Shawarma is basically a fancy kebab. Britain knows the Turkish version better as the doner kebab which is so ubiquitous on high streets, and – in short order – their pavements. The Gyro – Greece’s take on the rotisserie kebab – is also better known in the UK than Shawarma (the more Arabic version), and might well have remained that way but for a potent combination of Yottam Ottolenghi and The Avengers.
Anyway, like most fast food, shawarma is great when it’s done well and a greasy nightmare most of the rest of the time.
This isn’t a recipe, it’s just a quick plug for the one I used last night. It was the one in Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s new book Jerusalem. I’m not giving it here because it doesn’t seem like playing fair just to copy it out, given I didn’t modify it in any way. Also, typing it would be a pain in the arse.
But their shawarma recipe works. It’s slow cooked lamb in a rich spice marinade, sliced thinly into pitas with salad and sauces. They suggest two sauces: a simple tahini and lemon mix, and a blend of harissa and tomato. It turns out that both of these are the fancy-pants ancestors of the moderately ineffable slurry you’ll find squirted over what I’ve heard lovingly described as “A proper British kebab, cooked by a proper British Turkish guy”.
For one sauce, I chopped a fresh tomato, drained off some of the liquid, and mixed the flesh with chopped coriander and a stout teaspoon of harissa. This was smeared inside the pitas before they were grilled. For the other I reduced a clove of garlic to a paste in a pestle and mortar, with a little salt, and beat it together with tahini, lemon juice, and a little water. This was then tossed through some fine-shredded sweetheart cabbage, to make the bulk of the vegetable filling. Next time, I’ll add a little lettuce.
It’s worth trying.