IRINI'S SPICED CHICKEN GYROS

MEET THE CHEF

Irini Tzortzoglou is a Cretan chef, food author, olive oil & honey sommelier and culinary professor who splits her time between Greece and the UK. After flying through the competition in 2019 on the cusp pandemic, Tzortzoglou didn’t let it derail her success, going on to publish her Mediterranean cookbook Under the Olive Tree, opened her cook away culinary school in Crete, and has hosted and judged a plethora of prestigious culinary competitions across the UK and Europe.

Always committed to bringing quality and authenticity to her predominantly Greek dishes, Irini is highly skilled in introducing Greek flavours to other cuisines as well as spinning traditional taverna style dishes into Michelin-style show-stoppers. With huge emphasis on quality ingredients and an uncompromising approach to perfect presentation, Tzortzoglou infuses each dish with the importance of unity and togetherness that made her fall in love with cooking as a child.

ABOUT THE RECIPE

Drawing inspiration from the sun-kissed island of Crete, this dish combines succulent marinated chicken, fresh vegetables, and a traditional yogurt-based tzatziki sauce, all wrapped in a warm, pillowy pita. Irini begins with marinating tender chicken pieces in a fragrant blend of Cretan herbs and spices, evoking the essence of the Mediterranean - emphasizing the importance of allowing the chicken to marinate, allowing the flavours to infuse and develop into a harmonious symphony of tastes. Charring is also crucial to the signature smokiness of the Chicken Gyros – without sacrificing the tenderness in the process. A tribute to the country’s gastronomic heritage, Irini’s chicken gyros brings together the crucial elements of flavour balance; fat, heat, acidity and salt, making for a well-balanced and satiating meal. If you buy a souvlaki in Greece, you will always see a stack of cold pitas.  While your souvlaki is being grilled in front of you, the pitas are being brushed with a little olive oil and heated on the grill too, hot to order. You may fry the pitas on a dry pan if you are counting the calories, however brushing the frying pan with a little extra virgin olive oil before frying each side will give the pittas a nice fruity aroma and will help the keep the pitas moist if preparing ahead of time.

THE RECIPE CARD

IRINI'S SPICED CHICKEN GYROS


Servings

6

Prep Time

-

Cook Time

-

Equipment

Meat Tenderizer, Rolling Pin, Frying Pan, Roasting Tin, 2 x Mixing Bowl with Lid, Heat Proof Skewers, Meat Thermometer, Kitchen Foil, Cheese Grater, Sieve, Muslin/Cheese Cloth, Kitchen Scales

Ingredients

For the Gyros

1kg boneless marinated chicken thighs
500g potato
2 medium ripe red
tomatoes on the vine
a few salt flakes
a few fresh oregano leaves

For the Marinade

1.5 heaped tsp ground coriander
1.5 heaped tsp ground cumin
2 heaped tsp garlic granules
1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 tsp dried oregano
1.5 tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
100ml extra virgin olive oil and extra to drizzle

For the Garnish

1 red onion, finely sliced
1 tsp sea salt
a few drops of red wine vinegar

For the Tzatziki

500g thick Greek yogurt
½ large cucumber
½ tsp sea salt and extra to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 tbsp white wine vinegar
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
a small bunch of dill, finely chopped

For the Pitas

100ml whole milk, tepid (ideally at 37.5C for optimal yeast activation)
150ml water, tepid (ideally at 37.5C for optimal yeast activation).
400g plain flour and extra for dusting
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, and extra for frying
1 tsp dry active yeast 1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt

Directions

For the Gyros

The chicken benefits from marinating for at least a couple of hours before cooking.

1. Ideally using a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin as a substitute, flatten the chicken thighs between baking parchment. In a large bowl, mix all the marinade ingredients and add the chicken thighs, massage well to ensure that the meat is totally covered in the spice mix.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for a few hours. Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before using.
2. Preheat the oven to 180 C fan. Wash the potato and cut in half lengthwise. Place both halves, cut side down in a deep baking tray and insert 3 wooden skewers in each, pointed end up. Thread the chicken thighs through the skewers ensuring that any end bits are folded back and inwards as these will dry out easily, or potentially burn. Keep any small bits of meat in the middle of the pile. Do not press the meat too tightly to assist in the cooking process.
3. When all the chicken has been used up, cover with kitchen foil. Cook in the oven for 75 minutes.  Remove the foil, drizzle or spray with some extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with some salt flakes and cook uncovered for another 10-15 minutes at 200C to brown all over. When the chicken is cooked, let it rest for 5 minutes.
4. While the chicken is cooking, peel and slice the red onion thinly. Put in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with the salt.  Massage for a few minutes to help rid of its heat.  Rinse, squeeze, transfer to a bowl and drizzle with a few drops of vinegar. ‘Top and tail’ the tomato and slice it thinly.  Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with a few salt flakes.

For the Tzatziki

The flavours improve if the tzatziki is made 24 hours in advance.

1. Start by grating the cucumber on the coarse side of a cheese grater. Transfer to a colander or a straining bag and sprinkle with the salt. Massage the salt into the cucumber thoroughly to release the water content from the cucumber.
2. Leaveto stand for 10 minutes and add to a sheet of muslin or cheese cloth. Thoroughly squeeze all the moisture out until the cucumber has significantly reduced in volume and is no longer releasing liquid. Note that reducing the water content will significantly improve the consistency of the tzatziki. Any Greek tzatziki worth its salt will be thick and creamy, residual cucumber water will compromise the structural integrity of the yoghurt.
3. Transfer the dried cucumber to a bowl, add the Greek yogurt, minced garlic, vinegar, olive oil and dill and stir well with a silicone spatula until homogenous. Taste and adjust seasoning and acidity by adding more salt and vinegar to taste. Get experimental with your garnishing – Irini likes to finish hers with a mandolined spiral of cucumber in the centre of the dip and a generous swirl of extra virgin olive oil.

For the Pitas

You may choose to cook all the pitas in advance and store in the fridge wrapped in baking parchment paper or kitchen foil. When you are ready to use them, reheat them wrapped in parchment in a preheated oven at 200C for a few minutes.

1. Put the temperature checked milk & water, sugar and extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl and mix well. Leave until frothy – this is how you will know your yeast is active.
2. Sprinkle in the salt and start adding the flour gradually, working the dough with your hands as you do until the dough starts to come away from the bowl and is no longer sticky – this is known as the autolysing period. Roll the dough into a ball and gently place it in a clean bowl dusted with a little flour. Cover the dough with cling film/plastic wrap and leave somewhere warm to proof for 1 hour. You do not want to leave this in the direct heat or sunlight and risk over-proofing your dough.
3. When the dough has risen to almost double the size, transfer it onto a floured surface and roll into a sausage shape. Cut into 6 equal pieces (you can weigh them to ensure complete symmetry). Roll out each one using a rolling pin and leave covered on a clean surface. If your dough is sticking simply dust your rolling pin with a little flour, be cautious not to add too much flour – you want your pitas to remain pillowy and not become tough and chewy.
4. Bring a frying pan or roti/crepe pan to a medium high heat and brush with a little oil (oil at this stage is optional and subject to preference, if you are making your pitas ahead of time we would recommend adding oil here to retain moisture). Cook each pita for 2-3 minutes on each side until bubbles start to form. You will know that your pitas are ready when the bubbles that are created are dark brown. Remove them and let them cool on a drying rack until they’re comfortable to touch.

Assembly

1. Start by carving down your souvlaki with the chicken skewers still in place until you have some tender cuts of meat.
2. Create a cone like formation with your pitta with a sealed side, with the wider end facing upwards.
3. Add your chicken, a generous dollop of the tzatziki and top with the pickled red onion and a sprinkling of fresh oregano.