Turkish doner kebab, Greek gyros, Mexican tacos al pastor – all dishes where slices of seasoned meat are layered on a rotating skewer and then gradually grilled from the outside. That’s how it’s done with shawarma as well (in gastronomy), but with chicken.
Shawarma (Arabic شاورما) is a popular dish especially in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Israel as well as in Egypt. Of course, there are great differences in terms of seasoning, other ingredients and bread. We have chosen a recipe from Lebanon that goes back to a diner in Beirut which still exists today.
You don’t need a rotating skewer at home. Not at all. Such a device makes sense if you want to professionally prepare one dish after the other for hours without knowing exactly when and how many customers will come. It’s nonsense for at home. Your oven or cooker are perfectly adequate without compromising on taste.
We roll our shawarma in Arabic flatbread called lavash (ﻟﻮﺍﺶ ). It comes mainly from Azerbaijani, Armenian, Kurdish, Persian and Turkish cuisine. We also add oven-roasted potatoes, you can do that or not. We love it.
It actually has to start the day before, because the meat needs to marinate. This is extremely important for the taste. You can’t marinate it for less than four hours, but overnight is best. Chicken breast is not suitable, it gets too dry. So loosen the meat of drumsticks from the bones and remove the skin, both of which can be used in other ways according to the links.
The marinade is a mixture of yoghurt (firmer Greek yoghurt is particularly suitable) and plenty of spices. If you have baharat in the house, you are already well supplied. This is an Arabic spice mixture containing for example cumin, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika and cardamom. Of course, you’ll find our composition at the end of the recipe.
Olive oil and – very important – light vinegar are added. In the end, it is the vinegar that gives shawarma its typical and delicious taste.
Now mix the meat thoroughly with the marinade. It should not be portioned at this stage, leave it in larger pieces. Then cover it and put it in the fridge.
This gives time to prepare the potatoes. Peel them and cut them into large pieces, we recommend a thickness of about 2 cm.
Then boil the potato slices in heavily salted water for 8 minutes, drain and spread out on a baking tray where they are generously coated with olive oil.
Bake the potatoes in a preheated oven at 220 degrees (fan oven: 200 degrees) for 40 minutes, then they are ready for the finale.
The flatbread, lavash, is also very easy to prepare. The only ingredients needed are flour, lukewarm water, yeast, sugar and salt. Useful tools are a bowl, a fine sieve and a silicone scraper.
First, dissolve the sugar in the water while stirring, then also stir in the yeast and salt. Then add the flour, we recommend sifting it into the water, this makes further processing much easier.
First, mix half of the flour with the liquid, a silicone scraper is very suitable for this. Then the other half is added and also incorporated until a reasonably homogeneous mass has been created.
The dough is very sticky at this point and must rest for a while. Cover it and let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes.
Then remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a floured work surface.
Now knead, using a technique similar to pizza dough: one palm presses on the dough and spreads it forward, the other hand folds it back on top of the other end.
After no more than five minutes, the dough is smooth and hardly sticky. Cover it again and let it rest for another 15 minutes. Then divide it into eight roughly equal parts….
…and form balls from them. We have also described how to do this in our recipe for pizza dough.
Using a rolling pin, you can now very easily roll out round flatbreads, which should be approx. 2 mm thin.
In a very hot pan, preferably coated, the flatbreads are now baked on both sides in a few minutes.
The best way to do this is with the following method: take a paper towel or small cloth, fold it several times and use it as a tool to press the hot flatbread against the bottom of the pan and rotate it at the same time. These flatbreads form all kinds of bubbles and bulge upwards. However, to ensure that the dough is baked all the way through, every part should come into contact with the hot pan, especially the edges.
You quickly get a feel for it and you can also tell very quickly when the bread is ready. It is important not to let the bread harden. Fresh flatbread must be eaten immediately or protected from drying out. The easiest way: Put each finished flatbread immediately into a second, cold pan with the lid on. Each additional flatbread is simply added to the pan. This way, the steam that the hot breads develop stays under the lid and keeps them moist. They then remain soft and can be wonderfully processed further at a later time.
But now for the finale:
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees (fan oven: 200 degrees).
Spread the marinated parts of the chicken on an oven rack….
…and then bake over the prepared potatoes for 20 minutes. So everything that drips off the chicken lands on the potatoes and that’s where it’s supposed to go.
After 10 minutes, the chicken must be turned once….
…then everything is prepared:
Bread, potatoes and chicken, plus crisp lettuce leaves and fresh herbs, namely parsley, mint and coriander. Also pieces of pickled cucumber, all kinds of pickles are very good for Shawarma. It is important to have a garlic sauce, which can be easily mixed up according to the following list of ingredients. A chilli sauce for spiciness is highly recommended, and side salads also go very well. In our case today, a typical Israeli salad of diced cucumbers and tomatoes and a Turkish onion salad with sumac. We will describe these in more detail in connection with other dishes at a later date.
A flatbread is generously spread with garlic sauce and seasoned with chilli sauce to taste. Then it is topped with strips of meat and potatoes, which should all have the same orientation to make it easier to roll. Pickles, lettuce leaves and herbs go on top as well. We also chose to add some of our onion salad.
Place one half of the flatbread about two-thirds over the other and then pull the top half back towards you a little to form the beginning of a roll. Fold the sides slightly towards the centre to close them and then roll up the rest of the bread tightly. In a hot pan, toast this roll in a little oil, first on the seam to seal it. To do this, always press the roll lightly against the bottom of the pan with a tool such as a spatula or tongs. Roast the roll on all sides until it is golden and crispy.
The finished bread is divided into handy pieces and served with a little more garlic sauce and salad.
And may the taste be with you.
Ingredients (for 4 people):
For 8 flatbreads:
300 g flour (suitable for pasta, e.g. Tipo 00).
200 g lukewarm water
7 g dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
For the marinade:
150 g yoghurt, preferably Greek style
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp light vinegar
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika powder
1 tsp baharat (Arabic spice mix) or nutmeg, cinnamon and clove powder in equal parts, total ½ tsp.
A little black pepper from the mill
Chilli powder or cayenne pepper to taste
For the filling:
600 g chicken meat from the leg, boneless.
300 g waxy potatoes (if you want to eat potatoes as a side dish, use more, of course)
Some olive oil
Pickled gherkins or other pickles
Crisp lettuce, e.g. Romaine
Fresh herbs (parsley, mint, coriander)
Chilli sauce to taste
For the garlic sauce:
4 cloves of garlic, grated
150 g yoghurt, preferably Greek style
2 tsp mayonnaise
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sumac