Souvla = large pieces of meat BBQ’d on a very large stick.
Souvla, the word conjures an image to those in the know; slow cooked chunks of lamb turning on a skewer over ashen coals. The smell of sizzling meat meandering through the air..
You may have heard the term ‘souvlaki’ which is Greek for small pieces of meat or vegetables cooked on a small skewer. Souvla is the Cypriot name for much larger pieces of meat cooked on a spit and is perfect for having friends round for a barbecue.
Now let’s clear something up, Souvla isn’t a kebab – it’s an event.
You can’t eat souvla in a nice cutesy piece of pita bread – these things are massive; they need a plate, cutlery, at the very least two hands and a mouth that don’t mind getting dirty.
Cooking meat on a stick over glowing embers has been done for a thousand years and with very good reason – it tastes bloody amazing! The reason I love cooking on a rotisserie BBQ is the food cooks evenly, comes out uber tender and succulent and because it is self-basting (i.e. all those lovely cooking juices keep basting the meat as it turns) it is packed with flavour.
Watch my video of me doing my barbecue lamb shoulder on my new TheoCooks BBQ!
This is my recipe for Lamb Souvla (slow cooked BBQ lamb cooked on a large skewer using a rotisserie barbecue).
The lamb shoulder is cut up and put on a rotating spit over sizzling charcoal and is quite possibly one of the most natural and delicious ways to cook lamb, or any meat for that matter. The real trick is less being more.
Top Souvla Tips:
1. Buy the best quality lamb shoulder you can get (shoulder works best for this recipe)
2. Ask your butcher to chop the lamb shoulder into ‘fist’ sized pieces (you’ll get about 10 +/- chunks from an average sized shoulder), a good butcher will cut straight through the bone and that is perfect – you want the bone left in.
3. This recipe uses the long skewers (about 70cm long).
4. You want enough charcoal to last a few hours and the coals just turned white/ashened when you are ready to BBQ the lamb shoulder skewer.
This is less a recipe more a how-to. To be fair, this Greek Cypriot BBQ lamb shoulder recipe couldn’t be easier but it does help if you have a TheoCooks BBQ to cook it on (alternatively you could cook this on a generic BBQ which I’ll take a guess at below ).
1 lamb shoulder – cut into chunks by your butcher
3 tbl olive oil
2 tbl dried oregano
1 tbl sea salt flakes
1/2 tbl ground pepper
1 lemon for seasoning after it’s been cooked.
- Place the lamb chunks into a bowl, add the olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano and mix to coat the meat.
- Place one lamb chunk on a stable chopping board; rest the tip of the skewer on the meat (so the skewer is pointing vertically downwards) and then push hard so the skewer pierces the bone and goes through it. If it’s a really tough/thick bone just go as close as you can to it.
- Continue until all pieces are on the skewer – try not to squash them next to each other to much. They should be touching but not crowded.
- Place the skewer over the coals (adjust height to about 12 inches above the coals), turn the motor on and it should be ready in about 2 hours. But keep checking after 1.5 hours. You can tell when the meat is done as it will be more tender to the touch and you may notice some bones starting to protrude from the meat.
- Once cooked simply hold the skewer with the point on a chopping board (vertically) and using a fork / back of a knife push down each piece of BBQ lamb shoulder until all are removed.
- Put on a serving dish, gently cover with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving – when ready to serve, give a little squeeze of lemon and another dusting of salt.
Now close your eyes again and inhale the joy of lamb souvla…
Goes well with tons of people, cold beer and something green (like a salad?) to avoid turning into a true caveman!
If you want your own TheoCooks BBQ like the one in the video – check this out.
OK – you don’t have a Greek BBQ (why not??!!), if you don’t you can try the following – but I must emphasise I’ve not done this myself…
Lamb shoulder – leave it whole, season, place on a grill on one of those old fashioned BBQ’s. 🙂
Move the coals away to the edges (so indirect heat), bring the temperature to about 170c, cover and check after a couple of hours, but should be done in three.
I imagine you’ll want to turn it a few times during cooking (and let it rest once done!).
That should work…!
3 thoughts on “Souvla – How to make Lamb Souvla (Slow Cooked BBQ Lamb Cypriot Style)”
Yassou. I am a Kiwi living in Australia. The first time I came over in 1986 I landed in Melbourne, the largest collection of Greeks out side Athens. It was here I met my to be best friend George Taliadorous. He came from a village in Cyprus called Dali, outside Nicosia. Of Scottish heritage and from such a young country, we didn’t really have a culture. Not in comparison to, say, the Greek culture. My ancestors were still learning to put a stone on a stick to make an axe while George’s ancestors were discussing philosophy. This became apparent when we were both faced with a complex issue. He had millenniums of inherited wisdom to draw from, I did not. He had my respect. I was a little in awe, young and impressionable. George introduced me to a combination of his culture and the Greek culture. While Athens Greece and Cyprus had developed and become more cosmopolitan, the Greek immigrants in Melbourne had hung on to their culture as it was when they left to come to Australia (remember, this was the 80s). Relatives of young Greeks visiting from the homelands could not believe that their female cousins were chaperoned and had to be home by midnight!
The things I enjoyed the most were the food, the music and the dancing. I adopted his culture as my own. I had never seen such beautiful women either. We ate in many Greek restaurants and Clubs. I took on the injustice of the invasion of the Turks into northern Cyprus and angry at the USA for condoning it so they could get an air base in Turkey. But that is another issue. In ‘89 I returned to NZ. Oh how I missed George, Melbourne and those late night giros on our way home. I had changed. My mindset was different. I got married and had four children. George went back to Dali. My wife and kids got caught up in my enthusiasm for all things Greek. After some unfortunate circumstances, we lost everything except the family unit. I was crashing, the black dog of depression was biting at my heels. Julie, my wife decided to take me to Sydney for a holiday. I never went back. On my first day I ended up with two jobs. We were staying with Julie’s bridesmaid. I sent Julie home to pack up and sell off everything and come back with the kids. She did. We lied to Mums Cas, our Greek Realestate agent and told her we only had two kids. Got a two bedroom unit in Brighton Le Sands. We started here in Australia, in Sydney with $1000, nine suitcases and four kids. We have never worked so hard in our lives. I was doing two 8.5hr shifts back to back six days a week. On Sunday I only worked a night shift so I could spend the day with the kids which most often meant the beach, it was free. We were saving to buy investment property/properties on the Central Coast in NSW. Julie was working amazing hours too. Our oldest child had to walk the younger two home from school and pick up our two year old from day care. The day care didn’t like it but that’s just the way it was. We ate spaghetti or baked beans (only Watties) every second night. Once a month the kids were allowed a treat ie. McDonalds or KFC or whatever, OR we could walk down and get a giros from the Souvlaki Bar on the corner in Brighton Le Sands. That’s what they chose every time.
For my 40th birthday, Julie took me to Cyprus to see George. OMG! It was fantastic. And I was introduced to the Cypriot BBQ and Souvla, and quail done the same way. Oh and a real favourite in this family, Kleftiko!! My kids from young have eaten tzatziki straight from the bowl by the spoonful like Skippies eat ordinary yoghurt.
So, anyway, on Sunday all the family (except Grace, the baby, she is still in Townsville) and their partners and kids are coming over for our Greek feast. Julie is out right now getting the shoulder of pork from the butcher for Souvla. We have quail, baby octopus , Sheftalies home made with real lace fro the butcher, Dolmades, lol, Koupepia (good babies), Greek salad, tzatziki, Souvlaki bread from the Greek shop, like pita bread, village salad, Taramosalaa,, Spanakopita and for dessert, home made Galaktoboureko. Our only problem is we can’t find our electric motor for our Cypriot BBQ. We have a battery one but it will only turn one skewer. We could go to “The Greek Shop” as we affectionately call it in West End, but they are about $280, much cheaper on EBay.
Lol. That was a long story just to tell you we are having a Greek feast cooked over charcoal on our Cypriot BBQ. Oopa!
That was a massive story! But lovely to hear your life in a snapshot – and ultimately I hope the Greek feast is a success (but sounds like it will be!)
This is my favourite thing to cook on the BBQ. Lamb shoulder chunks slowing turning on a spit, it’s the way lamb shoulder should be cooked. Falls of the bone, melts in the mouth..my word.. buy yourself a Greek BBQ and cook Souvla!