Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 145! Qatar - Chicken Shawarma with Homemade Pita Bread - Up Next, Romania

There were a million other household chores I shoulda, coulda, woulda done today, but my family talked me into making homemade pita bread to go with the shawarma for our Qatari meal.  And honestly, making pita bread (which is mad easy) on a Sunday beats domestic drudgery any day. I was in the middle of cooking, my son Tim and and his girlfriend came home with the most adorable tiger kitten -- in a willow basket no less. I held my mean- mom "no way in Hell " ground for a good 30 seconds, until the kitten looked up at me - then I totally caved. We already  have a cat, a very large German shepherd and two turtles and fish, so what's one more, right? Sigh. I need a serious refresher course on how to resist cuteness in a basket.

Located on the northeasterly coast of the larger Arab Peninsula, Qatar is an Arab emirate in the Middle East. Its only land border is Saudi Arabia, the rest of the country being surrounded by the Persian Gulf. Ruled by the Al Thani family's absolute monarchy since the mid-19th century, Qatar was a former British protectorate, which gained its independence in 1971. Qatar is one of the regions wealthiest states, due in large part to its abundant oil and gas reserves, as well as its pearling market. Qatar claimed the world's largest per capita production of oil and gas and in 2010 was also rated with world's highest GDP.

Because Qatar is surrounded by water on 3 sides and has an abundance of sunny weather, vegetables, fruit and fish are readily available. Although the country's cuisine is based on traditional nomadic customs, Qatar's cuisine has an international flare and incorporates Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Thai, Italian, French, Mediterranean and Mexican flavors into it's cooking. Seafood, lobster, crab, shrimp, tuna, king fish and red snapper are eaten and prepared regularly. Under Muslim law, pork is not consumed, and halal lamb and chicken must be slaughtered and prepared according to strict guidelines. Yogurt, coffee, cheese and olives also make regular appearances at the breakfast, lunch (the main meal of the day) and dinner table.

Homemade Pita Bread (Adapted from

1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups all purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 cup lukewarm water

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Let sit for 10 -15 minutes until water is foamy.
Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a bread hook.
Make a small depression in the middle of the flour and pour yeast mixture into depression.
Turn mixer on low and mix until blended.
Continue to knead with bread hook for 10-15 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.
Grease a large bowl with vegetable oil and place dough in bowl, turning until coated.
Cover bowl with clean towel and let rise in warm, draft free place for 3 hours, or until doubled in bulk.
Once doubled, turn dough out onto a lightly floured board, and roll into a rope.
Pinch off 10-12 small pieces and roll into balls.
Place balls on floured surface, cover with a clean towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven and cookie sheet to 500 F and make sure rack is at the bottom of the oven.
Roll each ball of dough out with a rolling pin into 5-6-inch circles across and 1/4-inch thick.
Bake for 4 minutes until the bread puffs up, then turn over and bake for another 2 minutes.
Remove each pita with a spatula from the baking sheet, and with the back of the the spatula, gently push down on the puffed pita breads.
Cool and store immediately in resealable storage bags.

Chicken Shawarma (Adapted from Middle Eastern Food)

For the Chicken Marinade
1-1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, thinly sliced
1 cup plain Greek style yogurt
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cardamom pods, crushed (discard pod shells)
1 tsp. ground allspice
juice from 1 lemon

For the Sauce

1 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp. Greek style yogurt

For the Pita Filling

8 small loaves of pita bread or 4 large
thinly sliced cucumbers (I used English)
thinly sliced red onions
1/2 tsp. sumac (available in Middle Eastern markets)
thinly sliced tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

Combine all ingredients except for chicken, sauce and filling ingredients to make marinade. If it seems a little dry, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil.
Add chicken to marinade mixture, cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
In a large heavy skillet, cook chicken over medium heat for 20-30 minutes until cooked.
While chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce. Combine all sauce ingredients, mix well and set aside. If the sauce is too thick, you may add a little more lemon juice or water until it reaches the desired consistency.
In a bowl, combine onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley and sprinkle with sumac.

To Prepare the Pita

Stuff the pita with enough chicken on  pita that it fills about 1/4 of the loaf. Add vegetables and pour sauce over everything. Roll like a soft taco or burrito. You can also use a large pita loaf and roll it as you would a burrito.

Final Assessment:  Delicious. Traditional Middle Eastern flavors all tucked inside fresh pita bread. We had it for lunch, and we're having it for dinner...and if there are any left overs, we'll have it for breakfast too.

(C) 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World?/ Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved 


Astrid said...

Hi! What an adorable little kitty! I love cats and wouldn't have said 'no' to this little one. So cute! I love pita bread too. Was too lazy to make some the other day, bought four from the supermarket. But, homemade is the best! :)

sadie said...

Thanks, Astrid! The pita bread was great, but I think I should have made it just a little thinner - How thin do you roll yours, and do you make small or larger loaves? And yes, the kitten is adorable.

witchywoman said...

I ran across your blog while googling for Qatari recipes (with not much luck, mind you) and caught my breath! We are doing a similar project! If you would like, please visit my blog at I would love to put a link to yours up, that is, if you don't mind. Great minds must think alike, I suppose. I already finished my first year and was going to take a break, but the lure of learning about different cuisines is just too strong, so I'm on my second year. I've signed up to follow your blog, in my opinion, it's a must-read! Great job!!

sadie said...

Hey Laurrie! Thanks so much for connecting. I love your blog, and signed up to follow you too - I love you concept and the fact that you're able to do what you are in such a small space is both inspiring and awesome! Way to go!