When I was 14 I worked in a haunted house. A big scaredy cat like me in a haunted house. Turns out, I love being the scarer rather than the scaree. My step dad Ken’s very close friend from childhood is an amazing artist/sculptor/designer and he ran this awesome haunted house in an old dilapidated church. They both ran their businesses from this building during the off season, and even visiting Ken’s office gave me the creeps. It was the most amazing thing in my little world. When the haunted house started, Ken was working nonstop until the wee hours of the morning setting it up. And my begging began. I just wanted to be part of this whole shindig. I was only 14 after all. And, we would be lucky to be heading home at 3am. In the end my mom and Ken decided that I could work on Fridays and Saturdays.
Having this experience was one of the best memories that I have from my teenage years. We would leave the haunted house at crazy o’clock and it was just us. These were special moments between us filled with some serious life talks, and tons of giggles. With our bellies rumbling, we always ended up in some weird food place that was still open. Usually it was White Castle, cause uh, hello…nothing like slamming back 5 mini burgers at 3am. But once we landed in a place that served gyros. Delicious warm pitas shoved full of seasoned lamb meat and covered with cool tzatziki. I remember standing at this tiny red table laughing my head off at whatever goofiness Ken was doing, while heavenly juices ran down my hands. This was my one and only gyro experience, but I remember it like yesterday. It wasn’t just the food either. It was the moment.
Years later, as you know, I moved to Scotland. I began hearing about kebabs, and not in a good way. They are eaten while one is sloshed apparently. Nobody actually eats one sober I was told. What is this kebab thing they speak of? I must have one. And I will even try it sloshed so nobody thinks I am being weird eating one sober as a judge. I saw the meat on a long stick that they shaved off to fill the bread, which I later learned was naan bread. And I had a flash of the same image from years before in the gyro place. Could it be? Is this one and the same? They then piled salad and some unnaturally bright red sauce on my kebab and I nearly had a stroke trying to get them to stop ruining my gyro! No wait, this is a kebab.
I pushed all of the salad and red sauce weirdness aside, and my tastebuds rejoiced. Yes, this was just like the gyro I had years before. It is one and the same, with slightly different seasonings depending on where you go. The reason they say nobody eats a kebab sober is because of the meat. Donor meat as it is called here. They believe it is questionable, like a hot dog, as to what actually goes into it. However, I saw a documentary which explained what it really is and let me just say, it is much better than a hot dog if you want to know. I now order kebabs occasionally, but I get mine plain. Just meat and naan. While I wait I chop up lettuce, onion, cucumber, and I make my own sauce. Amazing.
A few summers ago I started making my own kebabs/gyros. I would mix lamb mince and pork mince, season it perfectly, and then grill little meatballs that we would fill naan with. Then we tried the same seasonings with chicken. Amazing I tell ya.
Gather up some chicken breasts and throw them in a sealable bag. Mix up your seasoning, drizzle the chicken with olive oil, sprinkle on the spices, squeeze half of a lemon in the bag, and them smooch it all together. Massage that chicken. Let it get all relaxed in it’s spicy new outfit and leave to marinate. I usually just let mine sit a few hours, but I bet overnight would be glorious too. If only I was that organised.
Get a little station going and start by warming your naan bread. I have a grill pan I got from Ikea which I could not live without. I toss my naan on, a minute each side, until they are warmed through with lovely grill marks. Toss in some foil to keep warm. While your naans are warming, chop up some lettuce, cucumbers, and onions. Then start grilling your chicken. Of course you could do this outside on your grill too!
Now let’s get saucy. You can use ranch dressing. Buy it if you want. Or you can make it. When I make mine I use this recipe for my spice mix which I then add to low fat sour cream, or greek yogurt. This is awesome stuff to have at hand. I add this spice mix to mashed potatoes, veggies, you name it. It is very versatile and cheaper to make yourself. When added to low fat sour cream or better yet, fat free greek yogurt, it is much better for you as well.
Once your chicken is all lookin fine with his handsome grill marks, let it sit a few minutes and then slice it up. Now it is assembly time! Add some chicken to your already warm naan breads. Top with some onions.
Then some lettuce…
And then some cool cucumber.
Finally pile on drizzle on some of your sauce. Come to momma.
Fold it up, cut in half, eat it like a taco, or use a fork and knife like a civilised person. Either way, make it, and enjoy it!
4 cloves of garlic, minced fine. Can be replaced with 2tsp garlic powder.
3tbs grated onion. Can be replaced with 2tsp onion granules.
1tsp mixed spice
1/4tsp cayenne pepper
1/4tsp black pepper
Mix all of your spices together!
Side notes: Where possible, use fresh ingredients. Sometimes I do not have fresh parsley or coriander to hand, and I would not buy it for only this small amount. So feel free to use dried herbs. Of course fresh garlic and onion creates a better overall taste, but it still tastes amazing using dried versions. If you use all dry spices, you can store any leftovers in a sealed container for next time. Above, I used 5 very small chicken breasts and coated them very well. I still had left over seasoning. You could use 500g of lamb mince, or 250g lamb and 250g of pork/turkey/beef mince. In this case, use all of the seasoning. If you prefer yours to be spicier, then add more cayenne pepper. My little people love this meal so I keep mine low for them. I realise that the addition of cinnamon and mixed spice may seem odd. Believe in it. Trust me.
Does anyone have any food memories from their childhood? Anything that you have rediscovered as an adult? I would love to know what foods trigger memories for you!