Chicken Shawarma, Anna-style

Since I learned to make my own pitta breads. (I KNOW – get me, yawn…) I make loads of dinners for myself and James with pitta breads on the side. Falafel you can find here, I also make lamb Kofta, (not yet posted this), and sometimes I just do a mezze of salads and humous and various spicy things if we don’t want meat.

I’ve called this shawarma. It kinda isn’t that. It’s not roasted on a spit, for a start, it’s marinated and then roasted in the oven. But the flavours are those you’d expect to get if you were in a middle eastern take-away or restaurant. It has had The Male Seal Of Approval. Which means it is, apparently, pretty good…herbs-and-spices-for-chicken-schwarmaServes 3-4 depending on appetites and whether you serve it with or without some carb on the side.

You have chicken options here:

  1. Buy a 1-1.5kg / 2-3 lb. whole chicken and joint and bone it yourself, if you fancy practising that. I quite enjoy doing it, it’s a bit of Sweeney Todd feeling. Or should that be Mrs Lovett, seeing as she made the pies..? Anyway, the DIY route is, natch, much cheaper than buying it ready cut-up, and is not hard. I’ll post a tutorial one day.
  2. Buy a few of packets of boned breast meat, and if you like brown, some boned thighs as well. You need about 800g to 1.2kg
  3. Don’t bother with removing the bones and just buy the joints you like, bone-in. It will marinade just as well, only take longer to cook. 


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Blackberry Friands or Cupcakes

I love it when I find a recipe that uses up egg whites!! I always have loads in the freezer from making quiches and mayonnaise, both of which I love. If you don’t have any in the freezer…. try making some mayonnaise… or a quiche. floured-blackberries

Last weekend, in the dog-days of the English summer, James and I went blackberrying in the lower hills of the South Downs. I didn’t want very many, it’s mid September and little fingers have picked too many off the bushes already as they walk their dogs along the footpaths, so I knew we’d be too late to get enough for jam; but I had a hankering (maybe it’s being pregnant) to make a blackberry-type cake. We got a small tupperware box, and got blown about on the hill, and I huffed and puffed my bump around the gorse and was happy to get back to the car. Once home I was even happier to get onto the real business of baking.

A couple of weeks ago I’d never heard of a friand. Now they are my new favourite thing. I don’t have a very wide range of sweet things that I make, being not particularly sweet-toothed and believing that sugar is pointless/verging on the harmful as an actual food stuff, but of course like most people I do love cake. The ones I do make I make over and over, and have a tendency to binge eat them in front of The Good Wife or House of Cards or some other brilliant US drama. These friands are going to become part of my regular go-to cakes, I just know, it.  I’ll be making them all year round with different flavours.

They didn’t invent them, but I do have my heros Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi to thank for introducing me to them. But stop – is that the Food Police at the door? Maybe, because yet again I’ve messed very slightly with the recipe.  It’s a French delicacy with a history of its own, and is very popular in Australia, appaz, so I don’t feel too guilty. Ottolenghi makes them with blackcurrants and puts cinnamon in, which I didn’t really like the first time I made them. I use almond essence and vanilla, and I make them with less sugar, and smaller. For some reason, I like having two (or three) on my plate, instead of one. Can’t think why.

The picture above is actually some painfully expensive supermarket blackberries I used for my first attempt, but the ones we picked in the wild were much smaller, which is actually better for the cake as they don’t take over the entire friand but stud it with flavour like they should.delicate-friands

  • 125g butter, melted and cooled a bit.
  • 60g plain flour (or gluten-free flour)
  • 60g blanched almonds
  • 50g unsalted pistachios ( you can leave these out as they’re fiendishly expensive and just use 110g almonds if you prefer)
  • 140g caster sugar
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • ¾ tsp almond essence
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tbs mashed banana (an Ottolenghi master stroke)
  • 120g blackberries or small fruit of your choosing, tossed in a heaped tablespoon of plain flour, like my arty pic above.


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I first had falafel in Paris in the 1980’s when Cathy, wonderfully glamorously, lived there. We used to visit a take-away place in the cool area of la Mairie and get the now familiar pitta bread stuffed with crunchy cold salads and hot falafel, freshly fried and crispy on the outside, soft and mysteriously spicy on the inside, topped with some creamy and equally mysterious sauce – which I later worked out was tahini. This was long before anyone had opened a falafel bar in the UK. They were exotic and alluring and I felt very well travelled just eating them.

Gung-ho as my family has always been about food, we thought – ‘we can make those!’- and embarked on a few attempts in our kitchen when I was a teenager, using our ancient chip-frier on our even more ancient gas cooker. My memory of this is of infrequent success, mixed with quite a lot of disintegrated chickpea mess floating in the hot oil.  We probably had to make do with a lot of salad for our tea on those nights… I’m afraid we gave up after a while.

For years afterwards my experience of falafel was limited to the occasional take away, either drunk at the end of the night in lieu of a kebab, or from a very decent take away place on Old Compton Street when I lived in London.  More recently I’ve tried a few packet versions where you just add liquid… they were…well…ok I suppose…

BUT, then along came Yotam Ottolenghi. My experience of both eating and cooking falafel was transformed when I started using Ottolenghi’s recipe in his masterpiece of a book Jerusalem. Not only did they not fall apart, they were more delicious than anything I’d had in from a packet, a cafe, or a take-away – drunk or otherwise. 

So here is the recipe that I’m sharing with you. Far be it for me to mess with the legend that is Yotam, but I have to say that I almost double the spices and flavourings, mainly because I don’t make as much mixture as his recipe calls for (there are usually only two of us eating), but I still usually chuck roughly the same quantities of spices that he specifies.

I know, I know, fiddle with an Ottolenghi recipe at your peril, his testing is rigorous and his flavour balancing is unsurpassed. But there it is. I add more flavouring. I can hear the knock on the door from the food police as I write…



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Potato Pancakes

I just love me anything fried. Along with massive salads it’s one of my favourite types of food to eat. I think mum must have made fried things when we were kids, although we weren’t a chip pan sort of a family. Actually, I’m wrong, we did have a chip pan in the 1980’s. Anyway, I digress, here are some lovely potato pancakes to have for lunch. Mum has always served them with some plain yoghurt, and some homemade apple sauce.  If you grind a bit of salt and pepper on your yoghurt and then top with apple sauce it’s just a great combo.


  • 200g potatoes, peeled. (approx 215g unpeeled
  • 50g onion, peeled and grated (messy but better than chopped)
  • 1 egg white, beaten to a froth but not stiff
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour


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Watermelon Salad with Feta Cheese

So, not to be like a record stuck in a groove or ‘owt, but this is very very veeeehy quick and very easy and it’s another of our ‘not-a-recipe-more-of-a-serving-suggestion’ salads.

We don’t believe in iceberg lettuce and tomatoes with no dressing. That’s not salad, that’s just assorted fibre on a plate. Yet somehow, despite all the fancy places to eat in the UK and the transition from spam and sprouts to quinoa and coulis that’s occurred in the last twenty years, lots of people still think that salad is boring and worthy. Sometimes those people come round to our house and eat a salad and go: ‘wow, how did you make this?’ and the answer is – …’er we chopped it up and put literally TWO things on it’.

And then you’ve got taste, interest, AND HEALTH.


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Kale Crisps

This recipe is for Keith’s mum Marion who’s been waiting for ages for me to post it!

My boyfriend and I had these in Los Angeles last year at The Standard Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, sat by a pool with a beer before dinner.  Is that image sickening enough for you and do you now hate me? My work here is done.

The point is, it was the first time I’d come across them and I was amazed – I thought them super cool and we scoffed the lot pretty darn quickly. That I knew they were healthy was a massive bonus. Salty pre-dinner snacks are a weakness of mine (see post on tomato salsa, which I eat tons of with tortilla chips). I now serve these delicate crisps as often as I can get my hands on some good strong kale, and people always love them, even people who you might expect to turn their noses up at something so…well – righteous.


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This is what you do when you bought a rock-hard avocado ten days ago, left it in a bowl to reach ripe perfection and then forgot about it so now it’s starting to look a bit old and tired.  There are lots of different ways of doing guacamole and you can experiment with them, of course. This is what I do. Nice and simple.


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Broad Beans with feta

This is, like many salads, just a question of putting some things together and creating joy on a plate.  It’s very similar to the Flageolet Beans salad.  But different.


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Apple and Blue Cheese Salad

This isn’t really a recipe. It’s more a suggestion of how to put things together in a bowl to make a great salad. We’ve got a little guide to making salad in the How Do I… section, but for now this is a just one particular example of the sweet/sour/crunch/salt approach.  The sweet crunch of the apple and the nutty, toasted crunch of the pumpkin seeds work brilliantly with creamy, salty blue cheese.  The little kick of the chives adds another level (often a good thing to put onion in a salad) and the sharp cider vinegar keeps it good and fresh.

About the ingredients:

You can, of course, substitute different kinds of cheeses – maybe goat’s cheese or feta. Best to use something good and salty, though. And you could use a different fruit – kiwi or pear, maybe – and different herbs, different greens, different seeds. Completely change it in fact. Because you can.


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Beetroot Salad with Clementine and Feta

Hi. I made this combination up so if you see it anywhere else on the Web Of All Things then it’s nicked, officer. It’s another Definitely Not Boring Salad for you. As usual with salads, it’s not a recipe, more of a serving suggestion. Nothing is expensive, everything is available in basic supermarkets. I’m rather pleased with it.

  • Slice a large pre-cooked beetroot thinly. Peel a clementine and slice it very thinly. Break up some chunks of feta cheese. Value own-brand is fine. (75p, yay!)
  • Arrange it all on a plate. 
  • Drizzle with olive oil and couple of teaspoons of a nice vinegar like red or white wine vinegar
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • If you’ve got tarragon or chives, put some on. 


  • If you like toasted seeds, dry fry some sunflower/pumpkin/sesame seeds till slightly brown and put them on. 

Badda Bing. As they say (somewhere).



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