Hummus kawarma from Jerusalem: A Cookbook and checking in.

Hummus Kawarma from Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Given everything that’s going on in my newly-adopted city, it feels frivolous to post about food and recipes as if everything is awesome which is why I’ve been a bit quiet around here. It’s definitely been a surreal few days, from meeting Bryan Voltaggio and getting his latest cookbook at the Orioles game on Saturday to then being detained for a bit towards the end of the game, and then of course the events from earlier this week. You can still feel a little tension in the air, even around my neighborhood–everyone is trying to look out for everyone else and make sure they’re doing OK, which seems to be the dominant. Being as new to the city as we are, I feel ill-equipped to write about it at length, but here are some really thoughtful, interesting perspectives from people who understand the city and its dynamics far better than I do.

Of all of the positive pictures that have begun circulating on the internet as the city both cleans itself up and continues to protest, this lady (and the others who were burning sage along with her) has been giving me all of the feels as I write this. 

Prior to that Orioles game, actually, I was G-chatting with Michael while he was at the grocery store to figure out what we were having for dinner that night. I first offered to pick up some kebabs from the phenomenal kebab place down the street, but then the idea to have hummus kawarma (from Jerusalem: a Cookbook) popped into my head and I suggested that too. Michael professed a preference for the former, but kindly bought everything I would need for the latter while he was at the Teet and we’d figure we’d have it on his typical gym day in the middle of the week. The timing was nothing if not apt–after a few tense days tucking into a bowl of hummus and lamb was exactly the kind of comfort food we both needed.

I make this fairly frequently for something I’ve never posted about, and so I feel like I’ve been holding out on you in not sharing it. The first time I made the hummus I did it completely from scratch as per the original recipe’s instructions, and while it was extremely flavorful…I have to admit, it did feel like a lot of work for a weeknight meal. You lose some of that delicateness that comes from cooking the beans yourself by going the canned route, but it makes it significantly easier to bring together when you’re tired after a long day at work or just want to make the hummus in the morning before you head out to start your day.

The kawarma is an interesting mix of both complexity and quickness. Like most things from Yotam Ottolenghi the ingredient list is formidable (but accessible), and once you’ve prepped and mixed the kawarma ingredients and let them sit, whipping up a simple lemon-garlic sauce and cooking the lamb are significantly faster tasks. You’re rewarded for all that hard work with a lamb that serves more as garnish than main course but is the tastiest ground lamb you might ever have while the sharpness of the lemon sauce cuts through the starchiness of the hummus and the fattiness of the butter-sautéed lamb.

What I like is that it’s a comfort dish for warmer days, since the hummus requires no stove if you go the canned bean way and the lamb only needs all of five to eight minutes to finish cooking all the way through, so it won’t fill your kitchen with too much unnecessary wasted heat. You can serve it with pita bread if you like, but frankly I like eating everything directly out of a bowl with a fork or spoon, depending on my mood.

Hummus Kawarma 

adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook as found on Serious Eats

Basic Hummus:

  • 2 16-oz cans garbanzo beans
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

To make the hummus: add the chickpeas, tahini, garlic cloves, and lemon juice to a blender or food processor and blend well, then season to taste. Finish by adding a good olive oil–this will lend a fruity finish to the hummus that I personally really like, but if you prefer you can instead just use more tahini and skip the olive oil.

Kawarma and Lemon Sauce:


  • 10 1/2 oz/300 g neck fillet of lamb, finely chopped by hand, or ground lamb
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dried za’atar or oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or ghee
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Lemon Sauce

  • 1/3 oz/10 g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 green chile, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

To make the kawarma: combine all ingredients save for the butter or ghee and olive oil into a bowl and let sit for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. While the meat marinates, combine the ingredients for the lemon sauce and set aside.

Heat the butter and oil on a large saute pan on medium-high heat, and depending on the size of it work in batches to cook the meat. (Typically batches are not necessary even when I use a pound of lamb because I have a big pan to work with, but your cookware may vary.) Fry for about 5-6 minutes all told, and then take off the heat.

Spoon the hummus into bowls and then add the warm kawarma on top, and serve with the lemon sauce immediately, either as-is or with warm pita bread.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Tracey says:

    I have been drooling over that recipe for months! I love that cookbook. We recently made the hummus from scratch as well and I was blown away by how flavorful the chickpeas were. I was literally eating them by the handful they were so good. So, what’s the story behind your meeting Bryan Voltaggio? I hope that you stay safe out there. I am sure that it is difficult to see and experience the unrest that is happening all around you, but remember that there are always bright spots in the madness.

    1. elizabeth says:

      Bryan was doing a cookbook signing for his latest cookbook and so I had to jump at the chance to get it (part of the proceeds went to a hunger charity, although which one escapes me at the moment).

      I hope you’re doing OK too! What’s upsetting to me is the underlying reasons for what’s happening and it just reinforces how I need to make sure to participate in local elections and make sure I’m educated about the candidates if I want to have any hope in contributing to any real changes to local government.

  2. Dana Fashina says:

    Dude I can only imagine the tension in your city right now.
    ‘That’ lady is giving me life right now, freaking LOVE that picture.
    I’m happy you’re safe and unscathed.
    Thank you for staying positive and finding happiness within it all.
    Much love to you guys out there.

    1. elizabeth says:

      It’s getting better–I went down to the market again today and it was a lot more lively which I was so happy to see, and if this weather holds up we’re going to head over to Bryan Voltaggio’s place on the water for drinks in a bit.

      Same love right back at you lady!!

  3. So glad you guys checked in and are okay. What a crazy few days!

    1. elizabeth says:

      Definitely, but it feels like things are shifting towards the better again.

  4. Brianne says:

    Gah! I’ve been meaning to check in with you; I’m so glad you’ve posted an update here. I can’t fathom what it’s like to be in Baltimore this week, but I really admire the motivation you have to get involved in the big issues in the city. Bad segue: I also really admire this recipe. I’ve been craving larb lately. Now this has me craving all the ground meats!

    1. elizabeth says:

      Aw, thank you–yes, all is well. 🙂 Definitely treat yourself to this recipe–it’s SO good.

  5. seriously, everything yotam ottenlenghi creates is amazing, i have most of his cookbooks and as someone who doesn’t like following recipes, his books are the most thumbed through. Jerusalem was a revelation for me.

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