Recipe courtesy of Nigella Lawson

Oven-Cooked Chicken Shawarma

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Chicken shawarma is usually cooked on a spit, but I saw a recipe by the excellent Sam Sifton (a home cook, therefore eminently trustworthy) in the New York Times (where he was the food editor) for roasting it in the oven, and felt it was therefore safe to give it a go. Though I should say that, while my recipe is inspired by him, it is not his recipe. And though I was delighted with it, for me the crucial test was my son's approval. For a while, we lived on what I could loosely call London's Shawarma Strip, and my son went out nightly--after dinner, if you please--for at least one shawarma. I proffered my version tentatively, and he pronounced in its favor. Here, I've served it modestly, on a pile of shredded iceberg, with some warmed (proper) pita, lemon wedges and a tahini sauce, as made below. Although here my son dissented, and said that only lamb shawarma should be served with tahini sauce. When I make this for friends, or for a family lunch or supper, I slice up some fresh tomatoes sprinkled with mint, cut some cucumbers into wedged slices, and macerate some red onions, cut into half-moons, with red wine vinegar or lime.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 6 hr 40 min (includes marinating time)
  • Yield: 6 to 10 servings
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Ingredients

For the shawarma sauce:

Directions

  1. Take a large resealable freezer bag and put the chicken thighs in it.
  2. Using a fine microplane grater (for choice), grate in the lemon zest, then squeeze the lemons and add the juice. Pour in the olive oil and add the garlic, then add all the remaining ingredients, except for those for the sauce.
  3. Squish everything about together, then seal the bag, place it on a plate or in a dish, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to 1 day.
  4. When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (350 degrees F)/gas mark 7, remove the chicken from the fridge and allow it to reach room temperature.
  5. Tip the contents of the freezer bag into a shallow roasting tin--mine measures 44-by-34-by-1.5 centimeters (17-by-13-by-1/2-inches)--and make sure all the chicken thighs are lying flat and not on top of one another (if possible) before roasting in the hot oven for 30 minutes, by which time they should be cooked through (though obviously you must check) and golden on top.
  6. When the chicken's more or less cooked, make the sauce simply by combining the yogurt with the tahini and garlic, stir and salt to taste, and sprinkle with a few pomegranate seeds.
  7. Line a platter or a couple of plates with crisp lettuce, shredded or torn into pieces, and then top with the piping hot chicken, pouring the oily juices over them, unless you are, for some inexplicable reason, anti-oily-juices. If you wanted to make the chicken go further, you could cut the thighs into chunky slices rather than leaving them whole. And please do add any of the suggested accompaniments, itemized in my introduction.

Cook’s Note

The chicken can be marinated 1 day ahead. Store in fridge until needed. Transfer leftover cooked chicken to a container, then cool, cover and refrigerate within 2 hours. Will keep in fridge for up to 3 days. The chicken can be frozen in its marinade--as long as the meat has not been previously frozen--for up to 3 months. Leftover chicken can also be frozen, in airtight containers or resealable bags, for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in fridge before using.

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