Lebanese Style Meatloaf Gyro!
Gyros are popular street food in Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, America and just about everywhere around the globe. In America, Gyros can be found on almost every Greek restaurant menu and this sandwich is a popular bar snack menu offering.
In Greece, most Gryros are made with sliced roast pork and roast lamb is a popular choice too. Schawarma is cuts of meat that are stacked on a large skewer and slowly roasted. Carved Lebanese Schwarma on Pita Bread is similar to Roast Meat Gyros that are made in Greece. In many Middle Eastern Countries and America, a Kafta Spice Minced Meat Kabob or Lebanese Spiced Meatloaf is used to make Gyros.
Many Gyro Shops have a large kabob of Gyro Meat that is mounted vertically next to heating element. As the kabob turns, the surface of the meat cooks to a brown color. The large highly seasoned minced meat kebab is called a Doner Kabob. Doner Kababs originated in Turkey several centuries ago.
In modern times, most Doner Kabobs at Gyro Shops are a manufactured food product. The finely minced meat mixture is prepared the same way that a Hot Dog meat slurry is made and it contains a high percentage of emulsified fat. As one can imagine, the quality leaves something to be desired. Gyro Shops that take pride in their product actually make their own Doner Kabobs from scratch. The difference in the flavor and texture is easy to notice.
The highly spiced minced meat for Turkish Doner Kabobs originated in Lebanon long ago. In Lebanon, the minced meat mixture is usually prepared as a meatloaf instead of a large kabob. The highly spiced meatloaf is sliced while warm and placed on Pita Bread. If the Lebanese Spiced Meatloaf is cold, thin slices of the meatloaf are cooked on a griddle till they are browned, then they are served on Pita Bread. Lebanese Spiced Meatloaf on Pita Bread is the original version of the modern Gyro Sandwich and it pre-dates Gyros that are made with Doner Kabobs.
The word Kafta literally translates to meatball or a ball shape. Lebanese Gyro Meatloaf is highly seasoned with local variations of Kafta Spice Mix. Kafta Spice Minced Meat can be shaped as meatloaf, kebabs or meatballs. The minced meat can be shaped around small skewers or a very large Doner Kabob style skewer.
Many food historians say that Pita Bread (Khubz Arabi) was first created in Turkey or Persia. Some historians say the India is where Pita Bread was first made. The only thing that is certain is that Pita Bread was popular in Arabian countries long before it became popular in Greece or western countries. In western countries, the name was changed from Khubz Arabi to Pita Bread for marketing purposes in the late 1900's.
During the early 1900's in America, many Arabic immigrants from the Middle East opened Greek restaurants, because Americans had no interest in Arabic food at that time, yet Americans liked Greek style street food and Greek style comfort food diner restaurants. My step grandfather was a great chef from Lebanon and he joked about how sometimes he had to be Greek in the restaurant business early in his career. He then attempted to hide his big Arabic nose in a comical way to entertain us kids. After researching the topic, I now know what my Lebanese step grandfather meant by saying, "Sometimes I had to be Greek." This also explains why Lebanese Meatloaf evolved into what is known as Greek Gyro Meat in modern times.
The standard sauce for a Lebanese Gyro is Tzatziki Sauce. Tabuli is a Syrian Arabic chopped salad of tomato, onion and parsley and it is sometimes placed on Lebanese gyros. Most modern Gyros are just garnished with sliced onion and tomato. In Lebanon, Gyros are considered to be an appetizer, snack or light lunch. The enticing aroma of a good Lebanese Kafta Spice Meatloaf Gyro is what makes guests come back for more!
Lebanese Gyro Meatloaf:
This recipe yields 1 large 15 ounce Gyro Meatloaf. (Enough for 3 or 4 Gyro Sandwiches.)
Step 1: Place 8 ounces of ground lamb in a mixing bowl.
Add 4 ounces of ground beef.
Add 1/2 cup of fine plain French bread crumbs.
Add 1 whisked large egg.
Step 2: Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of garlic paste.
Add 1/3 cup of finely minced white onion.
Step 3: Add 2 tablespoons of finely minced mint leaves.
Add 1 tablespoon of finely minced Italian Parsley.
Add 2 teaspoons of cumin.
Add 1 teaspoon of coriander.
Add 1 teaspoon of fenugreek.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of oregano.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of marjoram.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of allspice.
Add 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher Salt.
Add 2 to 3 pinches of black pepper.
Step 4: Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
Place the spiced minced meat mixture in a container.
Refrigerate for 1 hour, so the flavors meld.
Step 5: Lightly brush a deep roasting pan with blended olive oil.
Place the minced meat mixture in the roasting pan.
Shape the minced meat into a rectangular meat loaf shape that is about 6" wide and 1 1/2" thick. (The length can vary.)
Step 6: Place the roasting pan in a 300ºf oven.
Slowly roast till the meatloaf is fully cooked and lightly browned.
Step 7: Remove the pan from the oven.
Allow the meat loaf cool to room temperature.
Cover the meatloaf with plastic wrap.
Place the roasting pan with the meatloaf in a refrigerator for 24 hours.
*The meat loaf must be refrigerated, so the juices gel. This step will keep the meatloaf from crumbling, when it is thinly sliced! The flavors will also mellow after 24 hours.
This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cups. (Enough for 4 Gyro Sandwiches.)
Step 1: Place 1/2 cup of finely minced peeled seeded cucumber in a mixing bowl.
Add 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil.
Add 1/2 cup of plain Greek style goat milk yogurt.
Add 3 tablespoons of finely minced mint leaves.
Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
Mix the ingredients together.
Step 2: *Check the consistency. The Tzatziki should be a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon. If necessary, add just enough warm water, while whisking, to thin the Tzatziki to a medium thin sauce consistency. Be careful not to add too much water!
Step 3: Place the Tzatziki in a container.
Chill the Tzatziki Sauce in a refrigerator for 1 hour.
This recipe yields 1 Gyro Sandwich.
The thin slices of Lebanese Gyro Meatloaf can be warmed in an oven or they can be cooked on a seasoned cast iron griddle till they are browned. When cooked on a griddle, it is best to cut the meatloaf slices paper thin.
Step 1: Cut about 7 long thin slices of of the Lebanese Gyro Meatloaf. (A 5 to 6 ounce portion is plenty.)
Place the meatloaf slices on a roasting pan.
Add 1 tablespoon of water.
Reheat the meatloaf slices in a 300ºF oven.
Gently roast till the meatloaf slices are warm.
Step 2: Warm an 8" to 10" Pita Bread (Khubz Arabi) in the oven.
Step 3: Place the pita bread on a cutting board.
Place 4 or 5 thin slices of tomato on one half of the bread.
Place 1 thin slice of onion that is separated into rings on the tomatoes.
Place the warm Gyro Meatloaf slices on top of the tomato and onions.
Spoon a generous amount of the Tzatziki Sauce over the Gyro Meat. (About 3 tablespoons.)
Step 4: Fold the Pita Bread in half over the meatloaf slices.
Pin the sandwich together with a long toothpick or bamboo skewer.
Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
Step 5: Place the gyro on a plate.
Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig and pickles of your choice.
*Persian Pickled Wild Cucumber, Persian Pickled Pink Turnip and Arabic Scratched Green Olives garnish the plate in the photos.
This is a great tasting Lebanese Gyro!