Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma

One of the big lifestyle changes that I have made since I have come back home is in the food I eat. I have been on a diet for the past seven weeks. Well, its not a diet but rather mindful eating. I have been cognizant of the macronutrients of the food I eat, whether it’s processed or not and if meets my daily nutrient requirements. There are pros and cons to mindful eating. A big advantage is challenging myself to make healthier foods by coming up with new recipes. There are negatives to mindful eating too– mainly that for the most part I have had to give up alcohol, bread, and sugar. If you have been following my blog you would know that leaving sugar wouldn’t be hard for me at all (if you need context check this out). However, leaving bread and alcohol was very difficult.

Coming back home felt like a clean slate. This needed to be a new chapter and for that reason, I felt that this mindful eating exercise had to be a part of the process. I committed to the regime. Woke up every morning and did an hour of crossfit training followed by a 300 calorie breakfast composed of 6 egg whites, a bowl of oats in soy milk with dried figs; an apple and cold brew coffee for mid day snack; black chickpea salad for lunch; and grilled chicken with one carrot and one cucumber for dinner. This is what I have been eating most days day. This comes to about 1,400 calories with a good mix of carbs, protein, and fat. It took some time to get used to this regime but now it feels strange when I deviate. Of course, I change the meals a little every now and then but the end caloric intake remains about the same.

The high intensity interval training and diet have resulted in me losing a little more than 10 kgs (22.05 lbs) in 7 weeks. The transformation, while physically doesn’t look like much, has been great for me mentally. I feel more energetic and am getting to a point where I feel comfortable with my body, more so than I have been in a long time.

Every now and then however, I get cravings which usually land up conveniently on a weekend. I seize such opportunities to make what I would call a feast. A no holds barred meal wherein I throw mindfulness out the window and create something based purely on the pleasure of taste. This oven-roasted shawarma is a product of this weekend’s feast. Shawarma is a middle eastern preparation of marinated meat that is cooked evenly and eaten with pita bread and a host of delicious accoutrements. I have made this in the past but each time the spice blend I used didn’t do justice to food. It always ended up tasting a lot like chicken tikka instead. There are two big differences between Indian and Middle Eastern marinades. The first is that in Indian marinades the meat is soaked in yogurt as a layer of additional fat whereas, in middle eastern marinades that fat is provided by olive oil. Secondly, middle eastern preparations focus more on the taste than on the aromatics. Hence, they do away with things like cloves and cardamom and only keep spices that enhance the flavors. I made this dish in the most traditional way possible. I left the chicken in its marinade for almost 12 hours, cooked in an oven for twenty minutes sliced and further fried off half the pieces in a skillet to get a crispy outer coating. What I was left was a mix of tender and crispy pieces of meat that was accompanied with store bought pita and a homemade mint white sauce which I love so much that I plan to make a lot more very soon. The feast was absolute success. Both my dad I overate which resulted in a high that comprised of antacid and soda bicarb. No regrets though.

Spices_

Shawarma-3

I have loved making all these amazing recipes. I have been hearing back from a lot of friends and family  about the things that they have been making. Please share, like, and send pictures! Looking forward to the next feast day though I have been mandated by my vegetarian mother to make something for veggie lovers instead of just meat guzzlers. Hang tight for that recipe soon!

Ingredients

3 limes, juiced

1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon of olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons red chili powder (paprika works as well)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

A pinch ground cinnamon

Red pepper flakes, to taste

1 kilogram (~2 pounds) boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 large red onion, peeled and quartered

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

Step 1

Prepare marinade for the chicken. Combine lime juice with 1/2 cup of olive oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, cumin, red chili powder, turmeric, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, and chicken into a large bowl. Mix well, cover and keep for a minimum of 1 hour and a maximum of 12 hours. 

Step 2

Heat the oven to gas mark 6 or (425 F). Grease the pan with some oil and set the chicken. Coat the onions in the marinade and place in the pan as well.

Step 3

Put the chicken in the oven for not more then 30 minutes or until the outer edges of the chicken begins to crisp and darken. Once cooked, let the chicken rest for 2 minutes. Slice thinly. If you want to make the chicken more crisp, add a tablespoon of olive oil on a skillet at high heat and cook until chicken begins to curl tight. Serve with Hummus, white sauce, fresh veggies, pita, and pretty much anything you desire!

 

 

Summer Plum Galette

I spent Fourth of July, 2016 in Mungeli, a village in rural India where I worked as a public health intern for a grassroots level hospital along with other Denison students. For most of them, missing out on Fourth of July was a big thing (and rightly so). I have missed the past four Diwalis and I know how that feels. As a way to celebrate some of that American culture with our homesick friends, we decided to make some truly red, white, and blue dishes– Mashed Potatoes, Mac & Cheese, and a Pie. With some compromises, the first two dishes were made quite successfully. The potatoes were small, with very little starch but turned out quite creamy and buttery. The macaroni pasta was replaced by semolina wheat penne and the cheddar cheese was replaced with salty, processed Amul cheese but hey! It was better than nothing.

Sadly we couldn’t make the pie. Sugar was scarce, so were fruits, and well, we didn’t have an oven. However, the idea of making a pie stuck with me until I went back home to Delhi in August. I have always been scared of the oven. I feel like I have no control when I am cooking with an oven. I usually overthink the temperatures and either overcook (sometimes burn) or undercook my dish. But I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to conquer the oven. This is when I came across Mellissa Clark’s recipe of a galette. A free form artisanal tart, filled with fresh seasonal fruit that become a syrupy jam as they caramelize slowly under the even heat of an oven. She used peaches and cherries with a french cookie crust. The thing I loved the most about this recipe was how forgiving it was. Unlike a tart, or a pie this kind of broke the norms of french finesse by displaying a form of perfection in its imperfections.

Finding this pastry was SO exciting that I started thinking of how to adapt this recipe for the climate, fruits, and ingredients that might be available to me. I chose to change the crust from the french cookie style which would have been quite crumbly and thick to a more traditional pie crust that might add some depth in flavor, some creaminess, and most importantly something that can hold the weight of jammy fruit without ripping apart. The second thing I changed was the fruit. From peaches and cherries, I chose Plums. Plums are one my favorite summer fruits. They come under the category of stone fruits– a family of juicy fruits that tend to have a low sugar content. Plums look magical, with their deep burgundy, purple hues that are speckled with tan dots like stars in a galaxy. Additionally, they have such a unique taste to them. The skin is tart, a flavor spreads quickly over your tongue followed by a gush of sweet watery juice that annuls the millisecond of sour. It reminds me of a warheads or other sour candies that I had as a child (before I was allergic to citric acid and they burnt my tongue).

Plum

Add some blueberries and this will make an amazing Fourth of July dessert! The blueberries will increase the sweetness so adjust added sugar and cornflour accordingly. Additionally, I would top it with a vanilla bean ice cream and chuck the annual boring pie!

Have a try! Like, share, and let me know how it goes!

Ingredients

For the crust:

1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour [can be replaced with almond flour]

1 Stick (8 tablespoons) of Salted Butter, cold and cubed [if you are using unsalted better then add 1/4 teaspoon of salt] {almond or hazelnut butter tastes good too}

2 to 4 tablespoons of ice cold water

For the filling:

3 cups of fruits (plums, peaches, blueberries, cherries)

3/4 cup of sugar (or to taste)

3 tablespoons of cornflour (add only 2 tablespoons if you are adding blueberries)

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

Eggwash and crust topping:

1 Large egg

2 tablespoons of water

3 teaspoons of sugar

Preparation

Crust:

Step 1 

In a food processor blend together the flour and butter until the mixture forms bean-size pieces. Slowly add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the dough just comes together. It should be moist, but not wet.

Step 2

Put dough on lightly floured counter and pat it together to make one uniform piece. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 2 hours.

Step 3 

Heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius (400 degrees farenheit). Roll the dough out to a 12-inch (30 cm) round. Dont worry if its uneven. It goes with the rustic vibe! Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill while preparing the filling.

Filling

Step 1

Toss together fruit, the lemon zest, and the cornstarch. Use more cornstarch for juicy stone fruit and less for blueberries, and raspberries. Pile fruit on the dough circle, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Gently fold the pastry over the fruit, pleating to hold it in. Again, imperfect is totally fine. Brush the crust generously with one beaten egg and 2 tablespoons of water. Sprinkle the 3 teaspoons sugar on the crust.

Step 2 

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the filling bubbles up vigorously and the crust is golden. Cool for at least 20 minutes (prime instagram picture time). Serve warm or at room temperature.