Chicken Shawarma

Okay, so technically this recipe should actually be called Shawarma-Style Chicken. True shawarma is cooked with stacked, spice-marinated meats– lamb, turkey, chicken, beef, or a mix of meats – on a vertical spit. The shawarma turns and cooks on the spit for hours and hours, basted in fat and its own juices. Fat = flavor = tasty, amazing shawarma. Thin slices of meat are shaved from the surface and served, either on their own or tucked inside a warm flatbread, topped with tahini or garlic sauce. Shawarma is one of life’s great pleasures.

  • Chicken, marinade and bread:
  • 2½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 small garlic cloves, crushed
  • 20g fresh ginger, finely grated
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • ¾ tsp sweet paprika
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¾ tbsp sumac
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • 8 chicken thighs, boneless, skin on or skinless (800g net weight)
  • 90ml olive oil
  • 25g chopped coriander stems and leaves
  • 4 large flatbreads such as pita or naan
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Red onion and cucumber salsa:
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced (100g)
  • ½ a large cucumber, thinly sliced (180g)
  • 20g chopped dill, plus extra to garnish
  • 4 tsp sumac
  • 4 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Tahini sauce:
  • 2½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 100g tahini
  • 15g parsley, roughly chopped, plus extra to garnish
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
YIELD: 4 servings
COURSE: Chicken & Other Birds
CUISINE: Isreali
  1. First make the marinade. Combine the lemon juice, garlic, and ginger in a large bowl. Dry-fry the spices on medium heat until their aroma is released and then add these to the bowl, along with 1 teaspoon of salt and ¾ teaspoon of black pepper. Pat dry the chicken pieces and place them in the marinade along with 5 tablespoons of the olive oil and the fresh coriander. Massage the mixture into the chicken well, cover the bowl and leave in the fridge to marinade for 2 to 3 hours, or overnight.
  2. Place all the ingredients for the salsa in a small bowl, along with ¼ teaspoon of salt. Mix well and set aside.
  3. Put all the ingredients for the tahini sauce in a food processor adding a 90ml of water and a pinch of salt and blitz until completely smooth with the consistency of honey. Add a little more water if it is too thick to pour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  5. Place a large ridged griddle pan on high heat. Once red hot, cook the chicken pieces for 3 minutes on each side until nice and brown. Transfer to an oven tray to cook the meat through in the oven; about 6 minutes. Allow to rest for a few minutes before cutting the chicken into 1 centimeter thick slices. Any remaining juices from the pan can be drizzled over the meat.
  6. Wipe off most of the residues from the griddle pan and add the remaining tablespoon olive oil. Drizzle the flatbreads with a little water, just to moisten on the outside, and place in the pan for about a minute on each side, to warm up. Lay out each pita sheet and spoon over some tahini sauce. Place some chicken pieces on top of this, followed by the salsa and dash of hot sauce per serving. Finish with a sprinkle of parsley and dill, roll the pita together and serve at once.