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rajsuman

Shawarma

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I love shawarmas so much I could live on them for weeks without complaining. Chicken shawarma is an absolute favourite. Has anyone here tried making them at home? I've tried a few shawarmas here in Dublin, but none of them come up to the standard that I've found in Dubai.

I have a few questions and I'd appreciate any advice.

1) I've seen a lot of recipes for shawarma when I googled, but I've no idea which one of them might be a good one. Would any of you have a recipe?

2) I'm gonna have to cook the chicken either in the oven or under the grill. Will that affect the taste in a negative way? How can I get it to be crispy?

TIA,

Suman

Edited to add this link.


Edited by rajsuman (log)

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I hate to be the bearer of evil tidings, but even though it is possible to make things similar to shawarma (or, if we prefer donner kebab), without an upright perpetually revolving spit and heat coming from a three-cornered gas of wood-buring fire the result simply cannot be the same.

Also please let's keep in mind that genuine shawarma is made from lamb, that topped and interspersed with generous layers of lamb fat and cut off only as the meat reaches its level of perfection.

Heck, in Israeli and Lebanese supermarkets they even sell pre-packaged frozen schawarma that can be reheated in either a skillet, an oven or even (the fates protect us) in a microwave oven. In the simplest vernacular - that ain't nowhere like the real thing!

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I love shawarmas so much I could live on them for weeks without complaining. Chicken shawarma is an absolute favourite. Has anyone here tried making them at home? I've tried a few shawarmas here in Dublin, but none of them come up to the standard that I've found in Dubai.

I have a few questions and I'd appreciate any advice.

1) I've seen a lot of recipes for shawarma when I googled, but I've no idea which one of them might be a good one. Would any of you have a recipe?

2) I'm gonna have to cook the chicken either in the oven or under the grill. Will that affect the taste in a negative way? How can I get it to be crispy?

TIA,

Suman

Edited to add this link.

Lots of fat and a quick broil or grill will give you a crispy/crucnhy finish. True, there are so many dishes that are best left to the experts in their home countries. But when you are far from home and you need your fix what can you do?

I've never tried this, even though I dearly miss the Turkish and Algerian owned kebab sandwich shops in France. Maybe you could get a similar effect by cooking very thinly pounded chicken, lamb, or beef, seasoned with spices (I can give you a spice recipe, but they vary from country to country, region to region, neighbor to neighbor.) over hot coals or under the broiler?

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If you have a wide, flat skewer and a deep roasting tin you can reproduce something akin to a shawarma or doner by cooking it balanced over the tin in a very hot oven, turning to crisp and cook through and slicing off the outermost layer as you go. It is a bit raggedy, but the taste and texture are definitely comparable to a conventional upright gas heater.

I interleave lamb fat, pounded shoulder and spiced mince, secure and compress with an onion at each end and it works well enough.

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If you have a wide, flat skewer and a deep roasting tin you can reproduce something akin to a shawarma or doner by cooking it balanced over the tin in a very hot oven, turning to crisp and cook through and slicing off the outermost layer as you go.  It is a bit raggedy, but the taste and texture are definitely comparable to a conventional upright gas heater.

I interleave lamb fat, pounded shoulder and spiced mince, secure and compress with an onion at each end and it works well enough.

This does sound like it will work. Do you think mayeb using the broiler and rotating it every so often will make for even a better result? Can you elaborate on the spiced mince and/or marinade you use?

Elie

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If you have a wide, flat skewer and a deep roasting tin you can reproduce something akin to a shawarma or doner by cooking it balanced over the tin in a very hot oven, turning to crisp and cook through and slicing off the outermost layer as you go.  It is a bit raggedy, but the taste and texture are definitely comparable to a conventional upright gas heater.

I interleave lamb fat, pounded shoulder and spiced mince, secure and compress with an onion at each end and it works well enough.

This does sound like it will work. Do you think mayeb using the broiler and rotating it every so often will make for even a better result? Can you elaborate on the spiced mince and/or marinade you use?

Elie

I marinade the flattened slices of shoulder in milk, olive oil, onion juice, salt, pepper and sometimes some wild oregano if cooking a doner. If making a shawarma, the marinade is (of course) quite different: citrus zest, oil, cardamom, cloves etc. - can't quite remember exactly what, though it's written down somewhere.

As for the spiced mince, I guess I do something a bit like an adana kebab: cumin, coriander, pepper, chilli, often with some onion juice and crushed poached garlic.

I have tried with the broiler but prefer just using a hot oven as it cooks the underside by indirect heat at the same time and ensures the fat and mince cook through from the inside out (with the skewer conducting heat).

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Perhaps this could be done on a rotisserie on a gas grill. It would be done with the meat on its side, but that doesn’t seem like it would be a significant problem as long as it was secure on the metal spike.

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I'm really starting to miss the North African and Turkish owned fast food places in France. They thinly slice the meat as it cooks and serve it in a crusty baguette. A little mayonaisse and harissa. Tasty! My wife couldn't get enough of them and the merguez sandwiches too. I think that the spice mixtures used over there have cumin as a top note, some coriander, fennel, ground red pepper and garlic.

I can't see why the rottiserie wouldn't work, except that there would be a lot of fat dripping onto the flames. It would be fun for a big party. I don't know if I would do it just for a few people.

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A disposable foil tray could be used to catch the drippings without preventing the meat from cooking. I use the bottom portion of a disposable lasagna pan as a shield to prevent scorching when roasting coffee on the rotisserie. I think I’ll give this a try.

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We expect a full report with photos. You have to try those sandwiches I mentioned though. So good!

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We expect a full report with photos.  You have to try those sandwiches I mentioned though. So good!

Of course. Any suggestions for the marinade? Yoghurt, garlic, cumin, coriander, red pepper, oregano, salt, and pepper is what I've got in my mind.

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Yoghurt in a marinade wouldn't be North African, more Middle Eastern I suppose. Also North Africans would use za'atar (the herb that's like wild thyme not the spice mixture). But the North Africans think of kebab cooked in this manner as a Turkish dish which it is. The individual sized kebabs on little skewers we call brochettes. (just a little trivia)

I would use cumin, coriander, fennel, red pepper, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Maybe a little sumac and saffron too if I have it. Turmeric would be a nice addition as well.

But your mixture sounds pretty tasty. The yoghurt would add a nice tang.

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We expect a full report with photos.  You have to try those sandwiches I mentioned though. So good!

Of course. Any suggestions for the marinade? Yoghurt, garlic, cumin, coriander, red pepper, oregano, salt, and pepper is what I've got in my mind.

No yogurt. The Lebanese version also has some sort of acid in the marinade. Namely vinegar. The base should be olive oil and red wine vinegar in addition to some cardamom, cumin, allspice and any other spice that you like.

I am looking forward to this one!

Elie

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So no yoghurt in the Middle Eastern versions as well?

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How about we decide where this Shararma is supposed to be from? The same basic dish is made using different marinades all over the middle east and north africa.

Turmeric and saffron can't hurt. I think I'll stick with oregano instead of thyme as my oregano plants are huge and the thyme isn't really enjoying winter much. If the marinade has a strong acid in it, then in theory the meat shouldn't spend as much time in it as it otherwise could. I was thinking 24-48 hours in the marinade. The choice to use yoghurt is based on nothing other than the need for a liquid and the fact that it makes a fair number of Afghani lamb dishes taste incredible. Olive oil would work too but it doesn't seem like it would add as much flavor.

Authenticity is of little concern to me as this dish like any other which appears over a huge geographic region borders on impossible to define. Maybe I should stop at my favorite shawarma shop in San Francisco tonight and ask what they marinade their lamb in.

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Well you DID ask for suggestions here. :biggrin: I think I mentioned in the couscous thread, spice blends vary from neighbor to neighbor, really brother to brother. Make it as you like.

I was thinking lemon juice would be nice too.

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Well you DID ask for suggestions here.  :biggrin:  I think I mentioned in the couscous thread, spice blends vary from neighbor to neighbor, really brother to brother. Make it as you like.

I was thinking lemon juice would be nice too.

Do ya think I'm off base in avoiding a strong acid? It would seem that the meat would lose its texture spending two days in an acidic marinade. Maybe the way to go is to layer the spice mixture between the slices of meat to incorporate them in the dish rather than leaving the meat in the mixture for so long.

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I wouldn't add acid to the marinade. I'd squeeze some lemon juice while it was cooking. When I was in France I asked alot of kebab places for their recipes. Everyone refused except one place. They told me they layer the spice mixture in between the meat slices and let it marinade overnight. They didn't use an acid.

You're right, too much acid in a marinade would cause the meat to break down too much if left too long. (How many times did I use the word "too" in that sentence?)

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Of cource, not too much acid, or it will alter the texture too much. However, I would still avoid using yogurt. But this is your Shawarma Melkor, so try it as you please and let us know.

Elie

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Hmm... It never occured to me to assemble it before putting it in the marinade. I was planning to assemble it right before cooking. It seems likely that layering the meat and marinade and weighting it down for a day or two would help it hold together and make it more flavorful. I think that's my new plan.

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Of cource, not too much acid, or it will alter the texture too much. However, I would still avoid using yogurt. But this is your Shawarma Melkor, so try it as you please and let us know.

Elie

What's the reason for avoiding yoghurt? The marinade I listed earlier in the thread isn't anything I'm the least bit attached to, it's just what my initial thoughts were. The logic behind using yoghurt is that it would add a nice tang, provide some moisture, and be more likely to be absorbed by the meat than a oil based marinade.

While we are sorting out all the details, any advice on what cuts of lamb I should use?

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I'm inclined to suggest meat from the leg. But I'm guessing that a more economic combination of leg and shoulder meat is probably more often used. Maybe you can get some fat scraps from your butcher if the meat is too lean.

I'm getting seriously hungry. Crispy fat! Yummmmmmmmmmm!

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As long as you don't leave the meat in the marinade too long, using yogurt is okay.

If you leave meat and especially chicken in yogurt too long, it becomes spongy and almost fluffy - not at all desirable.

I speak from experience - having forgotten to remove chicken from a yogurt-based marinade and having to throw it all out, horrible, nasty stuff..........

Buttermilk has a similar effect.

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My insisting on no-yogurt is purely based on my own experience and preferences. I just would not use it for Shawarma since the dish I am used to never uses it, but I totally see your reasoning and I bet it will work great.

To add on the lamb fat point that Chefzadi mentioned. If you can get some try layering it between the meat layers at several intervals. This will give the meat a wonderful flavor and keep it moist. I can smell it already.

Elie

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As long as you don't leave the meat in the marinade too long, using yogurt is okay.

If you leave meat and especially chicken in yogurt too long, it becomes spongy and almost fluffy - not at all desirable. 

I speak from experience -  having forgotten to remove chicken from a yogurt-based marinade and having to throw it all out, horrible, nasty stuff..........

Buttermilk has a similar effect.

Can you define too long? Chicken shawarma is another project entirely, lamb being vastly more delicious must come first.

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