Oh you guys, you guys. This was goood. I had a craving for falafel and pita, but my kids make stinky faces whenever I try to persuade them to eat falafel. The toddler will gladly eat hummus, but his sister will not. They both like cucumber and pita bread. So, usually, falafel night is not hugely successful in terms of a complete nutritional meal. Haha. I try to expand their horizons, but it’s not always so easy!
I happened to have purchased some chicken breasts and thighs that had been reduced to sell, and needed to use them right away. So I started thinking of making gyros. Which I also totally love. But I was hankering for Middle Eastern, not Greek, so shawarma-style chicken it had to be!
I hit upon a recipe from the New York Times, which is one of my most trusted sources. I marinated the chicken for several hours, then oven baked it and crisped it up in the frying pan (optional second step). The pita bread I also started early, as it needs some rising time. But once you’ve got your dough ready, the actual cooking part happens in minutes. It is incredibly satisfying to watch those pitas puff!
One thing I especially love about this is the spices that are used – they are really flavourful and things like turmeric are very good for you (it is a powerful anti-inflammatory) and cinnamon (see my post on the health benefits of cinnamon). It’s always nice when something tastes good and helps your body at the same time!
The whole family loved it, and I hope you will too!
SHAWARMA-STYLE CHICKEN AND HOMEMADE PITA
Based on a recipe by The New York Times
For the chicken:
900 grams (2 lbs.) chicken thighs (oberschenkel) or a mix of breasts and thighs (breasts dry out, so don’t use all breasts! — I used 4 chicken thighs and 4 breasts)
Juice from 2 lemons
1/2 cup Olive Oil
3 gloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or a ziplock bag, add chicken and coat well. Place in the fridge to marinate 1-12 hours.
Heat oven to 220C (425F). Lightly oil a large rimmed baking sheet. Remove chicken from marinade and place onto baking sheet. Roast in the oven 30-40 minutes, until it is browned and cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to rest 2 minutes. Then slice it into small pieces. If you want that charred crispy feeling like in the shops, fry the sliced chicken over high heat in a pan until it gets burnt tips and curls slightly. To serve: scatter chopped parsely over the top and serve with pita and sliced vegetables (cucumber, tomatoes, red onion), and a rice pilaf (rice, sautéed in butter and cooked in broth), as well as a tahini sauce (see tip below).
HOMEMADE PITA BREAD:
Knocks shop-bought pitas out of the water. Start the pita bread 1.5 hours before you plan to eat.
Based on a recipe at Serious Eats.
Pita bread ingredients:
1 cup warm (not hot) water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 packet (7 grams) dry yeast (Hefe)
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups Halbweiss flour (or 1/2 cup whole wheat plus 2 cups white flour)
Mix water, oil, sugar, salt, and yeast in a bowl. Let the yeast bubble for 2-3 minutes. Add the flour and mix until it resembles a shaggy dough. Knead the dough in the bowl for 10 minutes, until it becomes a smooth elastic dough. Turn the mixture out onto a clean surface, rinse out and dry the mixing bowl, then add a small amount of oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn a few times to coat in the oil. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel and put in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
After an hour, put a pizza stone or a large heavy cookie sheet on the middle rack and preheat your oven to the highest heat setting (250C/500F). Place a dry clean dishtowel on a plate.
Punch down your dough and move the ball to a lightly floured surface. Using a dough cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 6 even pieces. Roll out each piece of dough to a large thin circle. put your pieces in a single layer on a lightly floured surface, cover with a damp towel, and let proof for 20 minutes.
Placing as many pita breads as will fit without touching (for me this is 2) on the pizza stone or baking sheet, quickly close oven door, and bake until pitas are puffy and slightly golden at edges. Do not overbake. Place cooked pitas on the towel-covered plate and then close up the towel to keep them warm. Repeat with all pitas.
You can eat them as is, or you can char the bottoms a bit in a very hot cast iron skillet for a “wood-fired oven” kind of taste. Completely optional.
For Tahini sauce to serve alongside the pitas:
Mix 1/3 cup tahini, 1 garlic clove finely minced, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (Reserve this when you squeeze the lemons for the marinade or for the hummus-if you make hummus), 1 tablespoon olive oil, and the magic bit – 2-6 tablespoons warm (not hot) water. The water will turn your funky paste into a smooth creamy sauce. Add it slowly until you get the right consistency. Season with salt to taste. Optional: add a bit of fresh chopped parsely!
Please let me know in the comments if you make this and what you thought!