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Shawarma Lahem
thinly sliced marinated meat sandwich

Photo Credit: Alexandra Grablewski

You’ve likely encountered shawarma at some point, perhaps at a food truck or roadside vendor: a large mass of meat rotating on a spit then thinly shaved into a pita with vegetable toppings and Tahini Dressing. Well, if you’re a shawarma fan (and even if you’ re not yet, you will be), I’ve crafted an at-home recipe; no spit required! A bone-in leg of lamb is rubbed with my sensational shawarma spice mix, then marinated overnight with lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. The next day, after 2 hours of roasting, the meat literally falls off the bone, and into warm pita bread! Finished with tahini sauce, parsley, and veggies, my shawarma is succulent, saucy, and a little bit spicy.




1 tablespoon sea salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground allspice

11⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cloves

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom

11⁄2 tablespoons sumac spice

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1⁄3 cup red wine vinegar

1⁄2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice


One 4- to 5-pound boneless or bone-in leg of lamb

5 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise


1 large yellow onion, quartered

1 large red onion, quartered

1 large shallot, quartered


2 large red bell peppers

1⁄2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

11⁄4 teaspoons sea salt

2 large Vidalia onions, thinly sliced

3 vine-ripened garden tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

1 small bunch fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped

Tahini Dressing

6 small Khebez Arabi, or large pita pockets, for serving

A day before you plan to serve the shawarma, combine all the seasonings and spices for the marinade in a large mixing bowl, making sure they are well blended. Whisk in the olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice and set aside.

Place the lamb into a large mixing bowl or onto a nonreactive baking dish and, using a small, sharp knife, make 1-inch-deep slits all over and into the surface of the meat. Insert the garlic cloves into the slits, then pour the liquid marinade over the meat and thoroughly rub into the meat.


Tightly cover the roast with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.

The next day, remove the lamb from the refrigerator and let the lamb come to room temperature before roasting. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a small pot, turn off the heat, and cover. Place the quartered onions on the bottom of a large roasting pan, and pour the hot water over them. Remove the lamb from the marinade, discard the liquid, and place lamb on top of a roasting rack set into the roasting pan. Roast the lamb in the center of the oven for 30 minutes. Then, lower the temperature to 350°F and roast for 11⁄2 hours more, periodically basting the lamb with the juices it releases. You may need to add more hot water if the natural juices are evaporating.

While the lamb roasts, prepare the toppings. To roast the red bell peppers, you can use a broiler or a grill. If you are using a grill, fire it up. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the red peppers, and sprinkle with 1⁄4 teaspoon salt. Then, place the red peppers on the grill or under a broiler, and steadily rotate them using tongs so that they char evenly on all sides; this should take about 10 minutes. Once they are charred throughout, transfer them to a large mixing bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside to steam; this will facilitate peeling off the skins later.


Place 2 medium sauté pans over medium-low heat, and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil in each. Place the thinly sliced onions in one and the tomato slices in the other and season each with 1⁄2 teaspoon of the salt. Allow both the tomatoes and onions to caramelize for 5 to 7 minutes until softened, and the onions are golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.


By now, the bell peppers should have steamed sufficiently and cooled. Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl, and transfer the peppers to a cutting board. Using a sharp paring knife, scrape off the blackened skin and slice the peppers in half lengthwise. Remove and discard the stems and seeds, and thinly slice the peppers in long strips. Set aside.


At the end of the roasting time, check the lamb. The skin should be dark and the meat should be very fragrant. Remove the pan from the oven, and transfer the lamb to a large wooden carving board, cover it completely with aluminum foil, and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Turn off the oven. Strain the pan juices and reserve to pour over the shawarma if you like.


Arrange the Khebez Arabi breads or pita pockets on a large baking sheet, layering and overlapping them slightly. Place in the still warm (but turned off) oven for 2 to 3 minutes, flipping them over halfway so they are warmed through.


Once the lamb has finished resting, thinly slice the lamb against the grain and off the bone, using a very sharp carving knife and a carving fork. Pile the lamb in the warm pita pockets or bread, adding the roasted vegetables, spices, and Tahini Dressing.

NOTE: You will need a large roasting pan with a rack.

Copyright 2017 by Julie Ann Sageer in Julie Taboulie’s Lebanese Kitchen, St. Martin’s Press/St. Martin’s Griffin. All Rights Reserved.

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