Finally Shawarma is on the blog. I know so many of you who have written to ask me to do this must be breathing a huge sigh of relief right now. Sorry for the delay, I heard you guys loud and clear but just needed a push to finally convince me to do it, as I am no longer a huge fan of shawarma. Something I don’t enjoy eating, I find it hard to cook because eating to me is an experience. I had a friend who just didn’t get what that meant. To him, food is food, you are hungry, you eat, you take a drink on to the next meal. No matter how hard I tried to explain it, I guess with food, there are two camps. Those who live to eat and those who eat to live. I am Camp 1 for sure, but not in the stuffing your face bit but actually looking forward to my meal, thinking about it in my head, enjoying making it, savouring the aromas, serving on a plate, getting to the table or sofa in most cases, taking that first bite, then the next and the next, plate empty, I’m very well satisfied, off to plunk the plate in the sink. Food and eating is not just for sustenance, but it is an art of its own, comparable to a musical symphony. Yes, I said so. We true foodies, will know exactly what I am talking about. hehehehehe
Now, when it is food I don’t like, I don’t get to experience all those feelings and it truly does leave me unsatisfied because I love to eat. I may not look like I do for those who have met me but believe me, I looooooove to eat. I would rather go hungry for 12 hours+ than eat something I detest. So, you can imagine my apprehension when I kept getting requests for Shawarma. On Sunday, I decided to take it head on and suddenly I remembered why I never really liked the ones served at some places in Lagos and Abuja. The guilty party was the Chicken. The flipping Chicken. Shawarma is basically a wrap made with veggies, your choice of meats, chicken or fish and dressing. Now, I am not a veggie person, not a huge fan of salads, but if you throw in meat or chicken into a salad, I will gladly eat it, hoping against hope that the meat, chicken or fish at least tastes great, making up for eating veggies. Many times, I have been faced with bland or dry tasting chicken which just ruins the entire wrap for me, nothing for my taste buds to look forward to. So, when I was going to make this, I called upon all my Food Network knowledge of cooking chicken breasts and I nailed it. Jamie Oliver himself would have been proud. Hehehehehehehe.
As this is Chicken Shawarma, it would be bereft of me not to give you a quick tutorial on How to Cook Chicken Breasts. This is the only “cooking” needed for this recipe any way. Here goes
You will need
Crushed chillies – roughly ground dried shombo
For the Wrap
Lettuce – optional: not a huge fan of lettuce, so I left it out
Tatashe – red bell pepper
Jalapeno – for the heat, you can substitute with green chillies of ata rodo
Salad cream – optional
Dooney’s Kitchen Lesson in cooking Chicken Breasts
1. Season the chicken breasts to your taste preferences and leave in the fridge to marinade for 30 – 45 minutes.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a frying pan or griddle pan if you choose to grill it and allow it to get very hot. Take the chicken breasts out of the fridge and place in the pan.
Allow it to sear for 2 minutes. 1 minute in, take a sharp knife and make incisions on the chicken breast to allow the heat to penetrate deep into the flesh
Flip over and allow the other part to sear for another 2 minutes, repeating the incisions in the step above.
3. Now, both sides have seared, flip again for another 2 minutes on each side.
Chicken breasts are notorious for being dry. For some recipes, you are even advised to stuff it with moisture creating ingredients like lemon butter, to keep it nice and moist. I wasn’t headed in that route, but you could if you wish.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: If your chicken breast are small and flat, 4 minutes on each side should do. That’s it. Take it off the heat, let it rest for 2 – 4 minutes i.e. half the time you cooked it with before serving, to allow the flesh to release the juices again – Food Network Tip. If you have the size I am cooking with, 4 minutes on each side may not be enough to cook it all through, cos the insides will still be raw pink. Not to worry, place that frying pan in the oven under medium heat (180 degrees centigrade) and let the oven cook it slowly. In an enclosed oven, the chicken breast will be kept moist and cook slowly. It only needs to be in the oven for another 3 minutes or so.
Before it went into the oven, to keep it extra moist, I added lemon juice and water. Just brilliant.
What came out was just perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect. The flesh was white, tender and very very moist. The lemon juice gave it quite a kick and a nice touch. See, I took a close shot. See how moist it is.
If you have been haven’t been creating the perfect chicken breast, try my method next time and see.
4. Take the chicken breasts out of the hot pan and slice longitudinally on a chopping board, set aside and leave it to rest.
5. While the chicken is in the oven, continue chopping and prepping the veggies.
6. Get your flat bread and heat it up on a recently turned off hob. You could also do it it on the lowest heat if you have a gas burner. I saw them do this in Marrakech. This is just to toast the outer side of the flat bread nicely.
7. Spread out foil paper, place the toasted flat bread on it.
Lay over the veggies, in whatever order you wish. I started with carrots and cabbage, followed by tomatoes, tatashe (red bell pepper), red onion rings and jalapeno.
Don’t over fill.
8. Place the sliced chicken breasts on top, scoop on Mayo and Ketchup. Despite using crushed chillies for the chicken, it wasn’t hot enough and I remembered that there was a particular shawarma place that I loved in Abuja which used dry pepper to give it extra kick. At the last-minute, I sprinkled on dry pepper.
9. Roll the wrap gently. If you filled the wrap too much, you may have some problems with rolling, jut do it carefully and you will be fine.
10. Once rolled, wrap with the foil paper. Alternatively, you can roll the wrap with the foil paper from the start, saving you from doing it twice.
Once the wrap is rolled in foil, tuck in the ends, place on an oven tray and grill in the oven for 5 – 7 minutes. At 200 degrees centigrade. I extended it to 7 minutes, because I wanted it really hot. Alternatively you can place the wrap rolled in foil in a griddle and turn every 2 minutes or so. If you have those griddle that close upon themselves, even better. Another option would be to heat it up the wrap in a frying pan. Remember to use the foil covering though, just to protect the filling from spilling out.
11. 7 minutes later, I unwrapped the foil and my gorgeous chicken shawarma was staring at me. The mayo had melted nicely with the ketchup and chicken. The veggies were still crunchy, but they were warm (hate cold veggies).
I dug in immediately, and then remembered why you don’t totally unwrap the foil covering of the shawarma. The filling kept spilling out in bits with each bite, but I scooped it straight into my mouth. Looooooool. Best Chicken Shawarma ever. The moist chicken breasts truly made it.
See how moist and creamy and delicious it looked
This filled me up nicely. Only meal of the day and I wanted to go straight to sleep.
I had one more chicken breast, so for Monday’s dinner, I decided to repeat my shawarma experience, but this time, heating the flat bread in a pan till it browned. Unfortunately left it in for too long while doing dishes. Don’t make that mistake.
If you do, this is what is going to happen to your lovely flat bread when it comes to folding
It has now turned crisp, it would break
Remember not to keep it in the pan for too long
If you still want crunchy flat bread shawarma, not to worry, heat it up in the pan after wrapping.
Then goes left over chicken breast
then goes the ketchup
then goes the mayo. This time, I decided to add a little salad cream to it. Loved, loved it.
sprinkling on the dry pepper
Now, you place in a pan to heat or grill pan. Remember those hot slabs in Shawarma joints, well your home frying pan is just re-creating the dry heat effect
Ta daaaa……………………………….crispy crunchy chicken Shawarma.
You can decide to still put it back in the oven, just because the few minutes in the pan would not be enough to warm the chicken and vegetables through. Hot food eater alert. Just 5 minutes in the oven and Perfect.
Here’s your Browned and Crispy Shawarma.
You can also decide to go White and Soft. Your choice
So, there’s your Nigerian Chicken Shawarma. Try it out this Easter.