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Ramadan Stories From The Kitchen: Twist up your iftar with a shawarma braided pastry Open in fullscreen

Sara Ezzeldin Saeed

Ramadan Stories From The Kitchen: Twist up your iftar with a shawarma braided pastry

Date of publication: 21 April, 2021

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Heritage with a twist: In the first of our Ramadan Stories From The Kitchen series, Sara Ezzeldin Saeed shares her unexpected cooking journey and the recipe for her homemade creation.
It all started when I moved to London two years ago and missed my mum's aromatic, delightful and flavourful Middle Eastern dishes.

I went from someone who had never stepped foot into the kitchen door to inviting over 15 grown and very hungry people over for lunches and dinners. Let's just say… it wasn't an easy task but somehow, miraculously, they were pleasantly surprised.

Within the first few months of starting my cooking journey, I experimented with various cuisine, but I just kept going back to my mum over and over again for her recipes.

We'd send each other voice notes, text messages and video calls to exchange thoughts afterwards about the recipes either one of us had made, and laugh about when things would go completely out of whack.

But there was always a beauty to each of our success story, and an even more delightful memory to the times when things didn't exactly go as planned.
There was always a beauty to each of our success story, and an even more delightful memory to the times when things didn't exactly go as planned
In March 2020, I decided to start a cooking blog on Instagram. I wanted to share everything I had learnt from my mum, all the cooking tips, the balance of flavours from sweet to savoury and bring in my own artistic, creative twist to Middle Eastern cuisine. After all, cooking is about remembering heritage, sharing, giving and receiving.

My page is my platform for ingenuity, it is my safe space to combine my two loves – art and great food.

Cooking has been a developing passion for the last two years, but baking was something I always avoided in fear of horrific failures.

I have always found cooking to be a lot more forgiving than baking can ever be. Precision is key to a good bake, and my creative cooking is all about the adventure, so that equation was not always well-balanced.

Just a few weeks after starting @orientablebysara, I took a leap of faith and started experimenting with baking. Turns out, I wasn't so bad after all! I began to make breads, pastries, cakes, and slowly the list started to grow.

One day my husband and I were craving a good old shawarma, like the ones you would find in Turkey or Lebanon. Eureka! I thought why not make a shawarma wrapped in homemade pastry/bread. And so, that is how the best-ever chicken shawarma wrapped in homemade braided pastry came to life.

Recipe: 
Serves: 5-6 people 

Baking time: 30 mins
Preparation time: 45 mins-1 hour

Ingredients:

For the shawarma dough:

2.5 cups of sieved plain flour
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp of vegetable oil of choice
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp dry active yeast
1 cups lukewarm water

Filling
2 chicken fillet pieces
1 thinly-sliced potato or 1 handful of frozen fries
1 small-sized tomato
3-4 small-sized pickled gherkins
1/2 small onion
A handful of thinly chopped lettuce
Sriracha sauce (optional)

Marinate
1/2 cup yoghurt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp red chilli pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chilli powder
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp bay leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste

Garlic sauce
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/4 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp sesame
5 garlic cloves
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp lemon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp oregano
1-2 tbsp olive oil

For decoration
1 egg
Handful of nigella seeds
Handful of sesame seeds
Handful of chopped parsley
3-4 half cut cherry tomatoes

Method:

Step 1: Chicken filling

Start by cutting and marinating your chicken.

1.     Thinly slice each of your chicken fillets into 3 parts lengthways. Just each piece so it around 1/2 cm thick.
2.     In a large bowl, add your marination ingredients (in ingredient section above) and mix well.
3.     Add sliced chicken pieces into bowl and leave to marinate for 3-4 hours.

Step 2: The dough

1.     In a mixing bowl, add sieved plain flour, salt and vegetable oil of choice.
2.     In a bowl, add sugar, dry active yeast and lukewarm water and let the yeast active for 10 mins.
3.     Once the yeast mixture appears to have some air bubbles on the surface, add it into the large mixing bowl.
4.     Mix by hand or use a stand mix until the dough appears to have combined fully. If mixing by hand, it will take around 10 mins of continuous kneading. A stand mix will take around 2-3 mins on low to medium speed.
5.     Take the dough out of the mixing bowl and gently roll it on a flat surface to form a large dough ball.
6.     Oil the surface of a clean bowl and place the dough ball in it. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and place it a warm place i.e. turned off stove for an 1 hour.

Step 3: Garlic sauce

In the meantime, blend the garlic sauce ingredients (see ingredient list) together in a blender until smooth. Tip: add oil bit by bit for a smoother texture to the sauce.

Step 4: Toppings

1.     Thinly chop your veggies into thin round circles: tomato, pickled gherkins and onions.
2.     Chop the lettuce into thin pieces.
3.     Cut your potatoes into finger-size slices and either fry or bake on 200c until golden.

Step 5: Sauté

1.     In a pan on medium heat, place 1/2 tbsp oil and add in your chicken breasts. Tip: do not over-crowd your pan.
2.     Cook on each side until golden brown.
3.     Place your cooked chicken on a cutting board and cut your chicken pieces vertically into smaller pieces.

Step 6: Cutting and flattening the dough

1.     Lightly dust a flat clean surface with some flour.
2.     Place the rested pastry dough on the surface and flatten with a rolling pin. Tip: the dough needs to be thick enough to hold the weight of the filling so do not overstretch the dough.
3.     Roll the dough so that it fits the same size as the baking tray that the dough will be baked in.
4.     Carefully transfer the flattened dough onto the tray. 
5.     Find the middle point of the flattened dough. Mark 4cm from the right and 4cm from the left.
6.     Start cutting diagonal lines from the left end of the dough to where one side of the marked 4cm starts. That's where the diagonal line should stop.
7.     Cut a diagonal line on the other side of dough and stop again where the other marked 4cm on the right end of the dough starts.
8.     Each diagonal line should be around 4cm thick.
9.     Repeat the cutting process until the bottom of the dough on each end. You should have around 10-12 lines on each side.

Step 7: Add the filling

1.     Start by placing the garlic sauce in the middle section of the dough.
2.     Then add your thinly cut pieces of chicken.
3.     Add your toppings i.e. tomato, onions, pickles, fries, sriracha sauce.

Step 8: Braid your dough

1.     Take one diagonal piece from the left and place it on top of the middle section with the filling in it. Do not over stretch the line.
2.     Take the perpendicular/opposite diagonal piece from the right side and place it in the middle section so it crosses over the left diagonal line to make a braid shape.
3.     Repeat the price with the rest of the diagonal piece.
4.     Egg wash the pastry lightly and add on some sesame and nigella seeds.

Step 9: Bake the shawarma pastry

1.     Preheat your oven for 5 mins on 180 c (fan gas).
2.     In a large baking tray, place a baking sheet.
3.     Carefully carry your enclosed shawarma pastry and place it on the flat baking tray. You may need another pair of hands to carry the pastry from the other side.
4.     Bake for 30 mins,

Step 10: Sprinkle some parsley and chopped cherry tomatoes and enjoy!

Sara Ezzeldin Saeed is the founder of the blog orientablebysara. She spends most of her free time experimenting in the kitchen with Middle Eastern recipes trying to cherish the impeccable, rich flavours of the region while putting a creative and modern twist to every recreation.

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