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The Athenian: Eat like a Greek

BY Tim Vasilakis

24th Mar 2023 Recipes

The Athenian: Eat like a Greek
Tim Vasilakis, founder of The Athenian restaurant group, shares 3 delicious recipes from his new cookbook, Eat like a Greek

Chicken Gyros 


No need for a rotisserie with this easy-to-follow recipe
Traditionally, the meat for gyros is cooked on a vertical rotisserie and then carved very thinly before adding to warm pita with sauce, fries and salad. It's easy to recreate this at home if you follow our recipe. Although it takes a while to cool, the hands-on time is minimal. 

Ingredients

4 boned, skinless chicken thighs 
1 boned chicken thigh, skin on
½ white onion 
4 pita breads
8-12 tbsp tzatziki 
a few crisp Cos (romaine) lettuce leaves, shredded 
4 ripe tomatoes, sliced or coarsely chopped 
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced 
 chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, for sprinkling 
 smoked paprika, for dusting 

Marinade

2 garlic cloves, crushed 
1 tsp dried oregano 
1 tsp smoked paprika 
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
½ tbsp sea salt 
½  tsp ground cumin 
½  tsp ground coriander 
½ tsp grated lemon zest 
juice of 2 lemons 

Method

1 Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl until well combined. Add the chicken thighs, turning them in the marinade. Cover the bowl and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or, better still, overnight. 
2 When you're ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 130°C/250°F/gas mark ½. 
3 Remove the chicken from the marinade and place the skinless thighs on top of each other in a stack. Cover with the remaining chicken thigh, skin-side up, and then place the onion half on top. Secure with 4 bamboo or wooden skewers, inserting them through the onion and all the chicken layers. Transfer to a baking tray and cook in the oven for 3 hours until the chicken is very tender. 
4 When the chicken is cooked, place the stack on a board and, with the skewers in place to secure the meat, slice down through it very thinly with a sharp knife to 'shave' it and create the gyros effect. 
5 Warm the pita breads in the oven or on a hot griddle pan. Spread the tzatziki over them and pile the sliced chicken on top. 
6 Add the lettuce, tomato and onion together with the French fries. Sprinkle with parsley and dust with smoked paprika, then fold the pitas around the filling and roll up in some baking parchment or aluminium foil to hold the filling in place. 
7 Alternatively, arrange the shaved chicken, warm pita breads and fries on a serving board or platter with a bowl of tzatziki and another of tomato, red onion and lettuce. 
8 Sprinkle with parsley, dust with smoked paprika and serve, allowing people to help themselves. 
"The longer it's cooked, the softer it gets"

Variations

  • Use souvlaki sauce instead of tzatziki. 
  •  Add some crushed chilli flakes to the marinade. 
  • Sprinkle the cooked chicken with dried oregano before serving. 
Tip: If you're in a hurry, you can cook the chicken at 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3 for 2 hours, although it will not be so tender. The longer it's cooked, the softer it gets. 

Courgette Fritters 


You can make double the quantity of these fritters and freeze them for up to a month
Golden and crispy on the outside and deliciously soft and moist when you bite into them, these fritters are one of our Athenian favourites. They are easy to make at home and perfect for freezing (see tip below). 

Ingredients

1 large courgette coarsely grated 
¼ tbsp sea salt 
1 bunch flat-leaf Parsley, chopped 
1 bunch of mint chopped 
60g diced feta cheese 
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper 
30g fresh white breadcrumbs 
120ml olive oil, for frying 
Greek yogurt or tzatziki, to serve 

Method

1. Place the grated courgette in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Mix well, then set aside for the liquid to drain away from 30 minutes. Squeeze out any excess liquid with your hands and pat dry the courgette with kitchen paper (paper towels) 
2. Put the courgette in a clean, dry bowl with the herbs, red onion, feta, egg, black pepper, and breadcrumbs. Mix well until everything comes together. If the mixture is too damp, add some more breadcrumbs to bind it
3. Divide the mixture into 6 or 8 equal-sized portions and mould each one into a ball 
4. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan set over medium heat and fry the keftedes for 2 minutes on each side until crisp and golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper (paper towels) 
5. Serve piping hot with Greek yogurt or tzatziki on the side 
"Golden and crispy on the outside and deliciously soft and moist when you bite into them"

Variation

To make courgette burgers, form the mixture into 2 or 3 patties and brush lightly with beaten egg before dipping them into breadcrumbs. Bake in a preheated oven at 180/350/gas mark 4 for 45 minutes. 
Tip: You can make double the quantity and place the uncooked balls on a lightly floured try in the freezer for 1 day before transferring to a sealed plastic bag and freezing for up to 1 month. Defrost for 20 minutes before frying as above. 

Apple Filo Pie 


You can use a variety of fruit in this filo pie, depending what's in season
All Greeks have a sweet tooth, and they love pies, especially when the filling is wrapped in crisp, feather-light filo pastry. In Athens, the bakeries and pastry shops are always busy and long lines form on holidays and feast days. Depending on what fruit is in season, you could substitute plums, peaches, or pears for the apples in this recipe. 

Ingredients

50g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing  
800g firm dessert apples, e.g. Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cubed  
50g currants or sultanas 
grated zest of 1 lemon and a squeeze of juice 
50g soft light brown sugar 
1 tsp ground cinnamon
"All Greeks have a sweet tooth, and they love pies, especially when the filling is wrapped in crisp, feather-light filo pastry"

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Lightly butter a baking tray. 
2 Put the apples, dried fruit, lemon zest and juice, sugar, ground almonds and spices in a bowl and mix well. 
3 Spread a sheet of filo pastry out on a clean work surface and brush lightly with melted butter. Place another sheet on top and brush with more butter. Continue layering up the sheets in this way until they are all used. Cover the unused sheets with a damp tea (dish) towel while you work, to prevent them drying out. 
4 Spoon the apple filling lengthways, along the centre of the filo pastry, in a long strip, not quite reaching the edge of the pastry at each end. Fold the ends of the pastry over the filling, and then fold one of the long sides over the filling, tucking it in neatly underneath. Brush with melted butter and then cover with the remaining pastry to make a sealed long parcel. 
5 Lift the filo parcel, seam side down, on to the buttered baking tray. Brush with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden brown. 
6 Dust with icing sugar and leave to cool a little. Serve the pie warm, cut into slices, with a dollop of creamy Greek yoghurt. 

Variations

  • Add some chopped walnuts to the filling. 
  • Add some ground allspice or claves. 
Eat Like a Greek is available to buy now £14.99
 
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