Yesterday was reveal day in the world of The Daring Bakers and you’re most probably here so see my take on this month’s challenge. I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you because I decided to sit this one out for various reasons.
Instead, I’ll treat you to my version of this month’s food discovery challenge where Ashapicked a popular American-Greek street food called Gyro thought to have its origins in the Turkish Doner Kebab. Until she suggested it, I hadn’t even heard of this thing. The only thing remotely gyro-ish that I knew of was a gyroscope, and you cannot eat one of those!
Turned out a Gyro is a rather substantial sandwich made of pita bread filled with crisp and moist slivers of spicy meat, salad vegetables usually onions, tomatoes and lettuce with a cucumber-yogurt sauce/ dip called tzatziki. I understand the correct way to pronounce “Gyro” is “yeer-oh” though people refer to it as “zeer-oh”, jeer-oh” and “jai-roh”
Apparently the name Gyro comes from the spiced meat for the sandwich, which is cooked on a revolving vertical spit from which thin strips are sliced off.
All I can say is that this sandwich is more of a “heer-oh” than a “zeer-oh”!! As far as I am concerned, street food comes a close second to home cooked food. Street food is usually uses local and very fresh produce, is put together just before you actually eat it, is very affordable and incredibly tasty and filling.
This kind of sandwich seems to be very popular right across the Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. While the basic pita bread, meat, salad and sauce remains the mainstay, the variations are in the type of meat, salad vegetables, the sauces and other accompaniments that come with the sandwich, or even in the way the sandwich is served.
So the core of the Gyro is meat in some form, so I had to come up with a vegetarian version of this sandwich. The Tzatziki, a variation on the North Indian cucumber raita, was easy and needed no change. Making Pita bread from scratch was also a breeze if you thought of it as a yeasted chappathi which was baked in the oven.
For the core filling, I decided to make some Tandoori Paneer Tikka for which I used this recipe. If you use slightly larger squares of paneer, you can grill them or pan sear them on skewers and serve them as an appetizer. I used smaller pieces of paneer since it was easier to put into a sandwich.
When putting the Gyro together, I realised there was a “spicy” element (Tandoori Paneer Tikka), a somewhat “bland and cooler” element in the cucumber-yogurt Tzatziki, and it really needed a “sweet and sour” element to truly balance it out. So I also added a Mango, Red Pepper Raisin Chutney/ Relish to the mix and that made it out of this world!!!
As for the recipes for the Tzatziki and the Pita bread, I just went quantities which I found appropriate. All recipes will make enough for 4 servings.
Pita Bread –Pita bread is a leavened pocket flatbread which is popular throughout the Mediterranean the Balkan countries and the Middle East. It is round or oval in shape and can be cut in half so the “pocket” can be stuffed with various fillings. Pita can be soft or crisp and eaten with hearty meat or vegetable dishes, salads, sauces and dips like hummus, or used as wraps for fillings.
As I mentioned earlier, think of a leavened chappathi and you have some idea of what a pita is. There are people who make pita with all-purpose flour, with whole wheat flour or a mixture of both. I like to make my breads with a 2 : 1 ratio of all-purpose to whole wheat flour and this one is no exception.
Tandoori Panner Tikka – While paneer is not really the stuff that one would find in a Gyro, I thought it was a good replacement for the traditional meat. It is also a protein and a good way to add a Indian spicy twist to my vegetarian Gyro. Cooking it in the tandoori style also seemed a nice way of trying to keep with the origins of the Gyro (Turkey/ Greece) as the tandoori style of cooking came into India from thereabouts.
While the ingredient list for the marinade may seem extensive and a bit daunting, making Tandoori Paneer Tikka is really quite easy. For those of you who are new to this, Paneer Tandoori Tikka means spicy (tikka) paneer cooked in Tandoori style. Of course, the average home cook like me doesn’t usually have a tandoor in their kitchen so an oven, a grill or the stove top is just fine to cook this.
Tzatziki (Greek Cucmber Salad in Yogurt) – Somehow the word “Tzatziki” brings to my mind, images of men dressed in long white embroidered, pleated and skirted shirts, stockinged legs kicking out their legs while performing intricate dance steps! I’m probably confusing it with some other word, and I don’t know which.
Tzatziki is Greek, and is a cooling cucumber and yogurt sauce-like preparation that’s a lot like the North Indian raita. It is also an essential part of the Gyro.
It is important that the texture of Tzatziki is thick. So both the cucumber and the yogurt should not release liquid to make it watery. So the cucumber is sprinkled with salt to draw out the liquid from it before making Tzatziki.
If you do not have thick yogurt on hand, just put regular plain yogurt in a cotton or muslin cloth and hang it up for a couple of hours in the fridge or a cool place to drain out the liquid. The hung yogurt will be thick and creamy.
The true Greek Tzatziki is a somewhat bland preparation but perfect to balance out the other elements of the Gyro. Honey is not an ingredient used to make Tzatziki but I found adding a little gave mine a hint of sweetness which tasted good. Another great addition to Tzatziki is a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.