Make your own Shawarma

My all-time favourite snacks is definitely a proper Shawarma.
According to Wikipedia, Shawarma (Arabic: شاورما‎) is an Arab meat preparation originating from Lebanon, where lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, veal, or mixed meats are placed on a spit (commonly a vertical spit in restaurants), and may be grilled for as long as a day. Shavings are cut off the block of meat for serving, and the remainder of the block of meat is kept heated on the rotating spit. Although it can be served in shavings on a plate (generally with accompaniments), shawarma also refers to a sandwich or wrap made with shawarma meat. Shawarma is usually eaten with tabbouleh, fattoush, taboon bread, tomato, and cucumber. Toppings include tahini, hummus, pickled turnips and amba. It is similar to Turkish döner kebab and Greek gyros.

Arabic or not, a few years ago, it was actually not easy to come by a decent Shawarma anywhere in Dubai. Yes, there was a nice place in Satwa off Al Diyaffah Street (now a.k.a. 2nd December Road) that did some good ones. Yes, there might have been one or two places that were alright in Deira. In general, however, it was hard to get the "proper" variety.
Nowadays, there are quite a few places, in the Marina, in Al Barsha and not least the British Kebab Shop in Discovery Gardens, which offer British/European-style 'Doners' and even import their own pita bread. Traditionally, however, Shawarmas are served wrapped in Arabic bread - something you can find in any supermarket in town if you don't fancy trying to bake your own.

Why not make your own Shawarma to your own taste? 
It's really not hard work at all and the whole family is bound to love them.
Here's a recipe I got from a Lebanese guy who works in a take-out place in Al Barsha. The spice blend really gets the authentic taste and is everything you would expect of a proper Shawarma. Use you favourite meat; beef, lamb or chicken. It doesn't matter. It all tastes really good. It's the perfect cure for a hangover, excellent for fighting your cravings for dodgy fast food and a great, healthy and tasty lunch snack. All done and dusted in no time. 
The reason Shawarmas are so yummy? The secret's in the spices.

Shawarma meat - spice blend:

1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp paprika / preferably smoked (called 'pimento' - you can get it in M&S) or noble sweet
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp vinaigrette or vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
500g meat - thinly sliced - either beef, chicken or lamb.

Veg for the Shawarmas:
8 cherry tomatoes, romaine or iceberg lettuce, 1 cucumber, 1 red or green bell pepper, 1 red onion.

1 1/2-2 tbsp Tahina
250ml (half a pint) plain low-fat yogurt 

2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp water
1 tsp crushed chili flakes
1 tsp salt


Prep the veg and chop/dice everything finely. Arrange on a plate so they are easy to add to the Shawarmas.

Tahina-yogurt dressing: 
Mix Tahina with yogurt and add salt to taste. Tahina is a liquid paste made from ground sesame seeds. You can find Tahina in most supermarkets in the UAE. Go for the Middle Eastern-pale type made from non-rosted seeds. Keep the Tahina in the fridge after opening. 

Mix tomato puree with salt, water and olive oil. Add chili to taste. Add a tiny amount of ground cayenne pepper if more spicieness is required. You'll have a fine Harissa-sauce.

Shawarma Meat.
Blend the spices with the meat. Peel the garlic cloves and the onion and chop them very finely. Mix the meat and spices with the garlic, onion, 1 tbsp oil and vinegar and leave it to marinate for an hour at room temperature.

Heat-up a large cast iron pan, skillet or wok until it is sizzling hot. Add 1 tbsp oil to the pan and wait for it to heat up. Fry the meat at 3/4 heat for 3-4 minutes till it is fried thoroughly. Stir occasionally, but leave the meat time to get good contact with the pan so it can take colour and become somewhat crispy. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
Serve immediately in Arabic bread or pita bread with the chopped vegetables and Tahina/yogurt-dressing (and Harissa/chili-sauce if you like a bit of a hot kick). 

All sorted and they taste really yummy. Enjoy.

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