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19
Jun

shawarma-meat cooking copy

The best shawarma I have ever had was at Siddiq in Damascus. Unlike most other shawarma places, they grill theirs over charcoal. Also their marinade is exceptional. Sadly, it’s unlikely I will be going back to Damascus any time soon. And even when I do, who knows if Siddiq will still be there. So, if I feel like having shawarma these days I make my own. Obviously not the way they make it at Siddiq or even elsewhere – ie. by layering the meat onto a large skewer which is then put to rotate in front of a vertical grill – but the way my Lebanese butcher in London taught me: by slicing the meat into long thin slivers and marinating it before sauteing it quickly over a medium-high heat. He slices the meat very thinly but I prefer thicker strips so that it stays pink.

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He adds onions to his marinade but I am still debating whether I like them with the meat or not.

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The classic shawarma marinade is more complex than the one I give here but I am happy with my simpler version, made with my very own 7-spice mix which I initially thought was heavy on the nutmeg but in fact it is not.

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Once you toss the meat with the marinade, you let it sit for at least two hours.

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While the meat is marinating, you can prepare the garnish ingredients for the sandwich: tahini sauce, tomatoes, mint and turnip pickles.

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The interesting thing about tahini is that it thickens when you stir the lemon juice into it and you would think that it would dilute as liquid is added to it but don’t let this worry you. All will be fine in the end. I have been meaning to ask Harold McGee to explain why this happens but I haven’t yet.

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And here, you see it starting to dilute again as I added water.

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The garnish ingredients for the sandwich beautifully prepared by my gorgeous friend Amy. Unfortunately my turnip pickles lost all their colour because the jar was in my kitchen where there is a lot of light – I had never seen this happen before. They still tasted fine though.

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Now you are ready to saute the meat. I do this in a non-stick pan with no added oil over a medium-high heat and really for a couple of minutes to soften the onions and sear the meat leaving it pink inside.

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Amy heating the bread. We used Turkish.

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The ingredients beautifully arranged down the middle (again by Amy): meat first then the garnishes then the tahini.

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Amy’s beautiful hands wrapping the bread around the meat and garnishes. The sandwich is not particularly pretty once it’s fully wrapped and we could have done something to make it photogenic but it would have cooled and not been as nice to eat. As we are both fines bouches, we wanted to enjoy it at its optimum! And here below is what Siddiq’s Shawarma looks like as it is grilling against the charcoal grill. It will be my first stop when I return to Damascus, that and Ramadan’s qatayef and Dimashq’s ice cream and so many other delicious things!

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Lamb Shawarma (Shawarma Lahmeh)

Serves 4-6

800 g lamb from the shoulder, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice or 7-spice mixture

salt

freshly ground black pepper

2-3 round pita breads about 8-inch diameter or 4-6 oval ones

4-6 small tomatoes, thinly sliced

1/2 medium-sized red onion, very thinly sliced

4-6 gherkins or 1 pickled turnip, thinly sliced lengthways

handful mint leaves

Put the meat in a large mixing bowl, add the onion, lemon juice, olive oil, spices, salt and pepper and mix well. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.

Place a large sauté pan over a medium-high heat. When it is very hot add the meat and sauté for a couple of minutes or until done to your liking.

Depending on how much meat you like in your sandwich, the amount given in this recipe will make up to 6 sandwiches. If you are using round pita breads, tear them open at the seams to have four to six separate circles. Arrange equal quantities of meat down the middle of each bread. Garnish with equal quantities of tomato, onion, pickles and herbs and drizzle on as much tahini sauce as you like. Roll each sandwich quite tight. Wrap the bottom half of the sandwiches with a paper napkin and serve immediately. If you are using oval pita bread, open at the seam to create a large pocket. Spread the bottom half with the tahini sauce and fill each bread with equal amounts of sandwich ingredients. Serve immediately.

Tahini sauce (Tarator)

In Egypt, this sauce (or dip depending on how thick you make it) is called tahina and it is always served in café/restaurants as part of the initial spread for the breaking of the fast of Ramadan. In Lebanon it is served plain with fried fish or mixed with chopped parsley or cilantro to use in falafel sandwiches. Serves 4

1/2 cup tahini

juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

1/3 cup water

sea salt

Put the tahini in a mixing bowl and whisk in the lemon juice and water, gradually and alternately — this is to make sure that you get the right balance of taste while keeping the consistency as it should be, like creamy yogurt. The tahini will first thicken to a purée-like consistency before starting to dilute again. If you decide to use less lemon juice, make up for the loss of liquid by adding a little more water or vice versa. Add salt to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

©Anissa Helou — Both recipes from Mediterranean Street Food


There is 20 comments on this post


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Takeaway service to E8?


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    any time darling 🙂 we could exchange specialities 🙂


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I just starting salivating when I saw your headline. Love shawarma but have always been a little worried about meat that spins around all day. Can’t wait to try this… now about those turnip pickles… lovely idea!


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    would have been even more lovely had they kept their colour 🙂


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Tarator is so amazingly various. Or is it just that the word is applied to so many various sauces and dips? The first time I had something called tarator it had a heavy component of walnuts! It was served on hamburgers!!! in a diner/luncheonette on Manhattan’s upper East Side that I thought was Greek-run but maybe was really Turkish? I sometimes had lunch there many years ago when I would get bored with the Met cafeteria; I’ve never forgotten it.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    there are different types of tarator. the turkish version is with nuts, soft breadcrumb, garlic & oil and it can be walnuts or hazelnuts. i have a recipe for it in mediterranean street food. then you have the tahini tarator which is lebanese/syrian/jordanian/palestinian then you have a v delicate pine nuts tarator. i have a recipe for it in modern mezze and it’s served with fish and other dishes. it is quite precious given how expensive pine nuts are. am i seeing you in july? xx


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Aah, so good. A mis-remembering of what we had in the freezer meant last minute change of plans, so I called the takeaway and had kebab delivered. The lamb shish was particularly tender. But oh, the shawarma looks good, Aunty A!


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    glad you like it kavey. it also tasted v good even if i say so myself 🙂


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Before I read this I thought ‘why would I ever make my own shawarma’. You’ll know why – there are so many places that serve them in Dubai and they’ll home deliver too. However, once I scrolled through those pictures and read all about the garnishes you added and the special spice mix, I changed my mind.
    I hope we all get to go to Damascus again soon. That would be a sharwarma to celebrate with.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    it’s v different from commercial shawarma and more wholesome in a way, so definitely worth trying. and definitely siddiq in damascus when the monsters are gone 🙂


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    As a certified shawarma addict with little access to the ‘real deal’, having a make-at-home recipe is a requirement! When in Kuwait once we tried shawarma from a Syrian vendor, who put pomegranate syrup in it. Amazing! I’m looking forward to visiting a peaceful, democratic Syria in the future, and enjoying these and all the other treasures she has to impart.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I also make it at home, but I marinate it overnight with a Shawarma marinade mix that I bought from Daaboul in Beirut. I bake it in the oven for about an hour with slices of onion and tomatoes and just like you, I serve it with homemade tahini sauce, pickled turnip. Did you ever try Shawarma al Rayan in Damascus? it is very good too.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    no, i am totally faithful to siddiq, and one hour in the oven is too long. the meat will not be pink as i like it 🙂


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    yes, the syrians love pomegranate syrup and i’ve had it with in midan in damascus. have a great pic of that vendor and his shawarma in my mediterranean street food book 🙂


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Looks divine! Have always wanted to re-create the ones I had from childhood – I think the tahini thickening is a bit like making a chocolate ganache, its an emulsion starting, and with chocolate and tahini the first bit is for the parts to “seize” they relax as you add more liquid and keep beating. Must buy some tahini! Thanks for sharing this Anissa xxx


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    you are welcome chantal and make sure you buy a lebanese or syrian tahini 🙂


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    hi Anissa.

    that looks delicious. is this a recipe that one could make with chicken instead of lamb? or is that complete blasphemy? thank you.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    absolutely not blasphemy. you can use chicken but when you come to make the sandwich, use garlic and not tahini sauce 🙂


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Thanks. Looking forward to trying to cook a chicken version tomorrow evening!


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Anissa, thank you for this amazing dish! I tried the recipe for the first time, and I must say that preparing tahini sauce is a little challenging, but not unachievable. Moreover, I dislike using onions in the marinade, so avoided them. Finally, a wonderful delicacy to rely on during celebrations.

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