بلاد الشام / Bilad al-Sham / The cuisine of Levantine

When the weather is hot my cooking turns to the middle east, as you will have noticed in recent posts. I find that I cannot manage to eat large meals, and whilst salads can be exciting, a Meze type meal is healthy, easy to digest and great fun to create.

Shawarma is traditionally cooked on a vertical spit, and comes from the turkish word ‘çevirme’ which means turning. One of my food heroes Yotam Ottolenghi has his version of the dish in the book ‘Jerusalem’ which was also a TV series shown on BBC 4.

Spices for Shawarma

 Lamb & MarinadeAs you can see, quite a lot goes into this dish apart from a leg of Lamb, that has been ‘punctured’ with a long thin knife to let the marinade penetrate over a 24 hour period.

If you want to have a go, you will need Peppercorns, Clove, Cardamom pods, Fenugreek seeds, Fennel Seeds, Cumin Seeds, Star Anise, Cinnamon sticks, Nutmeg, Ground Ginger, Sweet Paprika, Sumac, Sea Salt, Fresh Ginger, Garlic Cloves, chopped fresh Coriander, Lemon juice and……………………..Groundnut Oil………..!

Pop all the ‘seedy’ spices into a pan and dry roast them, the kitchen will be filled with exotic aroma’s n no time at all. Grind the spices once heated through and add to a bowl with everything else and you have you marinade. Once done, take you leg of lamb and puncture the meat in several places and then put into a dish, smother with the marinade and rub well in. Cover and stick in the fridge for 24 hours, taking out from time to time to turn over and make sure the leg is really well coated.

Soused Onion

Completed OnionI was planning to serve the Lamb with various salads, a simple Red Onion piquant one was created by combining Sherry Vinegar with Rape Seed Oil, Salt, Pepper, Lemon Juice and Zest, and some fresh Coriander and finely chopped Mint.

The second Salad was some Baby Gems leafs, Tomato, Cucumber, Coriander (lots), and a dressing of Sherry Vinegar, Rape Seed Oil and Za’atar.

The lamb goes into a low oven (150 deg Fan, 170 deg Convection), for 4.5 hours. You need to add some water from time to time and cover the meat for the last 3.5 hours so the spices do not burn.

Cacik I made some Cacik to go with the Lamb, Yoghurt, grated Cucumber, Garlic, some Lemon Juice and drizzled with Olive Oil and sprinkled Sumac on the top too. I do like this particular dish, its adds a freshness and tartness which goes well with the Lamb, especially when served in grilled Pitta Breads, used a pockets to hold the various tasty fillings.

As you can see from the heading photograph, this meal is pleasing on the eye as well as giving the tastebuds a real treat. As the Lamb is cooked gently, it is meltingly tender and when stuffed into a ‘Pitta Pocket’ with the various salad’s and Caciik, you end up with the most delightful fresh taste, that will take you to the Casbah’s of distant lands.

Sahtain..

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