Let's Eat

Man in the kitchen: shwarma for cheats


A t some point during an alcohol-fuelled evening out with friends, a man’s thoughts inevitably turn to shwarma — the Middle Eastern version of the Turkish doner kebab, which has become ubiquitous in Israel.

If you happen to be in a neighbourhood which boasts a kosher Israeli-style takeaway, all you need to do is order and eat. However, if you are miles from such an establishment, you may be desperate enough to cook your own — although truth be told, making your own shwarma does have inherent difficulties. First you need to source around 20 kilos of meat — Israelis tend to favour turkey. Then you will need to slice the raw meat and build it on to a giant skewer, interspersing layers of turkey with layers of lamb fat until you have a huge hunk resembling an elephant’s foot. Then, pop out to your nearest catering equipment stockist for a commercial size rotisserie, install it in the kitchen and start cooking. The process should take no more than a week.

Alternatively, you could try my cheat’s version. Take some boned, filleted chicken thighs, rub them with a little cumin, coriander, salt and black pepper and place under a pre-heated grill set to the highest setting to cook for five minutes each side.

In the meantime, prepare a finely chopped salad of tomato, cucumber and pickled gherkins and toast a pitta. When the meat is cooked, shred finely with a carving knife for that shwarma effect and place in the pitta with the salad and Israeli tehina sauce.

For ultimate authenticity, top with zhug sauce, the condiment which, in my view, makes Israeli shwarma unique.

Take two blanched cloves of garlic, one teaspoon each of cardamom (just the seeds), caraway, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, a handful of fresh coriander and another of fresh parsley, 1-2 green chillies (depending on how drunk you are), a pinch of salt, the juice of one lemon and a tablespoon of olive oil. Then blitz all the ingredients for a few seconds until blended.

It takes only 20 minutes to cook from scratch and is delicious. True, there will be a huge mess in the kitchen to clear up in the morning when you are hungover — but trust me, it will be worth it.

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