The Greek patty known as bifteki in Greek, was usually made from ground lamb meat and was considered a rare treat since meat was not necessarily consumed every day.
Greeks don’t make patties like Americans, they don’t eat plain ground meat, instead they add all sorts of ingredients to them such as oregano, spices, and olive oil.
Many Greeks consider the American style burger bland because it doesn’t have all these ingredients. I remember my mom making “hamburgers” for dinner and little did we know that they were actually biftekia served with ketchup, mustard and a hamburger bun. My mom refused to serve us plain ground meat.
But apart from making them tastier, these additions to the meat have other functions:
- Since meat was expensive and scarce, stale bread and egg were added so that they could “stretch” the meat and make more servings.
- The oregano, cumin, mint and olive oil that are added are all excellent sources of antioxidants that give a nutritional punch to your patty.
- The herbs also reduce the levels of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), compounds that develop when meat is cooked at high temperatures and have been associated with certain types of cancer. So the good news is that if you rub or use dry herbs such as oregano and mint on the meat you can reduce the levels of these harmful compounds. Read on for the recipe
While lamb was mostly used back in the day, today ground beef is common and here is my mom’s quick and easy bifteki recipe.
Mama’s Biftekia – Beef Patties
- 1 pound lean beef
- 1 egg
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dry mint
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1 tablespoon wine
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste or 1 grated tomato
- 1 small onion grated or finely chopped
1. In a large bowl mix the breadcrumbs with all the ingredients except the tomato, onion and meat and just enough water to soak the breadcrumbs.
2. Add the meat, tomato, onion to the breadcrumb mixture and knead with your hands until all the ingredients are well combined.
3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the meat sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
4. Shape into patties of about 2-inch diameter and grill as you normally would grill a beef patty.
*You can also bake them in the oven instead of grilling at 400 degrees F for about 15 minutes.
*You can serve these in a bun with sliced tomato and Feta-Greek yogurt sauce (just mix some greek yogurt with crumbled feta). But I also like biftekia traditionally: plain with lemon.