Monday, March 12, 2012

Gyros--from scratch!

Sometimes I get hungry for a specific meal. It's usually something that's not on the regular monthly rotation. This month, that "something" was gyros. I love a good gyro and it has taken me a while to perfect a recipe for my family. I've taken a Greek cooking class and researched lots of recipes on gyro meat and tzatziki sauce. I recently came across a couple of pita recipes as well. Here is the whole she-bang for you. A delicious homemade gyro recipe. I'm giving you the basic recipe, but I'll include a couple of alterations in the directions for you. This is one recipe where I've chosen to use organic or higher quality ingredients because it does make a difference to the final meal. Not all my meals are this way, as you know. If you can get the specialty ingredients, I think you'll be very happy with it!! I shop from a store called Olivelle that has amazing cooking products. They ship if you don't have something similar where you live. Here is what you need:

Pita Bread
 (This recipe is taken from The Fresh Loaf. Please see my notes at the bottom regarding timing)

3 cups flour (I used half whole wheat and half white)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp honey
1 packet yeast (or, if from bulk, 2 teaspoons yeast)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature
2 Tbsp olive oil

If you are using active dry yeast, follow the instructions on the packet to activate it. Otherwise, mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and honey. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water.
Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, such as a cutting board, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes (or until your hands get tired). If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low speed for 10 minutes.

When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it'll be easier to shape.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while you are preheating the oven. This will be the surface on which you bake your pitas.

After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.

Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy after 3-4 minutes.

Gyro meat
1 lb ground lamb
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 Tbsp dried marjoram
1 Tbsp dried ground rosemary
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Process the onion (I chose a sweet yellow onion for flavor) in a food processor for 10 to 15 seconds and turn out into the center of a tea towel. Gather up the ends of the towel and squeeze until almost all of the juice is removed. Discard juice. Return the onion to the food processor and add the lamb (get organic ground lamb if you can), beef (get ground beef with 15% fat, you'll want the extra fat for cooking and flavor), garlic, marjoram, rosemary, salt, and pepper and process until it is a fine paste, approximately 1 minute. Stop the processor as needed to scrape down sides of bowl.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the mixture into a loaf pan, making sure to press firmly into the sides of the pan. Place the loaf pan into a water bath and bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. The loaf is going to shrink up in the pan. Remove from the oven and drain off any fat. Slice very thinly and serve on pita bread with tzatziki sauce, chopped onion, lettuce, tomatoes and feta cheese.

Tzatziki Sauce
16 ounces plain Greek yogurt (you can use plain yogurt, but it is much more watery)
1 medium English cucumber, peeled, seeded
1/2 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp white distilled vinegar
5 to 6 mint leaves, finely minced
Place cucumber (English cukes make a much better tzatziki sauce) and garlic in food processor and coarsely chop. Strain the juices from the mixture. Discard juice. Mix the cucumber and garlic pieces with the salt in a bowl. Add the yogurt (again, get a high quality organic greek yogurt), oil (use the best olive oil you can find for this, the taste is worth it) and vinegar (I use a white balsamic vinegar for this amazing subtle tangy flavor) and stir until combined. Finish with the mint leaves and stir. Chill at least 30 minutes in refrigerator. Can be stored in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week.

This recipe didn't take as long as you might imagine. I suggest making your sauce first because you want your sauce to chill at least 30 minutes, but an hour or two is better. It comes together in less than 15 minutes. Then get your meat prepped and in the pan. It will need to bake at least an hour. It took me another 15 minutes to get the meat ready. I did both of these ahead of time (while the kids were eating lunch) so all I had to do was pop the meat in the oven about an hour and a half before dinner. I made up the pita dough during nap time so it could rise. I let it set a little more than 20 minutes in balls because I cooked the pita last (after the meat was done). I let the meat sit on a plate while I heated up the baking stone. As each pita was cooking, I sliced the meat so it was hot and fresh. You'll find the best timing for you, but be sure to plan ahead because there is some wait times for each component. Enjoy this delicious Greek meal!!


  1. Oh spectacular! Love it! So glad you tried the pitas too! I LOVE them, they make amazing pita chips too! :) ~Mae

    1. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy they were. I made them a little smaller, so it made 12 pitas for us. I froze 4 for later. Might have to try the chips :)

  2. Tried these tonight and they were great! Even my 5yr old said "these are awesome!" I added a little lemon juice to the tzaztiki sauce since I like things pretty tart. Great and def a make again.