Hot damn, that title’s a mouthful. But what do you do with this one? There’s no meat to be seen and it’s not on a skewer. But it is a big old heap of brassica that really packs that savoury Levantine punch. Saying “shawarma spiced” would be a world of seasonal latte bullshit, so here we are.
My affection for leafy greens is a matter of some record, so claiming you can make passable kebabs with cabbage (cabbabs?) is well within the understood scope of my nonsense. But I am not shitting you here. It’s got the big earthy savoury to carry the spice, and retains a bit of crunch and body.
Toasting and grinding the spices is what takes the time. Not masses, but arguably enough to knock this off the midweek meal spot for many folk.
You can take a shortcut through the spice mix and preparation by using about 2 tablespoons of ras el hanout, two teaspoons of sumac, and smoked paprika to taste. Put those in a blender with the garlic, chili, and coriander, and whiz to a paste with a splash of oil. Done like that, this is astoundingly low effort. There’s no marinade time, after all, because it’s bloody cabbage.
But if – like me – you want to get with the recreational faffing programme, it goes a bit like this:
- Savoy cabbage, a big one
- Garlic, 2-4 cloves
- Butter, about 60g
- Fennel seeds, 1tsp
- Cumin seeds, 2tsp
- Mustard seeds, 1tsp
- Coriander seeds, 1tsp
- Smoked paprika, 1tsp
- Allspice, 1/2tsp
- Sumac, 2tsp
- Thyme, about 1/4tsp
- Chili, 1 red or to taste
- Coriander, about 15g
- Water or veg stock, about 100ml
- Optional: Red onions, 2 medium
Measure out the whole spices and toast them in a hot pan for a couple of minutes, until the aromas release. Add the ground spices for a few seconds, then transfer them to a pestle and mortar with a bit of salt and grind them down fairly fine.
Using either a powerful blender or pestle and mortar, blitz the garlic, fresh coriander, and chili into a paste with a little oil. Melt the butter and mix this with the paste and spice mix.
Cut the cabbage into quarters or eighths or something – big wedges. If you’re using the red onions, cut them into 1/6 wish wedges, too. Toss it all together with the spice paste. Put it in an oven dish with a little water or stock, cover with foil, and bake at about 180c for 35-40 minutes.
Turn it periodically to make sure everything’s good and covered with spices. After the initial cooking time it should be tender, with perhaps a little resilience to the stalk. Take the foil off and raise the heat to 200c for another 5-10 minutes.
Shred the cabbage, ensuring it’s mixed well with the tasty goo from the bottom of the roasting pan and serve it in pitas or wraps with whatever you fancy. Crumbled tart goats’ cheese and refried beans work well. Alternatively, serve a wedge per person as a vegetable side, or drizzled with tahini sauce as a starter.
You can vegan this up by substituting the butter for another rich fat, maybe even coconut butter? I’m not sure, but I doubt oil would have the body. It needs a bit of something fatty to give it that shawarma feel, and stop everything drying out.
Going the other way, a bit of chorizo or smoked sausage added for those final few minutes uncovered cooking would be pretty tasty.
Because this doesn’t need the marinade or slow cooking time of a conventional meat shawarma, you can be done in an hour, end to end. Sure, it doesn’t have the juicy succulence of slow-cooked lamb, but you get all the spice flavour and plenty of body. I’m certainly adding it to my regular rotation.
What else can you shawarma? What, if I’m using it for cabbage, why not verb it too. I’ve seen suggestions of cauliflower – anybody got any favourite spicy veg roasts?