Florina kebapia are a special type of kebabs made in Florina, Greece. My passion for kebabs and minced meat, in general, is indisputable, but I have lots of good memories that are linked with Florina kebapia, memories of the best period in my life. As a university student in Florina, I had lots of kebapia made by Fotis, a local kebab shop owner. On my last visit to Florina, I looked for Fotis and I found him still cooking kebabs at his son-in-law’s shop, Thomas. Watch our reunion and our conversation in the video below. You will find my version of the recipe for Florina kebapia down below. It’s my interpretation of the recipe, after I did my research. Of course, there are many versions, and every kebab shop owner had his own unique recipe. In the old days, kebabs were made with ground beef, pork, and mutton. Nowadays, they are commonly made with ground beef and pork. The unique thing about this recipe is that we add breadcrumbs. We add only a few selected spices, and we form kebabs small in size, that are similar to Politika soutzoukakia (little flattish and elongated meatballs). Originally, there were street vendors in Florina, who wandered the market and the commercial streets with their cart, selling kebapia. They would put 3-4 kebapia in a bun, topped with spicy chili flakes, and sliced onion. I could write so much more about their story, but I’ll stop here for now. Perhaps on my next journey in my beloved Florina, there will be a special feature for the old kebab sellers. Let’s see how to make Florina kebapia step-by-step.
Pay attention to the preparation stage, which is very important. 25% of mince should be fat (it applies to both types of minced meat). When you start kneading, the mince should be very cold (place the mince in the freezer for 30 minutes before kneading). In a large vessel, mix the two types of ground meat. Soak the bread in cold water, and slightly squeeze, so that there is enough moisture left inside. Add the breadcrumbs to the mince and knead one more time to incorporate the breadcrumbs in the mixture.
In a stone mortar, place all the spices (prefer using spice seeds) and bash them well. Add the salt, and bash them well to combine. This way, you will get a scented salt, which will transfer the spices’ aromas to the mince. Add the scented salt to the mince gradually. Add and knead each time to spread it evenly. Keep kneading, and if the moisture of the breadcrumbs isn’t enough to give a soft texture, add a little cold water gradually. Dip your hands in cold water to keep the mince from sticking to your fingers, and keep kneading. Kneading is the most important factor when making Florina kebapia. Cover the vessel, and refrigerate the mince for at least 24 hours. Repeat kneading for 2-3 times during this period of time, once the mince is cold enough.
A few hours before grilling, use 25g of mince (or even a little less) to shape each little kebab. They should have an elongated shape and the size of a thumb approximately. If you own a sausage machine, you can make them faster and evenly. Place the kebapia in the fridge at low temperature, until it’s time to grill them.
Pile up the charcoals inside the fire cabin of your charcoal grill, and place kindling (alcohol-soaked cotton) sparsely on top. The charcoals will be lit easily, quickly, and without smoke, in 30-35 minutes. While waiting, remove the kebapia from the fridge.
When the charcoals are fully lit, spread them inside the fire cabin, and throw some charcoal ash on them to reduce the emitted heat. Place the grilling grate on your charcoal grill and make sure it’s clean. Place the Florina kebapia immediately on the grilling grate, leaving enough space between them, so that you can turn them easily. Turn them over. Grill all four sides, switching each side no more than two times. Ideally, turn them on each side only once. As you can see in the video, I grilled a few of them on rotation, using the small spits. I couldn’t resist giving it a shot.
When they get a nice brown color, remove them from the grill. You could serve them on a plate with hot & sweet chili flakes (50%-50%) and finely chopped onion. The classic way of serving is stuffing three of them in a bun, and topping them with chili flakes, and chopped onion. The average serving is ten Florina kebapia, and it’s easy to have two servings if you accompany them with good wine. They are the absolute appetizer to accompany a glass of wine, and the best snack as a sandwich. They are the best appetizer when you have a good company.
Happy grilling everyone!