Since my husband has spent his entire childhood in the Arabian Gulf, he is very fond of the Middle Eastern specialities and that is exactly what also makes him the worst critic for me. No alteration gets put into the recipe treasure unless approved by his qualified taste buds. I, on the other hand, love playing with the ingredients and cant stop myself from adding new flavours to the classics and the only convincing point that usually goes into my favour is that the Middle Eastern cuisine encompasses a huge spectrum of diverse yet similar delicacies. Depending on the region as well as the season, there exists many different ways of perparing a dish owning the same title.
For example, the traditional shawarma that most people are familiar with is usually prepared on a large rotating grill. The meat is then cut into thin slices and served in a wrap with fresh salad and tahini sauce. However a lebanese friend of mine once made it in the skillet and the taste was not at all disappointing. Since then, I have made a rule for myself. I make the red meat shawarma in the oven and turn on the grill function in the end which gives it a very delicious flavour and a nice crispy texture. But for the chicken variant, I am absolutely satisfied with my deep skillet. It turns out to be as great and tender as the one served at our local lebanese and syrian snack bar.
So, here comes the classic hit with a new kick...
Chicken Shawarma with Rice and Tahini Garlic Sauce
Ingredients for chicken shawarma:
500 g boneless chicken, cut into strips
3/4 cup thick yoghurt
1 tbs lemon juice
salt and crushed black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
3/4 tsp garlic paste
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp garam masala (freshly ground)
1 tbs olive oil
2 medium sized onions, sliced or cut in circles
2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
Mix all the spices in the yoghurt, add lemon juice and marinate the chicken strips in it for atleast 30 minutes.
Heat olive oil in a skillet, add in the chicken and fry on high medium heat until all juices from the marinade are cooked off.
Add the onion slices and fry for another two minutes.
Turn off the heat and add the chopped tomatoes into it. Tip: Do not cook the tomatoes!!
Ingredients for Yellow Rice:
400 g basmati rice, rinsed and soaked in water for 30 min
700 ml chicken stock
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
salt and crushed black pepper
1 stick cinamon
2 bay leaves
2 black cardamoms
2 green cardamoms
1/4 tsp powdered fennel seeds (optional)
yellow food colour
Tip: Chicken stock is the key ingredient here. For optimal results, always try to make the chicken stock at home, you can prepare it before hand and store in the refrigerator or freeze for later use). I usually make it by boiling chicken bones with two small carrots, one medium sized onion, garlic and 2 teaspoons of home made garam masala mixed in two litres of salted water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat. Let the stock simmer on very low heat for several hours.
Measure the chicken stock and boil in a pan.
Add in salt, pepper as well as all the above given spices. Tip: If you dont like picking whole spices from your plate of rice, using a tea strainer (ball) at this stage helps you easily remove them before serving.
Drain the rice and add into the stock. Cook on medium heat until almost done. Sprinkle yellow food colour and spread raisins on top. Reduce the heat to the lowest mark and cover the pan with a tight lid. Carefully open the lid after 5-10 minutes and toss the rice with very light hands.
Spread a layer of prepared rice on the serving plate. Make a well in the centre and fill it with the shawarma chicken. Decorate with fresh cucumbers and salad leaves; garnish with fresh parsely and serve with the tahini yoghurt sauce.