Shelby and I left Virginia when we were young. I was 18, she was 19, and we had a baby. It's hard to remember but I'm pretty sure I thought I knew everything at that age. It was when we were on our own I started to play around with recipes from a Betty Crocker cook book my grandparents sent us. My grandfather was an employee of General Mills a long time ago and the plant he worked at closed down. The cool thing though, is that he received gift boxes from the company for years and years afterwards because of the closure. The cook book being of those things he received and my grandmother sent us when we were young and making our way into the world. It's something I cherish.
What's that have to do with beefteki? I guess not a whole lot but when I think about this recipe, I think about our young family starting out and learning we didn't know everything. We ended up in Germany while I was in the army, we say it was the best three years of our lives. We loved the culture, being centrally located in "The Continent", and Greek food! Yeah, we ended up eating a lot of Greek food and stuff similar to it. There were a lot of Greeks and Turks living in Germany and our time there allowed to enjoy things like beefteki, donner kebabs, etc... Ah, the memories of drinking downtown and grabbing a "gyros" (that's what we called the donner kebab over there for some reason) and having garlic, death breath makes me warm and fuzzy inside.
The Beefteki though, that was something Shelby fell in love with! We would always go to a gasthaus next to the Bahnhof in a small town called Parsberg. I'm pretty sure it is this place called Taverne Korfu, it's where Shelby discovered the Beefteki! The owner at the gasthaus was very kind, I always remember him smoking a cigarette near the bar. It was cozy, a place where you could nurse a beer all day and no one say a word about it. Our kids were still babies and he would give them treats. Sometimes he would take one of them into the kitchen for a piece of candy. I wish I knew his name...his daughter (I assume) worked as the runner and behind the bar. Sometimes other families would see the kids and then invite them to sit with them and buy them ice cream. It was our first experience with communal seating too. Here in the U.S. we're used to getting our own table, keeping separated from the other diners. We liked being part of the "economy" as it was called. One thing I learned is no matter where you go in the world, if you're cool, they'll be cool. Oh, one thing the taverna owner would do is correct my German. I remember once time having to say "81" (the menu item number I ordered a lot) in German what seemed like a million times before he would take my order.
I still wonder if they're still there, I'd love to find out one day...
After coming back to the States in the 1990s we couldn't find a restaurant that served anything like the Beefteki we had in Germany. Searching online back then didn't net any hits, the huge boom in food sites hadn't arrived yet. I did manage to find enough Greek recipes that I was able to put together a basic recipe to build on. So over the years I tweaked my original recipe to what it is here. I originally started using a mixture of veal and lamb, then eventually phasing the veal and using just lamb. I mention that because beefteki is normally made from beef (I guess the name makes that obvious.) I think you can find a bunch of them now but there's no need for that. You have my once secret recipe to make and enjoy at home!
You need to serve this with my Tzatziki recipe linked here. Yes I said "need"! Let's start cooking, this is what you'll need.
- 1 lb Ground Lamb
- 1 Small Onion, finely minced
- 4-8 oz. of Goat or Feta Cheese
- 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1 Tbsp Mint
- 1 Tsp Dried Oregano
- 1 Tsp Dried Parsley
- 1 Tsp Minced Garlic
- 1/2 Tsp Dried Thyme
- 1/4 Tsp Cumin
- 1/4 Tsp Nutmeg
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Dress Beefteki with:
- 1 Lemon sliced in wedges
- Olive Oil
Before You Start:
- I always grill these. I guess you can try these in a skillet to get a nice crust on them, but the smoke and grill marks are part of the deal here.
I don't need to tell you to heat the grill up first before using it right?
- I listed 4-8 ounces of goat or feta cheese, add as much as you like! I prefer soft goat cheese but feta is just as good.
- This recipe doubles-up well too, make a ton of it. I get about four beefteki per pound of lamb. You'll be happy you did.
- Some times the heat makes the cheese ooze out a bit, this is OK! It's kinda sexy actually...
- Add all the ingredients - except for the cheese - into a large bowl and mix it well to incorporate all the spices and herbs.
- Once mixed make a football shaped portion in your hand and then push your thumb int the center to create a space for the cheese.
- Add a tablespoon or two of cheese to the center of the beefteki then fold or pinch it closed. Ensure it sealed so the cheese doesn't cook out.
- Brush with olive oil before placing on the grill.
- Cook for several minutes on each side till desired doneness.
I hope you enjoy my famous (famous in these parts at least) Beefteki recipe! It's something I never thought I'd share but it's something the world needs.