Meal Box Review: Lamb shawarma pizza ... It shouldn’t work, but it so does
Spiced lamb, Buckfast hot sauce and tahini dressing top a pizza that makes a big impression
Jess Murphy, centre, of Kai, Galway with Eugene and Ronan Greaney of The Dough Bros
I don’t like pizzas that stray too far from their roots. And I’m not talking pineapple. While it would never make it into my four toppings of choice, I have a certain nostalgic respect for it. No, it’s chunks of chicken that bully their way in that get my ire, ignoring the very essence of what a pizza should be – a blistered slice of restrained beauty.
So, ordering a lamb shawarma pizza kit has me feeling just a little bit tetchy. I can almost hear the bleating of an unleavened base that has been mugged by Pizza Hut on the road to Damascus. Except this is not slaughter. It’s a collaboration between Eugene and Ronan Greaney of The Dough Bros in Galway City – which was ranked number 21 in Europe’s 50 Top Pizza list in 2020 – and Jess Murphy, the New Zealand chef with a Michelin green star, who has been running Kai restaurant with her husband, David, for the past 10 years. And, it is one of the few kits that delivers nationally.
If you’re going to eat shawarma, it should be cooked by someone who knows their way around spices. And Murphy does. Having travelled to Lebanon and Jordan with the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, in 2019 to cook in the community kitchens of Syrian refugees, she is all too aware of the differences between a dish from Beirut, Amman or Azraq. So instead of a Levantine family recipe, her shawarma is shoulder of lamb from Coogan Farm in Co Meath, that has been marinated in Syrian spices and slow-cooked in a wood-burning oven rather than flamed on a traditional vertical grill.
The kit is straight forward. Yes, there’s an instructional video, but it’s short and low key with Murphy offering a few tips. Basically, do not overload the pizza bases.
After you’ve ripped the ball of Toons Bridge fior di latte into small pieces and shredded the lamb, it’s an assembly job. A small amount of San Marzano tomato sauce is smeared on the bases which have already been cooked at a blazing 500 degrees in a Stefano Ferrara oven. Everything else is scattered over – the fior di latte, grated Parmesan, basil leaves and lamb. It goes into the oven, directly on a rack, and cooks for seven to 12 minutes.
Buckfast hot sauce
Something magical happens in those few minutes. As you take it out, there’s a spicy smoky char from a few strands of lamb which have crisped up, and spooning over the tahini ranch dressing, little splats of fiery Buckfast hot sauce, and freshly torn mint leaves just seems to make so much sense. This, of course, is something that could easily have been conceived in North Africa, just across the water from Sicily.
The crisp crust is beautiful dipped into the leftover tahini ranch sauce, and the softer centre has held its own. There’s a slight pull of cheese from the fior di latte, the tomatoes are sweet, the lamb has the heady flavours of cumin, coriander, lemon and some spicy heat, and the mint breathes freshness into the souk aromas.
I had never contemplated the blasphemous union of shawarma with pizza before, but this, I realise, has just a few degrees of separation from the wonderful kebabs at Passion 4 Food on Clanbrassil Street, not too far from where I live. It has just done a little bit more sightseeing.
The result is spectacularly good. This is a United Nations sum of its parts moment, washed down with a can of IPA by The White Hag, two of which are included in the kit. It shouldn’t work, but of course it does. What a joy. And as an added reward, the kit finishes with double chocolate cookies for dessert. Set the alert on their website now.
Pizza for two, cookies and two beers was €50 plus €3.50 delivery.
Where does it come from: The Dough Bros, 1 Middle Street, Galway; thedoughbros.ie
Difficulty factor: Simple. Just don’t overload the pizza base
Food provenance: Flour from Naples, San Marzano tomatoes and top Irish produce
Vegetarian options: Not for this collaboration, but other vegetarian, vegan and gluten free pizza options are available
Delivery: On sale from 3pm on Mondays, collection and national delivery on Friday, until end of April.
THE VERDICT: 9/10 Souk it up. A stunning finish-at-home pizza kit
Three to Try
The Mill at Home
Co Kildare, order online Friday at 12pm, collection or delivery Dublin, Bray, Greystones, Kildare and Meath; themillathome.ie
Sean Smith has launched a new six-course, gourmet at home menu. Dishes are seasonal, so asparagus and rhubarb trifle feature. There’s a choice of main course, with options like John Stone rib eye steak or cod with seaweed butter. Add-on options include cocktails and an interesting wine list.
Dublin 6; click and collect, Friday and Saturday; craftrestaurant.ie
A weekly changing four-course menu includes options like char-grilled asparagus with cured egg yolk, a choice of meat or vegetarian main course, which has included cauliflower and Coolea cheese pie, finishing with a dessert like chocolate bouchon with rum custard. It’s reheat and eat, €72 for two, €36 for one.
Dublin 4; click and collect, Monday to Saturday, €3-€5 delivery Dublin Friday and Saturday, also Deliveroo; keshk.ie
For a Middle Eastern fix, the lunch and dinner meal deals range from €38-€66 for two, and €66-€75 for four people, with lunch specials available in store daily for €9.95. Hummus, falafel, charcoal grilled chicken, lamb kofta and chicken shish taouk all feature on the menu.