Imagine the best kebab joint you’ve stumbled across. Large spits rotating in tasty symmetry in front of fiercely hot elements. Salads, vegetables, pickles and sauces lined up waiting patiently for their time to shine.
Your stomach is rumbling!
What do you choose? Not sure where to look, you cast your eyes at fresh salads and then redirect to the smell of spicy meat.
For me, most times my eyes stop at the Shawarma spit.
When you think of Lebanese or Middle Eastern dishes one of the first things you may list is shawarma. It’s quite a popular street food amongst the Lebanese and across the Middle East and now you see it making its mark across the globe.
For those of you who haven’t heard of it, shawarma is basically marinated meat that you would often see on a rotating spit at Middle Eastern take away food joints. Just before serving, thin slices are shaved off this rotating spit of shawarma meat and piled up into Lebanese bread or a large pita with all of the best toppings — pickles, vegetables or a salad and a tahini sauce.
Growing up I don’t remember my mother making shawarma that often, but I guess the shawarma shop that was a 5 minute walk from home may have had something to do with that. And that’s probably the case for most who can get shawarma on tap, so to speak.
The other thing is, some may wonder, how can I replicate the taste of shawarma off a spit at home if I don’t have a spit!? Well, you need not worry ’cause I’ve worked that out for you. After trying some different ways (and let me tell you we’ve had a lot of homemade shawarma lately!) I think I’ve come pretty close with this recipe.
But here’s what you need to take note of first…
– My meat of choice is Australian beef rump. I buy rump steaks often for our meat and 2 veg meals, stir fries and some other dishes. It’s a great steak for a variety of cooking methods, with a lot of flavour and it’s also affordable. So buying it regularly isn’t going to break the budget!
– I’m a strong advocate for not over cooking beef — medium-rare (my choice) or medium at most if you can’t get past the pink flesh. But never well done! In this case the recipe calls for lemon juice and vinegar in the marinade. These two ingredients work to break down the raw meat and the acid begins to cook it in the same way heat on a stovetop cooks the meat. So there’s really no need to keep it on the heat for more than a couple of minutes. Doing so will only dry it out and make it chewy. And no one wants that!
– Using a heavy-based grill (preferably cast iron) makes all the difference in this recipe. I’ve tried cooking shawarma in the oven, in a standard non-stick saucepan as well as in a fry pan. All these work well if you want to sauté or fry the beef. That’s not what you’re after here. I found the best result came from using a grill. The cast iron grate is known for its heat retention. This is ideal because you want to be able to cook and sear the beef evenly and quickly without the risk of a drop in temperature on your cooking surface. The other bonus with this type of cooking surface is the minimal amount of oil required. The high heat and even distribution of heat means the beef sears straight away and so less likely to stick.
– The marination period in the recipe is ESSENTIAL! Make sure you don’t skip it. It’s the main reason for all that succulently profound flavour. So remember to plan ahead with this one. Marinate the day before, cover and refrigerate the beef for at least 10 hours and ideally for 24! It’s worth the effort, trust me!
Despite the planning ahead and marination time, this at home beef shawarma is a super easy family meal to whip up. Yes, it does appear to be a large quantity (you can halve it, of course) but I have a family of 6 so there’s enough for one dinner plus plenty of leftovers for dinner the following day. Or just perfect for lunches too! Totally hits the spot. Every. Single. Time!
- 1 kg beef rump steaks (cut into thin strips)
- 3 teaspoons shawarma spices*
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon mastic (finely ground, optional)**
- 1 teaspoon mild English mustard
- 1 tablespoon whole egg mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 brown onion
- ½ red capsicum
- Lebanese or pita bread
- Lettuce, tomato
- Chopped parsley
- Sumac Tahini Yoghurt Sauce (find recipe here )
- Pickles (cucumbers, turnips)
- Place beef rump strips into a large bowl. Add the spices, lemon juice, ground mastic, salt, bay leaf, mustard, mayonnaise and vinegar to bowl. Mix these ingredients until they are well combined and completely coating beef. Cover bowl and let marinate overnight in the fridge for at least 10 hours, preferably 24 hours.
- When ready to cook, the following day, use oil spray to spray a thick, heavy-based grill. Heat grill over high heat. Once hot reduce heat to medium-high and grill the marinated shawarma strips in batches. Do not overcrowd the grill and try not to overlap strips. Strips only need to be grilled for 1 - 2 minutes on each side until they change in colour as you would sear meat for a stir-fry. Remove from heat, set aside and keep warm.
- Cut brown onion into thin wedges. Using the same grill add half the olive oil and grill onion slices until soft and golden brown. Remove from heat, set aside.
- Deseed and cut capsicum into thin strips. Add remaining olive oil to grill and grill the capsicum slices for 3 - 4 minutes until they begin to soften and are lightly charred.
- In a serving bowl or platter, add cooked beef, toss through onion and capsicum and serve immediately.
- Place cooked shawarma in Lebanese bread (or large pita bread) along the diameter; add lettuce, fresh tomatoes, pickles, sumac yoghurt and fresh parsley. Roll and enjoy. OR make shawarma bowls replacing bread with hot chips!
- Be sure to check out video below to see how it's done!
* Shawarma spices are commonly found at most Middle Eastern grocers. The spice is a combination of coriander seed, allspice, cinnamon and more.
**Mastic is a spice used in some Middle Eastern cooking that has a slightly pine or cedar-like flavour. It is an ingredient that can be hard to find and so I only add it when I have it. Otherwise I leave it out altogether.
*This post is in collaboration with and sponsored by Australian Beef. Opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way. If you’re looking for any further recipe inspiration head to Australian Beef’s Facebook, Instagram or visit AustralianBeef.com.au.