Greek souvlaki is found in every corner of Greece today and it is no exaggeration to say that the younger generations have grown up on it.
Although proponents of a healthy diet spurn the humble souvlaki, it’s actually a full, nutritious meal. It contains all our daily nutritional requirements: protein from the meat, carbohydrates from the pitta and chips (if included), fibre and vitamins from the tomato and onion. The oregano and other seasonings are also considered a source of valuable antioxidants and trace elements.
So is souvlaki healthy? Nobody denies it’s tasty, but whether it’s healthy is open to question. The answer is that souvlaki is healthy on certain conditions. Made at home, where we control the ingredients and cooking method, the souvlaki is a healthy and delicious meal.
Buy the pitta bread from the supermarket, baste it lightly with a spoonful of olive oil and put it under the grill. Use lean pork and marinate it in wine and vinegar for a few hours to give it taste. Sprinkle with lots of oregano or other herbs and grill the souvlaki or, better yet, barbecue it. Add a little fresh tomato and as much onion and yoghourt as you want, and your souvlaki is ready to eat. You can also experiment with lettuce instead of – or as well as – tomato, and mustard instead of yoghourt, but avoid adding chips to keep the calories down. You can leave out the chips altogether or replace them with mashed potato or rice. Rice is ideally suited to yoghourt, and the yoghourt itself can be low-fat.
A souvlaki in pitta bread prepared in this way is unlikely to contain more than 300 calories. Even if you’re very hungry and eat two, 600 calories won’t make you fat.
A souvlaki from the souvlaki shop, on the other hand, usually contains lots of fat if the pitta is fried. Chips up the fat and calories even more, to over 500 calories a portion. It may also contain lots of salt, something to be avoided as far as possible.
If you’re worried about your cholesterol, choose chicken souvlaki, which is much leaner meat with fewer calories. You can also make seafood souvlaki with shrimps or fish fillets, or vegetable souvlaki.
Mexican souvlakia are made of alternating prawn and courgette chunks threaded on a skewer. For extra taste they are marinated from three to twelve hours in a spice mix and basted with fresh egg-and-lemon mixed with finely-chopped onion. The souvlakia are cooked when the shrimps and vegetables change colour.
It’s so easy to make souvlakia at home that, with a bit of experimenting, you’ll soon achieve your own personal recipe and impress your friends with your unusual souvlakia.
Greek Pork Souvlaki Recipe for 4
500 grams / 1 lb of pork in cubes
8 bamboo skewers
½ cup of olive oil
1 tablespoon of vinegar (wine vinegar)
1 pinch greek oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 large pita breads
Greek yoghurt or Greek tzatziki
Shreaded salad of lettuce, tomatoes, onion, herbs etc.
Cut the pork into small cubes and carefully thread onto the skewers. In a bowl place the olive oil, the wine vinegar, the oregano, the salt and the black pepper. Place the skewers with the pork in a dish and pour the marinade over them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or ovenight.
Preheat your grill or barbeque. Place the souvlaki skewers over a medium heat and cook each side. Brush with the marinade and turn to cook evenly.
Brush the pita breads with olive oil and cook them on the grill. When the pita and the souvlaki are ready, pull the meat off one skewer into the pita, add tzatziki or greek yoghurt and the shreaded salad. Roll the pita to form a tight cone and wrap it in kitchen or other suitable paper. Serve hot.