Lamb is one of the most prevalent proteins used in Middle Eastern cooking, as religious restrictions rule out pork for most of the inhabitants in the region. All is well, though, because the spices of Middle Eastern cuisine pair so well with the sweet, gamey flavor of lamb meat.
Shawarma is the unofficial street food of the Middle East. Just as easily as you can find a hot dog cart on the streets of NYC, there is a Shawarma stand on many of the corners in the Mid East. Characterized by the slowly roasting tower of sliced meats impaled on a rotating spit that is sandwiched between the low heat coils of the doner oven, shawarma is usually served with a warm flatbread and tangy yogurt sauce, with pickled vegetables, raw onion, goat’s cheese, and fresh herbs. The most common preparation utilizes thin strips of meat, marinated and cooked slow and low.
We are going to prepare a shawarma kabob using high heat and chunks of lamb stew meat. Stew meat is generally trimmed from shoulder or leg roasts, so the pieces of meat vary in size and texture. We will marinate the meat with some olive oil and lemon juice to help tenderize the meat before cooking. We want to allow a few hours of marinating time so that the end result has the desired texture.
We are going to use a high heat method of cooking for our kabobs. This is achieved using a hot cast iron griddle pan, or over the hot coals of a grill.
Here's what we'll need
1 ½ - 2 lbs lamb stew meat
½ C olive oil
Zest and juice of one lemon
The Shawarma Seasoning
2 Tbsp Black Peppercorn
2 Tbsp Cumin Seed
2 Tbsp Turmeric
1 Tbsp Cardamom Pods
1 Tbsp Coriander Seed
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
Dry toast all of the pods and seeds in a pan on the stove until they become fragrant. Let cool to room temperature and then grind all ingredients in a food processor or spice grinder.
3-4 wooden or metal skewers, If using wooden skewers make sure to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before using.
This dish serves perfectly with Pita bread, Diced tomato, Pickled vegetables, Shaved onion, Feta Cheese, Yogurt Mint Sauce, Fresh mint and cilantro
Marinating The Lamb
Combine 2 Tbsp of shawarma seasoning with the meat, lemon zest and juice, and the olive oil in a mixing bowl. Toss all of the ingredients until thoroughly mixed. Refrigerate and let marinate for at least four hours and up to 8 hours.
Kabob Cooking Tips
If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least thirty minutes before skewering the meat onto them. Skewer the meat so that it is all concentrated in the center of the skewer. The meat should be loosely packed into the center of the skewer so that it will cook evenly and thoroughly.
Prepare the preferred cooking surface for high heat cooking. If using a charcoal grill, get the coals scorching hot. If using a cast iron griddle pan, bring the pan near smoking before adding the meat. Sear the meat on all sides, turning every couple of minutes to cook evenly. After about 8 to 10 minutes, the meat should be ready. These kabobs could easily be served over rice as well.