~Shawarma~

George Bernard Shaw, wrote history when he wrote, “there is no love sincerer than the love of food” and it is one of my favorite lines in literature. The love of food evolves you as a person, you learn to invoke innovation and team-up with curiosity, although, sometimes that curiosity may lead to utter disasters, nonetheless, that disastrous experience becomes your teacher. It grows your love for creativity. Being a food lover comes with its advantages; you learn to grow your friendship with food and you know how and when to take care of each other, if you are craving something, you will know exactly what you want to eat, if you are feeling lucky, you will know how to work with various spices to create something highly satisfying for yourself; you learn to study flavors with your palate as your teacher; its about risks and curiosity because its true “that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure” (Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly)you will love food photography as it shows-off all the best features of any food; your love of food will make you try new things and it will evolve you as a cook to an extent that if you are reading a random recipe you have never tried, you will enjoy its flavors with your knowledge and experience of spices because “the first time you see something that you have never seen before, you almost always know right away if you should eat it or run away from it.” (Scott Adams). The point is, your love of food will always grow and so will your curiosity, hence, fueling your creativity.

I grew up in the Middle-East and one of my favorite memories of that place is the Shawarma. Originally, Shawarma is cooked on a rotating stand grill with marinated meat fillets packed in a swirl one on top of the other and slow roasted to a perfect moist and extremely flavorsome taste. It is thinly sliced right off the standing grill and served on a Arabian Kubz, which is like a flat pita bread but far more scrumptious, and made into a wrap with lettuce and garlic tahini sauce. Trust me when I say, this Middle-eastern Gyro will make you all Ga-Ga for it. In all honesty, it is like your first love you ever experience, you never forget it; as is the love of Shawarma, once you have it, you will never forget it. Living in the middle-east it was a piece of heaven on earth for me. Ofcourse, those who have never lived in the middle-east or have never had a Shawarma before, it is similar to a Gyro, Burrito or a Taco but very different in taste, style and flavors, that to which, these can not compete with.

In terms of flavor, it is very subtle because you get a punch of huge flavors as you bite into it and for a moment your mind boggles trying to figure out what spices are these. The middle-eastern spices are extremely earthy and have a vast array of spices from staples like cumin, coriander, turmeric and mint to exotic blends like Ras-el-hanout, Za’atar and Bahaarat spice mix. The reason why the cuisine is vast in spices is because the traders of Arabs, once upon a time, were in control of spice trading between Asia, India, Africa and Europe. Therefore, every spice in existence ever known, found it’s way into the Middle-eastern spice dictionary. 

The Shawarma has very earthy flavours that stem from the warmth of cinnamon and cumin spice infusion and is paired with the sharp tang of the Garlic Sauce and the Gherkin (pickled cucumber). Initially, the Shawarma condiments and fixings are fundamental, i.e. Gherkin, Garlic Sauce, lettuce and Pickled Green Chilli; but there is always room for creativity and various complimentary fixings can be added alongside these e.g. from pickled beetroot, pomegranate seeds, halloumi, cucumber, tomatoes, French fries, olives etc. to various condiments like chilli mayo sauce, French sauce, sweet and smoky chilli sauce etc. Having said that, the best sauce with any type of shawarma wrap is hands down the Garlic Tahini Sauce; it breathes life into the Shawarma. 

Moving forward, ofcourse, we can’t make Shawarma as it is prepared at the Shawarma stand or shop, but there is always a way to cheat a similar way. I took 4 chicken breast and quartered them, I marinated the meat in the Shawarma spice mix and let it sit for 1 hour, but I would prefer overnight to really get the flavours going, and the simplest way to make it is bake it covered and then uncovered for the last 10 minutes of the total baking time. The meat will stay tender and moist with a crispy exterior giving a similar allusion of the Rotating-grill-stand shredded meat at the Shawarma Vendour. I personally prefer this method because it’s quick and easy. The second way you can go about cooking this is, grilling it on the grill pan. This way is even faster than the first one but, the downside is that the meat completely dries out, conversely, the good thing is, your house will be Shawarma scented as you grill this. However, I highly recommend the first method. 

The Pita I used was my home made as I love my homemade Pita bread. Although the homemade version of the Pita was pretty awesome, the authenticity of the recipe is using a flat bread Pita bread, which is available at every major retail store everywhere. 

The garlic sauce has to be extremely sharp in order to really enjoy the authentic taste of this middle-eastern recipe. The sharper the Garlic sting, the better the friendship between the Shawarma meat and the sauce, resulting in a cogently scrumptious wrap altogether. I would highly recommend adding the pomegranate seeds to the wrap as the punch from the pops of the pomegranate seeds is extremely refreshing; having said that, the fixings are entirely upto individual preferences. 

My love of Shawarma, is my love of my childhood memories, dreamy, exuberant and cherishable. It’s incomplete without it, “see that’s what people don’t get about food. It’s never the food, its the love that goes into making it. That’s what’s important” (Sarah Strohmeyer, Sweet Love). 

These were a very pretty sight, though, I am not very happy with the pictures as I was a little under the weather that day, and I just couldn’t shoot the shots as passionately as I usually do, and in all honesty, I am still learning how to shoot by watching YouTube tutorials, so bear with me for my amateur pictures for now, but, the flavours of this gorgeous recipe were spot on. 

How gorgeously dreamy does that look! 

Serves 4-6 

Ingredients ~

1. Chicken Breast — 4

2. Flat Bread Pita — 8

Chicken Marinade ~ 

1. Salt — 1 tsp

2. Black Pepper — 1 tsp

3. White Pepper — ½ tsp

4. Cinnamon Powder — 1 tsp

5. Garlic Powder — 1 tsp

6. Paprika — 1 tsp

7. Cayenne Pepper — 1 tsp

8. Cumin Powder — 1 tsp

9. Cider Vinegar/vinegar — 2 tbsp

10. Oil — 2 tbsp

Condiments & Fixings ~ 

1. Garlic Mayo Sauce

2. French Fries

3. Gherkins

4. Lettuce

5. Pickled Green Chilli

6. Pomegranate seeds

7. Pickled Beetroot

8.     Halloumi Cheese 

Method ~ 

1. Prepare the Chicken ~

a. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

b. Wash and cut the chicken into quarters 

c. Marinate the chicken in the marinade spices and let sit for at least 1 hour or preferably over night. 

d. Place the chicken in a baking dish and cover with a foil.  

e. Bake it for 30 minutes. The last 10 minutes of the baking time, take the foil off and bake the chicken uncovered for a roasted exterior. 

f. Once done, take the chicken out and roughly chop it into small pieces.

g. Keep the chicken in its juices until ready to assemble.

2. Prep the Condiments ~ 

a. Prepare the French fires and set aside.

b. Slice the gherkins into thin strips. 

c. Dice the lettuce.

d. Warm the flat bread pita.

e.     Cut Halloumi cheese into thick slices and lightly fry the Halloumi Cheese by greasing the grill/fry pan until light golden. 

f.      Make garlic sauce by adding 3 cloves of garlic to half cup of mayonnaise. Add 1 tbsp of Tahini paste, salt and pepper along with 2 tbsp of Greek Yogurt. Mix to combine. 

3. Assembling ~ 

a. Spread a good amount of garlic mayo sauce on the pita bread.

b. Spread a layer of the sliced chicken on top.

c. Top it with lettuce, gherkins, French fries, pickled chilli, beetroot and pomegranate seeds. 

d. Pour a little juice leftover from the baked chicken on top. 

e. Wrap the pita into a roll and wrap with a foil and heat it up in the oven before serve. 

Happy Foodieating ~ 

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