Sabrina Ghayour on making your own tasty takeaway

Sabrina Portrait (c) Kris Kirkham

Sabrina Portrait (c) Kris Kirkham - Credit: Archant

Takeaways are all about convenience, but when a dish is so easy, it’s better to make your own.

Ultimate chicken shawarma

Ultimate chicken shawarma - Credit: Archant

With autumn in full swing and a chill in the air, I find myself wanting to hunker down and hibernate at home. I feel more reluctant to go out and happier to stay in, make a fire (yes, I know by Yorkshire standards its most likely too early for a fire but I am still a soft Southerner and get cold very easily) and settle down with something comforting to eat.

Lately I have found myself craving takeaway food and alas, having tried a few local places, I have concluded I can do much better at home, providing I have the energy to cook. Indian food and curries are hugely popular in my house and after years (and years) of experimentation, I now have a happy 3-curry repertoire of a proper chicken Kari (a recipe in my new book ‘Simply’), a chicken tikka masala and a lamb, spinach and fenugreek curry. The Gozney pizza oven I got during lockdown also doubles up as a Tandoor oven for making the best butter-licked Tandoori chicken and an assortment of naans.

I am expert maker of crispy duck, wonton soup, egg fried rice and sweet and sour pork, too and I’ve now added my favourite crispy chilli beef to the menu. With the help of Asian supermarkets in York, my freezer is full of dumplings to keep me happy through the winter, too.

Thinking about why I am waxing lyrical about takeaways, or more accurately ‘fakeaways’, I realise it is because it is a type of comfort food. It doesn’t matter what you choose to order or what you eat, it’s the act of dialing for dinner and not having to make it yourself.

If I’m honest, I am a lover of the colder months because they don’t deliver false promises the summer months often do. With autumn and winter, you know where you stand - cold weather, rain and quite a few grey skies, to boot. Its weather you can rely on, plan meals and, once upon a time, when indoor gatherings were guaranteed, a nice roast or comforting hotpot.

But the one dish I’ve made the most this year, since lockdown, it’s chicken shawarma. Perhaps it’s because it’s stupidly simple and everyone can get stuck in, not forgetting, its cheap and cheerful and absolutely delicious. So this is the recipe I wanted to share with you, if like me, you aren’t going out as much and fancy something a little bit different on the table.

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Ultimate chicken shawarmas

Serves 2 –8


600g boneless, skinless chicken thigh fillets

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp cayenne pepper

4 fat garlic cloves, crushed

Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

Juice of ½ lemon

4 tbsp Greek yogurt

Olive oil

Maldon sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

To serve

6–8 round flatbreads of your choosing (or use pittas)

200g Greek yogurt

4 large tomatoes, sliced, then each slice cut in half

1 large red onion, halved and finely sliced into half-moons

1 small bunch (about 30g) of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Gherkins or cucumbers in brine (as many as you like), finely sliced


Place the chicken thigh fillets in a bowl. Add the spices, garlic, lemon zest and juice, yogurt, a good drizzle of olive oil (about 2 tbsp) and a generous amount of salt and black pepper. Using your hands, work the marinade into the chicken, ensuring it is mixed evenly and coats every exposed part of all the fillets. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.

Drizzle a little olive oil into a large frying pan set over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken – reduce the heat if the thighs begin to cook too quickly. Fry gently for 10–12 minutes on each side, or until the thighs have a nice, deep golden brown crust and are cooked through. When done, remove and cut the thighs widthways very thinly.

To serve, lay a flatbread on your work surface. Spread Greek yogurt across the surface. Place a line of tomato half-moons down the middle. Stack some shredded chicken over this, then follow with the onion, coriander and a few slices of pickled cucumbers.

Fold up the bottom of the flatbread, then fold over the sides to enclose the filling as tightly as possible. Repeat with the remaining flatbreads and filling. To make eating the shawarmas a little easier, wrap the base with some doubled-up baking paper or a square of kitchen foil, to hold the juices in.

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