My love for Middle Eastern food continues to grow. I have Yotam Ottolenghi and Sabrina Ghayour to thank for this. I’ve loved Sabrina’s recipes ever since I first read Persiana when it was published. I’m glad to say that her latest book Feasts is every bit as good. I have been tinkering with a recipe for Chicken Shawarma for some time now and when I saw her version in Feasts I decided it was time to get the finger out and publish mine.
I don’t know if I can technically call this a proper Chicken Shawarma recipe. As far as I know the definition of Shawarma is marinated meat which is cooked slowly over a spit and sliced off as needed. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a spit. Nor do I have the barbeque skills required to make Jamie Oliver’s slow cooked version in Comfort. So I make do with the oven or a grill pan.
Shawarma or not, this is one delicious dish. There are layers of mild spices for full on flavour. It is not a hot dish but if you want to ramp up the heat serve some sliced chillies on top of the chicken. I actually had all of the spices in my spice drawer so if you cook regularly you will probably have everything to hand already. This is becoming a regular in my house and I hope it will in yours too.
I’ve finally found a recipe for flatbreads that I’m happy with, a mixture of recipes from Jennifer Joyce’s My Street Food Kitchen and Paul Hollywood’s Bake. I might post it at some stage if I can get myself organised. I still can’t make them look pretty though!
Useful tips & links:
- When I make this sometimes I use chicken breasts, sometimes I use thighs. The pictures here are of chicken breasts so I’ll give the recipe for cooking them here. Butterflying the breasts and cooking them quickly keeps them nice and juicy. If you want to use thighs, I follow Nigella’s recipe from Simply Nigella which you can find here. I finish cooking the thighs by slicing them and frying off in a hot pan which crisps up the skin nicely.
- This recipe benefits from marinating the chicken overnight which makes it even quicker to make when you are ready to cook. If you are pushed for time a few hours will do or even 30 minutes at room temperature.
- I only make this for two of us but I like to make a double batch and freeze half. The recipe can easily be scaled up for a bigger crowd too.
- If you don’t have all of the ingredients, don’t worry about leaving something out, there is plenty of flavour there.
- I served this on flatbreads with rocket leaves, tomato, cucumber, lightly pickled onions and a mayonnaise dressing. I prefer a yoghurt and tahini dressing like the one in my recipe for Roast Aubergine with Tahini Sauce but himself prefers mayo so this time I mixed some with lime juice and Aleppo Pepper. Feel free to serve this as a salad or in pitta bread if you don’t have flatbreads.
- For more inspiration have a look at Janine’s delicious Spiced Chicken Shawarma on Cooking With Craic.
- 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts or 6-8 skin-on boneless chicken thighs
- 3 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon of ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of sumac
- ¼ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
- The zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
Suggestions to serve and for the lightly pickled onions:
- 1 small red onion, finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- The juice of ½ a lime
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- Salt and pepper
- 4 flatbreads
- Rocket leaves
- 2 large tomatoes, sliced and halved again
- A chunk of cucumber, sliced and diced
- If you are using chicken thighs put them straight into a bowl or ziploc bag. If you are using breasts butterfly them by slicing carefully through middle or ask your butcher to do this and put them into a bowl or bag.
- Mix the remaining ingredients together until you get a thin paste. Pour this marinade over the chicken and mix very well together until the meat is completely coated. Seal the bag or cover the bowl with clingfilm and put it in the fridge to marinate.
- When ready to cook, take the chicken out of the fridge to bring up to room temperature and prep the accompaniments that you will serve with Chicken Shawarma.
- If you are cooking thighs, follow the instructions on the link to Nigella’s recipe under Useful Tips & Links.
- If you are cooking the chicken breasts heat a cast iron griddle pan or non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. The griddle pan will give you nice little char marks.
- While the chicken is coming up to room temperature, make the red onion pickle by mixing together the pomegranate molasses, oil, honey, lime juice together and pouring it over the finely sliced onions. Taste and season with salt and pepper and mix well together. Set to one side.
- When you are ready to cook the chicken breasts, take them out of the marinade and discard the garlic and bay leaves. Place the chicken on the hot pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Rest the cooked chicken before slicing.
- To serve, place warm flatbreads on a plate, top with salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber and placed the sliced chicken on top. Drizzle over some yoghurt or mayonnaise dressing and top with the pickled onions. You could also garnish with coriander leaves – I forgot mine! – or pomegranate seeds. Serve as is or make a wrap and cover with parchment paper to eat on the go.