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Middle Eastern-Inspired Chicken Shawarma

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Adjust Servings:
600g Chicken Thighs
1 Carrot Cut into large chunks
1 handful Parsley Roughly Chopped
Shawarma Marinade
Juice of 1 Lemon
5 Cloves of Garlic Chopped
1 Tsp Za'atar
1 Tsp Paprika
1 Tsp Allspice
1 Tsp Ground Cumin
1 Tsp Salt
0.5 Tsp Black Pepper
0.5 Tsp Nutmeg
6 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Side Salad Try the one in Rawia Bishara's book
Garlic Mayo Old habits die hard

Middle Eastern-Inspired Chicken Shawarma

A DIY Chicken Kebab Recipe that will blow your local take-away out of the water

      • Serves 2
      • Hard


      • Shawarma Marinade

      • Sides



      This Middle Eastern-inspired Chicken Shawarma Recipe is the perfect meal to put on if you’re chilling out by the fire for a couple of hours.

      Recently, I was wild camping with my brother and his stepson. This was the wee man’s first night in a sleeping bag, let alone a tent. We knew he would be in bed pretty early and Ross and I would be awake for a few hours without being able to venture too far from the tent.

      We put our beginner camper to work collecting firewood while we made camp. He was happily working away and announced to the forest, “Work is fun when we all work together”. We couldn’t not agree with him!

      “Teamwork is fun!”

      We made a quick meal of hot dogs on the fire for his dinner and he had the obligatory campfire marshmallows for his dessert. Then Ross and I got to work on our dinner…

      The Chicken Shawarma

      The Middle Eastern-inspired Chicken Shawarma recipe is inspired by Rawia Bishara’s cookbook, Olives, Lemons and Za’atar. This is a great cookbook if you’re a fan of Middle Eastern food. It’s a home cooking book so there is no shawarma unfortunatey, instead, I used her discussion on store cupboard spices, her chicken kebab recipe and my knowledge from years of late night take away kebabs. Please don’t judge Middle Eastern cooking by the food you can get in your local kebab shop. They are poles apart. Instead you’ll find the food vibrant, exciting and fresh. In fact, the tomato salad we prepared in the forest was lifted directly from the recipes within Rawia Bishara’s book.

      One of the key ingredients in the recipe is za’atar, a thyme-heavy blend of spices that kind of reminds me of tea. You can pick it up in good supermarkets, I got mine in Tesco. This is a good one to prepare ahead of time. I prepared the chicken at home and left it to marinate in its ziplock bag for about 8 hours. So making this chicken shawarma at home and cooking that night is an option or, if you want to prepare for the next day, you could freeze your chicken in the marinade and it should last to the next day and will actually benefit from the extra time in the marinade.

      Simply skewer your chicken thighs on the skewers. Choose skewers with some way of tying and hanging them next to the fire. My one had a loop on the top. I secured the chicken by sticking a chunk of carrot on the end to keep it on. Hang by your fire and turn every now and again until charred and crispy.

      As it cooks, the outside is obviously getting a lot more heat than the inside. I sliced sections of cooked meat off and let them lie in the tray underneath. This meant that all of thigh meat in the Shawarma got a little charring and the chicken that sat in the tray was lightly fried and crispy from the juices dripping down. It really was delicious.

      As edges crisped up, I trimmed them into the tray to ensure the whole shawarma was cooked through.

      The Bread and Sides

      My massive nans were almost too big for my pan!

      You could try making your own flat breads using this recipe which works quite well but I hit up the local North African Supermarket near me and bought a packet of massive nans for very cheap. I’ve already mentioned that I made a fresh tomato salad too. This was a great side as the freshness of the herbs and lemon cut through the smoky, charred flavours of the Chicken Shawarma. I also couldn’t resist a bottle of garlic mayo… I guess that was those years of enjoying late night kebabs coming through.

      We couldn’t resist a wee squirt of garlic mayo!

      So this Chicken Shawarma is, perhaps, a slightly complicated meal for two to produce on a campfire. But every now and again, you find yourself with a few hours to kill around camp in the evening. This time it was because we had a super excited first-time camper sleeping nearby. Keeping ourselves busy with an amazing dinner was a great way to spend the evening!

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      At home, mix all the shawarma marinade ingredients in a sandwich bag. Then add the chicken thighs and close the bag tight. Give the thighs a rub to get all the shawarma flavours spread about. Throw the bag in the fridge until you need it or if you don't plan on cooking until the next day, the freezer. Aim for at least 4 hours marinating time.


      When ready to cook, establish a nice bed of fire with plenty of fire wood. If possible, build a tripod out of green wood but mine was dead and dry. It was far enough away that it was only lightly charred.


      Take the chicken out of the bag a skewer it on metal skewers with loops on the end. I stuck a chunk of carrot on each end to keep the chicken in place.


      Next, with a length of cordage secure the skewer to the tripod and set up by the fire. You'll want to place it close enough that you can hold your hand next to the shawarma for 5-6 seconds. Not too close, you don't want it cripsy on the outside and raw in the middle. Set a tray underneath to catch drippings and spin.


      In total, my shawarma cooked for around 2 hours. At the 90 minute mark, I started trimming crispy bits off and let them sit in the juices beneath. When all the chicken is cooked through and charred, chop through some parsley and mix the chicken chunks up in their own juices.


      Finally, serve with some fire cooked flatbreads and whatever sides you've brought. If you give this a go I would love to hear how you got on!

      Mark T

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