The essence of Bedouin hospitality and steeped in tradition, shawayuh
is meat sprinkled with some hawaij (a blend of peppercorns, caraway
seeds, saffron, cardamom and turmeric) then flame-licked over charcoal.

This is a dish born in celebration. In traditional times, the festivities might have been to mark a successful hunt, one that brought the rare treat of gazelle meat into the camp of semi-nomadic Bedouin. Or it might have been to consolidate a treaty between once-warring tribes, pacts sealed over a meal eaten from a communal bowl. Today, shawayuh is the centrepiece of extended family gatherings; a reminder of Yemen’s links to an Arabian past.


You’ll need
4 large grilling steaks or lamb
3 tsp hawaij (see below)
10 tbs olive oil
Salt to taste
5–6 tsp black peppercorns
2–3 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp saffron threads
1 tsp cardamom seeds
2 tsp turmeric

Cooking Method
1 To make the hawaij mix, grind the peppercorns, caraway seeds, saffron threads and cardamom seeds until blended together. Stir in the turmeric and store in a sealed jar.
2 Coat the meat all over with the hawaij mix and set aside for 30 minutes.
3 When your coals are red hot, very lightly coat the meat in the oil and position over the fire. Once seared, turn the meat over and repeat on the other side.
4 When evenly seared, move the meat to a cooler part of the fire and leave until cooked to your preference. You may need to apply light brushes of oil throughout the cooking.
5 Season with salt and serve.
TIP The only way to replicate the traditional way of cooking this dish is over the hot coals of a barbecue or an open fire. When cooked in other ways, you’ll miss the charcoal smell and taste that permeate the meat and are the essence of the dish.

Tasting notes
Shawayuh is the taste of the open fire as the meat’s smoky flavour lingers on the tongue. The piquant hawaij seasoning enhances the experience in subtle ways, through a sharp bite from the peppercorn, a hint of saffron and the aromatic suggestion of humid tropical coasts in the combination of cardamom and turmeric. It is a dish that tastes best shared with family and community; individual portions may be cut and distributed, but tradition demands that the meat be placed in the centre of the table (or, better still, a picnic blanket alongside the open fire) and torn off in chunks with bare hands. Imagine a soundtrack of locals telling tall tales in guttural Arabic and the meal is complete.

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