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Looking for a Greek marinade for Lamb Kabobs


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After eating at a pretty decent Greek food court restaurant, I'm trying to find out what kind of marinade they used for their delicious lamb skewers. Basically, the skewers were 1 inch chunks of lamb with onion and green bell pepper between them. I asked them what they use for thier marinade but all they told me was Greek Spices and vinegar.

I've tried to duplicate the flavor based on my discreet flavor analysis of those tasty morsels as I chewed away and then going to the internet to find something of value. What I tried the last time came the closest...oregano, bay leaf, salt/pepper, red wine vinegar, olive oil, onion and garlic. This gave me the flavor that most closely resembled what they did but the flavor was not strong enough.

So I have basically two questions. First, what would be an authentic marinade and second, how long should it marinate? I've seen marinating times from two hours to 3 days. This last attempt of mine went for 6 hours and I felt it could've gone longer (didn't want to turn the meat into mush but evidentally Lamb is a sturdy meat).

Appreciate the help,

Bob

My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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Yes, I used Greek oregano. Someone else said to try lemon juice too. The next time I'll try it but why would the restaurant tell me to use vinegar? He actually said apple vinegar but when I tried it one time it had too much vinegar flavor. The red wine vinegar smelled like what I thought the meat tasted like from the restaurant. I'll definately give lemon juice a shot. Any other modifications to the ingredient list?

My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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I would say they use vinegar for a cheaper and easier alternative than fresh lemons. Cider vinegar has a similar brightness and fruitiness, but not as intense.

My only real suggestion for you is try simplifying down the ingredients to mostly (great quality) oregano, and a bit of basil, and use the lemon juice for sure.

I make souvlaki all the time, and I use fresh or dried whole crumbled Greek oregano, a bit of basil, grated lemon rind, the lemon juice, half as much olive oil, and let it sit for 8+ hours for pork or lamb and skin on-chicken with bones. Maybe 2-3 for chicken breasts. The results are just about identical to the I get at our local Greek place. I also toss planks of eggplant and zucchini in this kind of mixture, or whitefish filets. Also delicious brushed over grilled tomatoes! Totally all purpose stuff, once you hit upon your particular ratio of seasonings.

My Greek friend laughs at buying lemons by the one or two, they buy them over there, like we buy potatoes. In huge bags!

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What no Rosemary ??

"It's true I crept the boards in my youth, but I never had it in my blood, and that's what so essential isn't it? The theatrical zeal in the veins. Alas, I have little more than vintage wine and memories." - Montague Withnail.

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Hi there,

I use lemon juice, oregano, garlic and little bit of olive oil. Also if you are using large chunks of lamb, dont bunch them up too tight otherwise the insides will be raw when the outsids are charred.

Lastly, use charcoal if you can to cook. It will impart a great flavour and dont forget to baste with the same marinade throughout the cooking process.

Thats my 2 cents worth anyway.

Cheers,

G

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One of my best friends is greek and his mother made these for us when we were growing up...

Basically cubed lamb marinaded overnight in pureed raw onion, salt, pepper, lemon juice, crushed garlic, olive oil and dried greek oregano.

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I've used this many times for everything from a butterflied leg-o-lamb on the grill to kebabs, chops, steaks... I'm not very precise about it, but just this as a guide. A few times, when out of lemons, I've used white wine or good vinegar. I like the lemon juice best, but wine and/or vinegar works, too.

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  • 7 months later...

Greek for oregano is Rigani and in much more pungent that the one used in Italy which for the Greeks is like weed.

Fresh lemon juice and plenty of garlic some white pepper and salt.

Here in this city we have one of the largest Greek population outside Greece so I know what I am talking about.

Ah! slow charcoal grilling is essential too which I am used too since myself I come from one of the best beef countries in the world where asado rules.

BTW, Caucasians people like pomegranate molasses and plenty onion juice and may be read wine instead.

Edited by piazzola (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Cumin, vinegar and lemon juice might have been used in the food court's recipe.

Here in Crete, Greece, I haven't seen complicated marinating at all in the case of souflaki. A little olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, possibly cumin and on the grill it goes. We sprinkle oregano and lemon juice on the souflaki after it's cooked. There are certainly regional differences...Cretan cooking can be simple, depending on the village and the ingredients. With lamb, it tends to be very simple.

Nikki Rose

Founder and Director

Crete's Culinary Sanctuaries

Eco-Agritourism Network

www.cookingincrete.com

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  • 1 year later...

I've had good results marinading in a mix of (per kilo of lamb) about 4 cloves of garlic, the juice and zest of an unwaxed lemon, 2 roughly broken bay leaves, 2 teaspoons dried greek oregano, a couple of sprigs fresh oregano, a generous amount of black pepper and a good glug of olive oil (and no salt). I tend to leave it overnight, and then to sprinkle with salt while grilling.

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If you get a decent sized bunch of rosemary & tie the stems together at the end with kitchen twine, you can use that as a basting brush on the meat to infuse it with a subtle rosemary flavor without it being overwhelming. Near the end of the cooking, throw the brush on the fire. (this works great if you can find a rosemary bush growing somewhere near you).

Edited by Shalmanese (log)

PS: I am a guy.

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See if you can buy the dried rigani (oregano) that comes attached to the stalks. You work the rigani in the plastic bag so that it comes off as leaf flakes. Snip the bottom corner of the plastic bag and let the crushed rigani flow out.

As for how to cook the lamb, I'd like to support Piazzola. Marinade the cubed lamb in crushed garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and rigani for at least few hours or overnight. Then place on wooden skewers that have been pre-soaked in water for a few hours and barbecue over charcoal. I've never needed to baste the meat with the marinade while cooking but I'm sure you could do that too.

Please don't overcook the lamb, it will ruin the dish. If you are unsure of how well it is cooked, take a piece of lamb off one skewer and try it. If it is done, serve it; if not, keep cooking. Then try it again, and so on.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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Any of the marinades posted earlier in this thread will work, but unless I read too fast an essential first step is missing.

A day before you plan on cooking the lamb, mix it with plenty of full fat yogurt. Let is sit in a fridge overnight. In the morning, remove the yogurt with paper towling as best you can, then prepare one of the marinades a and let it sit for at least a few more hours. Then cook.

The yogurt, I find, both tenderizes the meat (which a marinade won't), and makes it more accepting of the marinade's flavors.

As an alternative to the marinade, when I'm doing a leg or shoulder (after a 24-hour yogurt bath, given the large size of the meat) I use a rub/paste with plenty of garlic (turned into a paste by mashing with kosher salt under a chef's knife blade's side), fresh ground coriander, cumin, pepper and a fresh chiffonade of sage, then let it sit in the rub/paste for another 24 hours before cooking. Maybe not classic Greek or the flavors you are seeking, but very good.

Greek seasoning is much more than oregano and lemon. Try the cumin and coriander in one of the simpler marinades in place of oregano.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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The yogurt, I find, both tenderizes the meat (which a marinade won't), and makes it more accepting of the marinade's flavors.

While yogurt will add an additional flavour dimension, lemon is an acid, which to the best of my knowledge will tenderise meat. I'm not sure why you think a lemon-based marinade won't tenderise the meat.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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The yogurt, I find, both tenderizes the meat (which a marinade won't), and makes it more accepting of the marinade's flavors.

While yogurt will add an additional flavour dimension, lemon is an acid, which to the best of my knowledge will tenderise meat. I'm not sure why you think a lemon-based marinade won't tenderise the meat.

Perhaps I should have been just slightly more circumspect in my comment, but the basic point holds. Acid-based marinades don't really tenderize.

Acid based marinades can soften the surface of meat, but use too much of the acidic ingredient and you'll actually toughen the meat. Just look what happens when you make a ceviche.

Enzymes you add to meat (like papain) are much better at tenderizing meats. In fact, they're too much better. Unless used carefully and just immediately before cooking, they tend to turn meat to mush.

Yogurt and buttermilk, while slightly acidic, aren't strong enough to toughen the exterior of meats. Because of their calcium content they initiate an enzymatic reaction within a piece of meat that mimics the natural aging process, activating enzymes within muscle and connective tissue which loosens the bonds of muscle fibers.

I don't find that yogurt and buttermilk add a lot of flavor. That's why with some recipes of meat I'll use yogurt for tenderizing, followed by a dry rub.

Acid-based marinades alone can add wonderful flavors to meats and fishes. Just don't expect them to tenderize any but thinly sliced meats. And remember that using too much or too strong an acid can be counter-productive if avoiding tough meat is your goal.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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