Three years ago I was lucky enough to make friends with Iphigenia and go and visit her in Greece. She has since become one of my closest friends and our annual trips to Greece are one of the highlights of the year. Iphigenia has taken it upon herself to educate us in all things Greek, including of course Greek cuisine, so every time we go we get to sample a wonderful array of delicious Greek dishes and I come home eager to try to recreate them in my kitchen. The key to Greek food is high quality ingredients cooked simply to enhance and showcase their natural character. This makes it ideal for healthy weeknight dinners. This recipe was inspired by a delectable platter of BBQ chicken we had in a taverna which was mouth-wateringly crisp, juicy and busting with flavour. Here I have accompanied it with a variation on the traditional Greek salads that are a staple of every meal we have there. The quality of the olive oil is essential for the flavour of Greek salad dressings so use a good extra virgin variety here.
Time: 10 minutes to prepare, 15 minutes to cook (not including time to set up a BBQ if you use that cooking method)
Dietary info: Gluten-free (unless served with pitta or other bread), dairy-free (unless you add feta)
Serves: 4 (easily scaled up or down)
- 4 chicken thighs, skinned
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 packet rocket, about 90g, washed
- 4 tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped
- 1/2 a cucumber, washed, halved lengthwise and sliced into semi-circles
- 1 tbsp mustard powder
- 6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Mix together the oregano, sea salt, black pepper and garlic powder and rub this into the chicken to marinade.
- Stir 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar into the mustard powder until you have a smooth paste, then gradually add in the remaining balsamic vinegar and the extra virgin olive oil.
- If you are lucky enough to have a sunny day and a BBQ then prepare and light the BBQ and once it is ready, place the chicken on the BBQ and cook for around 6 minutes per side. Cut into the chicken to see if it is cooked through (the meat should be opaque, not very pink and the juices clear, not bloody). If it is not cooked yet, wrap in foil to stop it drying out and continue to cook for a further 5-10 minutes until cooked through.
- If you don’t have a BBQ, nice weather, or you just want to cook this a bit more quickly, heat a griddle pan until hot (you will feel the heat coming off the pan when you hold your hand about 5-10mm above the surface). Then cook the chicken for 6 minutes per side. Cut into the chicken to see if it is cooked through as above and if it is not, put it in an ovenproof dish or baking tray and cook in the oven at 160C fan for a further 5-10 minutes until cooked through.
- Combine the rocket, tomatoes and cucumber in a dish. Whisk the dressing with a spoon or fork to distribute the oil through the mixture (the oil and vinegar will have separated out) and dress the salad.
- Top with the chicken pieces and serve.
A few tips to prep ahead:
- Skin the chicken and rub it with the marinade and kept in a sealable box in the fridge for a few days (this actually helps the flavours to develop).
- Prepare the cucumber and tomatoes and keep them in a box or bowl in the fridge for a few days, though it is usually best to only add the rocket and dress it just before serving to prevent it going soggy.
- Make the dressing and keep in a sealable box or jar for several days. You can keep this out of the fridge. If you put it in the fridge the olive oil will solidify but it will melt again when you bring it to room temperature.
Some tasty little twists and extras…
- Add cubes of feta, olives, sliced romaine lettuce and/or sliced red onion to the salad for more recognisably Greek salad
- Try different types or cuts of meat e.g. chicken breast, lamb or pork chops, or even fish such as tuna steak, instead of the chicken thighs.
- Serve with Pitta bread, houmous and/or tzatziki for something closer to the souvlaki. I much prefer homemade pittas to the shop bought variety. They are surprisingly easy to make, and keep well for several days in the fridge or a bread box wrapped in cling film.
Quick and easy pittas:
Makes 8-9 pittas
- 500g wholemeal or spelt flour (or 250g spelt flour, 250g coarse ground wholemeal flour), plus extra for rolling out – using all spelt flour makes a slightly lighter pitta
- 1 heaped tsp fast action yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp olive oil (optional but will help make your pittas softer and tastier)
- 375ml hand-warm water
- Mix together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl.
- Gradually add the water and olive oil to the flour and mix to a dough.
- Knead the dough with your hands for a few minutes until a smooth and consistent texture (you may need to add a little more flour or water).
- Leave the dough, covered in clingfilm or a clean tea-towl in a warm place for at least 30-50 minutes until doubled in size (if you have longer the pittas are even better if you leave them to rise for a few hours). If it is a warm day, or a warm house then room temperature should be fine. If it is cold then turn your oven on for a few minutes then turn it off again and put the dough in there.
- Divide the dough into 8-9 pieces and form each into a ball with your hands then roll out with a rolling pin into an oval or circle on a lightly floured surface.
- Dry fry each pitta in a non-stick frying pan for 2-3 minutes on each side, until browned. If the pitta is still a bit doughy on the inside then put it in the oven at 160C fan for 3-8 minutes until cooked through. Keep the warm pittas wrapped in a clean team towl to prevent them drying out.
- Wrap any leftover pittas in clingfilm and keep in the fridge. When you want to use them, splash them with cold water, wrap in foil and heat in the oven for 3-5 minutes.
- The pittas can be used to wrap up the chicken and salad (and any toppings such as houmous and/or tzatziki) and are also a lovely accompaniment to many dishes such as roast vegetables, soups and dips so I like to make a big batch and use them throughout the week.