My uncle theorised that the reason why street food tasted so good and could not be replicated at home was down to the honest sweat of the vendor. At the time I pulled a face but I secretly agreed with what he was trying to say. My uncle while not a wordsmith had a point worth making. Street food does taste better than it does at home. My interpretation of that is that the wok, plancha, pot or whatever is used imparts a unique flavour. A flavour that is missing from home cooking. I have been in London for a few years now but I still get intense homesick pangs, mostly about food. So while I do not advocate the recreation of street food at home, you’ll only be disappointed, this is a plaster – a temporary measure until the real thing.
To have a successful Shawarma you need fat to keep things moist and flavourful. You also need salad (I avoid cucumber as I despise heated cucumber in sandwiches and kebabs), pickles, tahini and a hot sauce. The hardest part of this is recreating the flavour of the meat. I concluded after much research that the best way of achieving this was to poach the chicken first and once cool put it in a very hot frying pan to crisp up. I poached a whole organic free ranged chicken in some water for about 1.5 hours on very gentle hear. I only used the drumsticks, thigh and wing meat as it’s the most flavoursome. I kept the stock and the remaining meat for mid weak soups and salads. If at all possible it’s worth making the Zhug in advance, as the flavour develops over a short time very nicely.
I was pleased with the result but I was let down by the bread, I bought (perhaps I should have made it) by accident some poor quality Lavash bread so make sure you us good quality bread it’s as important as the filling.
Chicken (2 legs and 2 wings)
2 teaspoons of baharat spice
2 Lavash bread
1 big bunch of fresh coriander
7 green chillies (I used what I had 2 fresh jalapenos,3 very hot and 2 mild)
2 gloves of garlic
5 green cardamom pods
2 teaspoons of black peppercorns
2 garlic gloves
1 teaspoon of caraway seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
60 ml of olive oil
Salt to taste
4 pickled wild cucumbers
Half a red onion thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of parsley finely chopped
150g of red cabbage
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of tahini paste
4 tablespoons of boiling water
Juice of half a lemon
1 garlic clove crushed with salt
- Deseed and cut the tomatoes, place in a bowl with the finely chopped parsley and set aside.
- Slice the red cabbage into another bowl and add the lemon juice, olive oil and salt to taste, set aside.
- Gently pound the cardamom pods to release the black seeds.
- Gently heat the peppercorns, cardamom seeds, caraway and cumin in a frying pan until the aromas are released and for no more than a minute or two. Remove from the heat and grind in a spice grinder, or pestle and mortar, until fine.
- Crush the garlic with salt and place into a blender along with the roughly chopped coriander and chillies. Then add the spice-mix, lemon juice, olive oil. Blend until smooth.
- Adjust seasoning by adding more salt if necessary.
Combine the tahini paste, boiling water, garlic and lemon juice in a bowl. The lemon juice will thicken the tahini.
To construct the Shawarma:
Spread the tahini on the bread, add chicken, pickles, Zhug and salads. Tightly wrap by folding the bottom up and then the sides.
Chips, grilled haloumi, olives and pickles.