There are times when a serious longing for a shawarma sandwich has to be satisfied. My daughter texted me from school to let me know all her friends had been talking about shawarma, and could we please go get some!?
Shawarma comes from the root verb shawee which means to grill. It is found at every corner in Lebanon, meat slices stacked with pieces of fat on a stick rôtisserie. A man stands guard and will slice off slivers of meat and stuff them in a pita sandwich, with some tahini sauce (called tarator), some fresh tomatoes and parsley and some pickles.
OK, let’s just make some!
This recipe is adapted from Middle-Eastern Cuisine by Sima Osman Yassine.
INGREDIENTS: This quantity will produce up to 8 servings
- 2 pounds (1 kg) lamb fillet or beef roast cut from the round, sliced in small strips
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- SPICE MIX: 1 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, ground cardamom, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, ground cloves, ground allspice, ground black pepper, ground mastic (only 1/4 teaspoon) and salt.
- TARATOR SAUCE: 1/2 cup tahini, pinch salt, 3 garlic cloves mashed, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup water.
- GARNISH: 1/2 bunch of parsley, 1 onion, 3 large tomatoes
- 1 bag of small pita bread
- In a small bowl, gather all the seasoning spices. Grind the mastic or mistica in a mortar with the salt in order to reduce it to powder. Add to the other spices. Whisk the spices to combine well.
- In a large bowl, measure the vinegar then the olive oil. Whisk well and add the spices and whisk it all well. Add the meat and with two wooden spoons turn it over several times to make sure all the pieces are well covered in the marinade.
- Marinate the meat in the fridge, covered, overnight.
- Heat a large skillet, add some oil and cook the strips over high heat for 2 or 3 minutes until they turn brown. You can also use a BBQ like I did, but placing the meat on a perforated skillet and skipping the addition of extra oil.
- Serve immediately with tarator sauce, warmed pita bread, sliced tomatoes and onions, pickled cucumbers and turnips if you like. Sahteyn!
To make the sauce:
- Mash the garlic with the salt in a mortar, add the tahini while stirring with a wooden spoon, add the lemon juice and the water gradually. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more water or lemon or garlic or tahineh to suit your personal taste.
To serve the shawarma sandwich:
- Chop the parsley, onion and slice the tomatoes. As soon as the meat is cooked, serve it with the bread and vegetables and sauce. You can also offer cucumber and turnip pickles.