cubes (see above)
2 T olive oil
1 tsp coarse sea salt, crushed
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried mint

Allow to sit for 15-30 minutes. Using the myGrill stainless-steel skewers with cool touch handles, thread pieces onto the skewer, leaving the space of three fingers (@ 5 cm/2 in.) on either end. Make sure the meat is pushed close together. Alternately, you can separate the meat equally into five parts; you’ll have @ 4o0 gr. (@14 oz.) per skewer.

Cook for exactly 40 minutes over the wood charcoal. Remove the skewers immediately to a clean baking sheet. Wipe the bottom end of the skewer with a kitchen towel to remove any grilling residue. Holding the skewer upright, slide the souvlakia off every few pieces into a shallow stainless-steel bowl until all of the souvlakia has been removed.

Toss with:
juice of 1 lemon
roughly-chopped pieces of the juiced lemon

handful of fresh mint leaves

Remove to a platter and serve immediately.

Tips for success:
•The trick to delicious lamb is to cut away as much fat as possible. Too much and it has an overpowering flavor and is also difficult to digest. For an alternate use of lamb, try our ‘Tried and Tested’ Roast Leg of Lamb.
•Make sure everything else is either prepped, prepared or ready before you start grilling, as any grilled food is best as soon as it comes off the grill. •Keep in mind that grilled meat continues to cook after it comes off the grill. Avoid covering grilled meats in bowls to keep warm as the meats will overcook by the steam trapped inside and will become tough and dry. Serve the still-skewered meat on a platter. Alternately, remove the meat from the skewer to a large platter before serving.

Tips for using the myGrill Chef SMART™ Grill:
•use the Auto function  and choose “Kebab”. Leave an empty position between the skewers so that they are not right next to one another. With lamb souvlakia, this allows more fat to be cooked off. After 40 minutes, take off a skewer and sample a piece. If it is still slightly pink inside, it is done. Allow the skewered lamb to rest 5 minutes before serving. For well done, cook an additional 5 minutes.

IMG_7681