Odysseus leaves Ogygia: Grilled lamb backstrap

Chargriled lamb with lemon potatoes and tzatziki

Greek food, man. Greek food.

Recently a great meal at Eros Kafe opened my eyes to the joys of Greek food. By all indications I should have seen this long ago — since high school almost all of my close friends has worked for a time at Eros — but that doesn't matter anymore, here I am. It's like the guitar: while I was growing up my dad collected and played guitars, but it took moving out to finally motivate me to learn (alternate explanation: I took up guitar in university thinking that if I could strum out Counting Crows songs it would impress girls).

The meal responsible for said eye opening was Eros's souvlakia: lamb loin skewered and chargrilled, on a tabouleh, chickpea and smashed potato salad, served with tzatziki. The meat was disappointingly tough for loin, but the flavours were excellent: crisp and fresh, perfect food for a warm summer evening. The dish was simple but came together really well. What better place than that to kick off my next cooking odyssey?

For my homage I used backstrap rather than loin, and can I just say to the uninitiated that you simply can't go wrong with backstrap. It's tender, flavourful, and effortlessly looks great on a plate. Unfortunately it's quite expensive, but with a hearty salad of potatoes and chickpeas a little meat goes a long way. Backstrap isn't used a lot in traditional Greek cooking, but it's obvious why it's a favourite in modern Greek circles.

The recipe below is a simple parsley and yoghurt marinade for the meat, but in time I'll put up recipes for the tzatziki and potato salad. The day after I took the photo I remade the salad for the remaining meat adding cumin and roasted tomato, which made it even better. This marinade is a good all-purpose Greek marinade, which would taste just as good on chicken or beef.

When I first made the marinade I added half a teaspoon of sugar to the mix. I hoped this would help get the nice charred crust I was after — and maybe it did — but it took the edge off the salty and sour tastes which should really be quite sharp to compliment the gaminess of the lamb, so leave it out.

Grilled lamb backstrap

Ingredients:

  • 400g lamb backstrap
  • 1/4 of a medium onion
  • 3 cloves of roasted garlic1
  • 1/4 cup of flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp greek yoghurt
  • 1/2 tsp salt

1. Combine all of the ingredients except for the lamb, and blend until they make a smooth puree. Coat the lamb in this paste and marinate in the fridge overnight.
2. Take the lamb out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. Heat a grill (preferably charcoal) to very hot and cook the lamb for 5 minutes a side, or until it's medium-rare inside and charred on the outside. Rest the meat before slicing, then serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

(1) Fresh garlic would be fine, but I had a whole head of roasted garlic on hand which is never a bad thing.

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