Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Who'd be a food writer?

David Herbert's excellent food column in the March 15 edition of The Weekend Australian colour magazine (March15) featured seasonal lamb recipes. Mr Herbert wrote:

Lamb is a great dish at this time of year; I much prefer lamb at the end of summer when it has more age to the meat and a better depth of flavour. If you are lucky you may even find some hogget (two teeth or about 12 months old) or some of the delicious milk-fed lamb that is starting to appear. Be guided by your butcher and try to buy the best quality you can afford.

Good advice. One of the featured recipes was a variation on lamb souvlaki. Two weeks later, the following letter to the editor appeared in the same magazine:

David Herbert's Lamb Souvlaki is a trendy lamb parcel. Traditional souvlaki is simply skewered cubes of lamb marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and pepper, cooked over a barbecue and given a squeeze of lemon while cooking. I have never seen cumin in a Greek recipe and there is no place for Spanish onion, cayenne pepper, yoghurt or spring onions. His dish may be tasty but please do not insult the Greeks by calling it souvlaki.
Rhett Senior
Kings Point NSW.

Nonsense, Mr Senior. The recipe is merely a variation; it still comprises the basic building blocks of seasonal lamb and pitta bread. You'd think Mr Herbert had recommended using the Greek flag to strain feta.

Here's David Herbert's recipe:

Lamb souvlaki
225g lamb fillet
1 small red onion, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 large pitta breads
4 tablespoons plain natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon chopped, flat-leaf parsley or fresh oregano
3 spring onions, sliced
1 lemon, quartered
Combine lamb, onion, garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, longer if time permits. Place a heavy-based frying pan or ribbed grill pan over medium heat until very hot. Add lamb to pan and cook 3-4 minutes each side (alternately, char-grill or barbecue lamb). Allow to rest 5 minutes, then cut lamb into 1cm slices. Meanwhile, warm pitta breads in a low oven and halve them to form four pockets. Fill pitta pockets with freshly cooked lamb, yoghurt, herbs and spring onion. Serve each with a lemon quarter. Serves 4.
Mix & Max
A good Greek red such as a robust, blackberry-fruited agiorgitiko or leathery, tannic xynomavro would be perfect – but if you have trouble finding either of these (and, let’s face it, you will) – an excellent alternative would be the classic Aussie souvo match, the shiraz cabernet blend.

I don't normally post other people's recipes, so to thank the author here's a link to his book. Buy it. It's good.


neil said...

Mr Senior must get mightily disappointed everytime he goes to a souvalaki shop, though he is possibly correct in what he says, it's just that souvalaki also means something else as well.

But just to add to David Herbert's burden, my farm friends, who also adore two tooth, say it's closer to 18 months old and I'm also not sure what to make of his paean to older lamb or even hogget, then singing the praises of milk fed, he seems to be having a bit both ways.

kitchen hand said...

Neil, I still lament the passing of Twins Cafe on the corner of Lygon and Elgin in Carlton. Best souvlakis in the world - sorry Greece! I used to travel there from other suburbs. BTW, our roast was always referred to as two-tooth when I was a kid. I think it had a meatier flavour.