When it comes to places on this globe that I find myself drawn to, it’s the Greek Isle of Zakynthos and New Zealand. Drop me off at either of those places, take my phone, never contact me again, and I’ll be all good. Seriously, do not come back for me. It stands to reason then that my favorite food of all time would be a combination of those two exotic destinations. Take the grass-fed sheep from New Zealand and pair it with Greek seasonings and cooking methods and you get the gyro. When done with the right Tzatziki sauce, this is sandwich perfection. Sure, it might make the Footloose soundtrack song “Holding out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler pop into your head, but is that really such a bad thing?
Most folks probably have never attempted to make a homemade gyro before, thinking an expensive rotisserie attachment with a ceramic heat plate on your outdoor grill is the only way to make gyro meat. That certainly is a good way to do it, but unless you have second car money for a grill, there is an easier and much cheaper way, and it’s just as good. All you really need is a food processor, a loaf pan, and some know-how. If you haven’t made my Jicama fries from a few articles back, now is a good time to make those as well to pair up with your “Yeeh-row.”
As always, the key to making this a healthy dish is to buy quality ingredients. Grass-fed ground lamb from New Zealand is a must. There are about 30 million sheep in New Zealand, compared to about 4.4 million people. So, they know their sheep. The Tzatziki sauce is based on plain Greek yogurt, so again, find a brand that uses grass-fed dairy if at all possible. The cucumber, iceberg lettuce, olives, and Roma tomatoes are soft skinned, so organic is the best option there to minimize pesticides. That’s the great thing about cooking and preparing your own foods. You get to know and decide exactly what goes into you and your family.
This is a really easy recipe to make. The most difficult part is after processing the ground lamb into a paste, it’s quite sticky and both removing it from the food processor and then cleaning of said processor. I’ve found wearing disposable plastic gloves sprayed with a bit of non-stick cooking spray works best for removing the lamb from the processor. It helps avoid the dreaded “club hand” and keeps more of the food in the pan instead of under your rings or fingernails. Gross, right?
Also, pro-tip on the processor itself, place a couple of sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper over the top before you put the lid on and take it for a spin. If your model is like mine, the lid has all sorts of nooks and crannies where the lamb meat can get into and hide, and cleaning that can be a chore. Covering the top first means one less place microbial beasties can set up shop and make your next vegetable puree turn into an extreme weight loss drink, if you know what I mean. When it comes time to clean the bucket and the blades, you’re going to have to completely disassemble this thing and make this a mil-spec ready clean, because the lamb mixture will find it’s way into everything. I’m sure we’ve all seen the movie where the hitman meticulously lays out his sniper rifle piece by piece, inspecting, cleaning, and oiling until it’s perfect for reassemble. That’s the level I’m taking about here. Don’t let your food processor become the rifle that assassinates your intestines the next time you use it.
Also, there is a step where you have to squeeze the water out of minced onion through a tea towel to make this recipe. One word of advice, after using a tea towel or clean dish towel to squeeze out onion or cauliflower, you then have two options. Either immediately throw it in the washing machine and run it, or throw the towel away. Do not put it in the dirty clothes hamper and shut the door to the laundry room for a couple of days. If you do this, you will then be left with two drastic options: move right away and hope to sell your place for a huge loss, or burn the place down and rebuild. Do not say I didn’t warn you.
One safety warning as well, this cooks in a water bath, so be careful when taking the pan out of the oven that you don’t slosh 325 degree water all over yourself. Go slow and steady, unless you want to recreate Dustin Hoffman’s hot water burn baby scene from Rain Man in your kitchen.
I like to make the Tzatziki sauce the day before to let the flavors really meld together. It’s not necessary, but this stuff does get better with some time in the fridge, so try to make it earlier if you can. You can eat this as a salad to keep it very low carb, or I like to use Outer Aisle brand cauliflower sandwich thins as a wrap. You can also make your own wraps, there are a ton of low carb homemade options out there. If you go the pita route, you know the drill… really scour the ingredients list and avoid any that read like a chemistry set. Now, if you need me, I’ll be on my Greek island beach and leave me alone.
- 2 cups grass fed plain greek yogurt
- 1 cucumber, seeded and grated
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped dill
Split the cucumber in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon:
Grate the cucumber with a cheese grater:
Place the grated cucumber in a colander and squeeze as much moisture as possible out of it. Then sprinkle with a pinch of salt, stir, and then place a heavy plate or bowl on top to keep drawing out moisture while the rest of the sauce is assembled.
Combine the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and sea salt in a large mixing bowl, stirring to combine well. Pull the fresh dill off of the stalks and finely dice:
Add the dill to the bowl. Take the cucumber and give it one last good squeeze and then add it to the bowl. Using a stick blender, puree the sauce until the cucumber is blended well into the yogurt. If you don’t have a stick blender, use a food processor, or finely dice the cucumber before adding. Store in the fridge a day ahead of time to allow the flavors to come together for best results:
- 2 lbs grass fed ground lamb
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 Tbsp garlic
- 1 Tbsp marjoram
- 1 Tbsp dried rosemary
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
Garnish with iceberg lettuce, chopped Roma tomatoes, sliced black olives, and feta cheese crumbles
Process the chopped onion in a food processer and then place on a tea towel. Squeeze the towel until all the moisture is out of the onion, then return the onion to the food processor. Add all the other ingredients and process the mixture until it is a paste, usually a minute of constant pulsing:
Spray a standard size loaf pan with non-stick spray, and then press the ground lamb into the loaf pan. Place the loaf pan in a oven-proof dish and fill with water:
Cook at 325 for 1 hour 20 minutes or until the loaf reaches 175 degrees. Once it is done cooking, use a big cooking spoon or spatula to hold the loaf in place and drain all the excess grease out of the pan. Then remove the loaf from the pan, place on a wire rack on a cookie sheet:
Cover with foil and let rest at least 15 minutes before slicing into thin strips:
To up the flavor and mimic grilled gyro meat, heat a cast iron skillet with a tbsp of olive oil, and fry the sliced meat on both sides until the edges brown and the meat starts to crisp slightly. Serve as a salad or a wrap topped with chopped lettuce, chopped Roma tomatoes, sliced black olives, crumbled feta cheese, and your home-made tzatziki sauce.