Chicken Shawarma With Vampire-Slaying Toum From Ottolenghi Test Kitchen

November  4, 2021
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Photo by Food52
Author Notes

Toum, which literally translates to “garlic” in Arabic, is a Levantine condiment made by whipping together raw garlic and oil with a good amount of lemon juice. It is potent enough to ward off even the most persistent of vampires and is most definitely not for the garlic averse among us. Use it sparingly, and if you find it too potent, swirl in some Greek yogurt, as we do in the following two recipes. Make sure to use a neutral-tasting oil here, such as vegetable oil, and not olive oil—it’ll ensure the toum stays white and fluffy and won’t detract from the intensely pungent garlic flavor. This recipe will most likely make more than you need, but toum is stable enough to have a long shelf life. Once made, store it in a sealed jar in the fridge; it’ll keep for up to 4 weeks and goes really well with crispy potatoes, grilled meat (particularly when rich and fatty), and just about anything battered and fried. Lastly, toum loses its intensity the longer it sits, so for the more faint of heart, make this a few days in advance of when you need it. —Food52

Watch This Recipe
Chicken Shawarma With Vampire-Slaying Toum From Ottolenghi Test Kitchen
  • Prep time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 4
  • Chicken Shawarma
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound (500 grams) boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3 to 4 pieces each
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) full-fat Greek yogurt
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Toum
  • 3 heads (100 grams) garlic cloves, well-dried and peeled
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 milliliters, or 250 grams by weight) sunflower oil, or another neutral-tasting oil
  • 3/4 cup (75 milliliters) freshly squeezed lemon juice
In This Recipe
  1. First, marinate the shawarma. Add all the spices, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and a good grind of pepper to a large bowl and mix well to combine. Add the chicken thighs to the bowl, mix well, and leave to marinate, refrigerated for at least an hour, or up to overnight.
  2. Meanwhile, make the toum. Halve the garlic cloves lengthways and use a small, sharp knife to remove and discard the inner part (some will look green or similar to a white twig).
  3. Transfer the cored-out garlic cloves to a food processor along with 1⁄4 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Blitz until very smooth and aerated, about 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl a couple times. With the machine still running, very slowly drizzle in about 60ml (a fifth) of the oil, followed by a tablespoon of lemon juice. Continue in this way, alternating between oil and lemon juice and ending with the oil. Do this very slowly and steadily; you don’t want the toum to split at all. You should be left with a white, fluffy and homogenised mixture. Transfer to a sterilized, sealed jar and store refrigerated; it’ll keep for up to 4 weeks.
  4. When ready, remove the chicken from the fridge about half an hour before you want to cook it. Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C.
  5. Skewer the chicken onto four (9-inch/23cm) metal skewers or soaked wooden skewers. Transfer to a parchment lined baking tray and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until nicely browned and cooked through, rotating the skewers halfway through cooking.
  6. Assemble the platter: toum, chicken, fries, pickles, herbs, lettuce, onion, and so forth.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kathy Douthit
    Kathy Douthit
  • beejay45

2 Reviews

beejay45 November 12, 2021
Toum would make a great base for/addition to tahini sauce. Just saying.
Kathy D. November 9, 2021
In the recipe, it says to mix the marinade ingredients together, but it doesn't say to put the chicken into it. I know it must be obvious, but some people will take it literally.