Beef & Lamb Souvlaki Marinated in Tomato Paste

A new take on an old delicacy

Chef: Nena Ismyrnoglou

Preparation & Cooking time: 210

Serves: 4

Everyone in the world probably knows what a souvlaki is by now. This version of relatively healthy street food dates back to Greek antiquity and can be purchased at takeaways and grill houses all over Athens. The concept is simple: chunks of meat secured on a skewer and grilled to perfection. These are eaten either on their own or wrapped in pita bread with a few slices of tomato, a bit of onion and a good dollop of tzatziki (that delicious, though somewhat anti-social concoction of yogurt, cucumber and garlic). Here is a different take for a more complex result that you won’t find at most neighborhood souvlaki joints.


For the marinade: In a large bowl, mix 2 tbsp tomato paste, 70 ml olive oil, 1 tsp lemon (unwaxed and organic) zest, 1 small grated onion, 1 tbsp sweet paprika and ½ tsp sweet red chili flakes (boukovo). Marinade the meat cubes for at least 3 hours and at most 24 hours in the fridge. When you’re ready to start cooking, drain off excess liquid and pat the meat dry with kitchen paper. Sprinkle the meat with a bit of olive oil, add a sprinkling of salt and pepper and start putting the cubes onto the skewers, alternating the beef with the lamb and spacing the cubes so that they are touching but not sticking tightly together – but not so far apart so they don’t touch each other. For added flavor, you can also add small chunks of bell pepper or onion in between.

Grilling: For best results, make sure the meat cubes are more or less the same size. If you’re grilling over a wood or charcoal fire make sure the embers are hot, and turn the skewers frequently until you have a uniform brown crust on the meat. If grilling in the oven, heat to 200 Celsius, place the souvlaki in the oven and lower the heat to 180 Celsius, cooking for 16-20 minutes and turning halfway through.

Frills: These souvlaki go well with a yogurt dip with paprika and garlic. Mix 1 cup of Greek yogurt with 1-2 cloves of crushed garlic, 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice, 2 tbsp of olive oil, ½ tbsp of sweet paprika, 3 tbsp of roughly chopped fresh mint, salt and pepper. You can dip the meat in it or place a few dollops in a pita-wrapped souvlaki.

For a perfect wrap, grill as many pita or Arabic pocket breads as you want in the hot oven just for a couple of minutes until they are toasty. Place the meat from one skewer in each and add 1-2 slices of tomato, a pinch of finely chopped onion, a pinch of finely chopped parsley, 1 tsp of marjoram (fresh and chopped or dried), 1 tbsp of the yogurt sauce and 1 tbsp of roughly crushed hazelnuts, toasted under the grill for 2-4 minutes for that extra crunch.


For 8-10 hearty souvlaki

  • 500 gr lamb shank (or brisket), cut in 2.5 cm cubes
  • 500 gr beef sirloin, cut into 2.5 cm cubes

(You will also need wooden skewers that have been soaked in water so they don’t burn)

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