Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Greek marinated pork tenderloin souvlaki with loquat and dried currant bulgur pilaf, charred red peppers, tzatziki and grilled bread with olive oil and oregano

When I’m inspired by an ingredient, it can lead to the creation of one of the most heavenly cakes (I’m too in love with my loquat cake, I know), but it can also lead me to create a whole savory feast like this one.

It all started with loquats. I wanted to incorporate them in a savory dish and I thought, why not a bulgur pilaf? Yes! That was a great idea; with hot and warming spices, herbs to pair with their fruitiness, dried currants and grape molasses to counteract their tartness, mint to freshen it all up and yes, that was it.

But we are meat eaters in this household, and no matter how great a dish bulgur pilaf can be, I wanted to create a whole feast around it. I immediately thought of pork souvlaki, Greek grilled pork skewers, but I didn’t want it to be heavy, so the classic and insanely flavorful pork neck that’s traditionally used to make Greek souvlaki was out of the question. I opted for pork tenderloin instead, which I use often because it’s lean (even leaner than chicken breast), tender (of course) and extremely tasty and juicy when cooked properly. Marinating it does the trick of adding extra flavor and making it even more tender.

I marinated the pork overnight in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, Greek dried wild oregano, fresh rosemary among other ingredients, and the next day, skewered it with some red onion and green bell peppers.

Together with a proper tzatziki, a few freshly grilled and utterly juicy and scrumptious charred long red peppers, and grilled bread with olive oil and oregano which is a staple side for souvlaki in Greece, it was a feast to surpass many.

Above all, it is balanced in both flavor and texture, and it’s not just a meal, it’s an experience, the way we Greeks do it; sit at the table, share food, enjoy it slowly with good company and a few beers.

Juicy, tender meat, smoky red peppers, thick and vibrant tzatziki, crunchy bread and incredible flavors from the bulgur pilaf; slightly hot and spicy, refreshing from the mint and deeply earthy from the bulgur wheat, juicy from the sharp loquats, sweet from the currants with a honeyed acidity from the molasses, a nice warming flavor from the cardamom, crunch from the almonds and intensely aromatic overall.

There’s such a beautiful array of flavors and textures in this dish. We absolutely and unequivocally loved it and I hope you enjoy it as well!!

Greek marinated pork tenderloin souvlaki with loquat and dried currant bulgur pilaf, charred red peppers, tzatziki and grilled bread with olive oil and oregano

I use a cast-iron grill/griddle that I place directly on my gas stove top. If you don’t have that, you can use a regular grill/griddle pan (use a heavy, good quality pan for best results) or an outdoor grill.

Bear in mind that you will need to start the night before with marinating the pork.

The bulgur can be served also with fish or on its own with some good feta or yoghurt even. Also, apricots would go great in the dish if you cannot find loquats.

Yield: enough for 4 people


for the Greek pork souvlaki (makes 9-10 large skewers)

for the marinade
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp Greek wild dried oregano
2 tsp Greek dried mint
1 dried bay leaf, cut into 4 pieces
1 sprig fresh rosemary
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tsp sweet red pepper powder
Freshly ground black pepper, 8-9 grinds of the pepper mill

600 g pork tenderloin, cut into small, equal-sized cubes (5-6 cm)

1-2 green bell peppers, cut a bit larger than the pork
1 red onion, layers separated and cut a bit larger than the pork
Sea salt

Lemon, for serving

for the loquat and dried currant bulgur
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, grated or chopped finely in a food processor
7 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 dried bay leaves
½ tsp Greek boukovo (hot red chilli flakes) or Aleppo pepper (pul biber)
40 g dried currants
2 Tbsp blanched halved almonds
300 g coarse bulgur wheat
1 Tbsp petimezi (Greek grape-must syrup/grape molasses)
600 g hot water
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
230-250 g fresh loquats (weight after peeling and stoning 200 g), peeled, stoned and roughly chopped (read here how to prep them)
2-3 fresh mint sprigs, leaves picked (keep ¼ of them for serving)

for the tzatziki
500 g Greek yoghurt, full-fat
70 g peeled (and deseeded preferably) cucumber, cut into tiny cubes
3-4 garlic cloves (depending on how garlicky you want it, I prefer it veeery garlicky), peeled and grated
A handful of dill, chopped finely
½ tsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper

for the peppers
4 long red peppers
Sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil

for the bread
Sourdough bread or baguette, thickly sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Greek wild dried oregano

Extra lemon, for serving

Special equipment: wooden skewers, grill/griddle pan


for the Greek pork souvlaki
The night before, start marinating the pork.
In a large glass bowl, add all the ingredients for the marinade and mix well with a spoon. Add the pork pieces and mix well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, prepare the wooden skewers for the grill by soaking them in water for at least 30 minutes.
Heat your grill/griddle over a medium-high heat. I oil it lightly with sunflower oil before I turn on the heat.
Thread the peppers, onion and pork onto the wooden skewers. Start with a piece of pepper, then 2 pieces of pork, one piece of onion, 2 pieces of pork and finish with a piece of pepper. Don’t throw away the marinade that’s left in the bowl.
Once you’re done skewering all the meat, season well with salt and place on the well-preheated grill. Using the rosemary sprig from the marinade, brush the meat with the remaining juices of the marinade. Throw away the rosemary.
Cook the pork for 6-7 minutes per side, until slightly charred and meat juices run clear. Don’t overcook in order to stay tender.
Serve with plenty of lemon juice squeezed over the top.

for the loquat and dried currant bulgur
Heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat in a large saucepan and sauté the onion until soft. Add the cardamom pods, bay leaves, boukovo or (Aleppo pepper), currants and almonds and sauté for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the bulgur wheat and sauté lightly. Then add the grape molasses and the water, season with salt and black pepper and stir well. Bring to the boil, put the lid on, turn heat down to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes. At this point, the bulgur should be almost done. Add the chopped loquats and chopped mint and stir gently. Continue to cook on low until the bulgur is cooked and has absorbed all the water. It shouldn’t be mushy or al dente but it should be fully cooked, tender yet retaining its shape. Remove the pan from the heat and leave with the lid on for 10 minutes before fluffing the bulgur with a fork.
Serve with a few whole, small mint leaves as a garnish.

for the tzatziki
Best made about an hour before serving.
In a large bowl, add all the ingredients and mix well with a spoon. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Keep covered in the fridge until time to serve.

for the peppers
Heat your grill/griddle over a medium-high heat. I oil it lightly with sunflower oil before I turn on the heat. Place the whole peppers on the grill and cook them until they collapse and soften, and they are charred. Be careful not to overcook them, an indication of which is when they start releasing a lot of juices.
Serve sprinkled with sea salt and, if you wish, drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil.

for the bread
Heat your grill/griddle over a medium-high heat. I oil it lightly with sunflower oil before I turn on the heat.
Arrange the bread slices in a platter/pan in one layer and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with dried oregano (a pinch for each side of a bread slice). Turn around and do the same on the other side of each slice.
Place the bread slices on the grill and cook on both sides until they have grill marks and they are crunchy but not hard.
You can add a tiny squeeze of lemon over each one when you eat them.

Serving the whole feast
You can either serve each individual dish in its own plate/bowl etc., or you can do what I did if you have a huge serving platter.
Add the bulgur in the middle, top with the pork souvlaki (the bulgur will absorb all the delicious juices from the pork) and sprinkle with some fresh mint. Arrange the peppers around the bulgur and dollop the tzatziki in between. Serve with the bread, some extra lemons for squeezing and any remaining quantities of the dishes in separate bowls/plates for extra servings.



  1. How funny, Magda - I was actually searching MLEK a couple of weeks ago looking for a souvlaki recipe and meant to email you and ask. As if you have ESP, the recipe appeared today. I used to love souvlaki prior to my garlic allergy... and have not had it for 30 years! I was craving it recently and, thus, was looking for a recipe. Thanks for this - I will definitely try it soon. Loquats can be found here but never in the markets - only if you know someone who has a tree! I might have to use apricots. So excited!

    1. Haha great minds! You can certainly skip the garlic for the souvlaki or add some shallots if you want. I hope you enjoy it and would love to hear back from you about it. xx