Main Dish

Marinated Lamb Shawarma Pita Pockets with Tzatziki and Pomegranate

Starlite Vineyards

5511 Hwy 128
Geyserville, CA 95441

Marinated spiced lamb shawarma with a medley of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern aromatic spices is topped with a cool cucumber and dill yogurt, and garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds. Just heavenly! If you don't have Greek yogurt for the tzatziki, simply strain plain regular yogurt.


  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 3 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1/2 green cardamom pod
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup mild olive oil or other neutral-flavored oil
  • 1 bone-in leg of lamb
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup boiling water, plus more as needed
  • Tzatziki for serving (recipe below)
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded
  • Pita bread for serving
To prepare the lamb, in a dry cast-iron fry pan, combine the fennel seeds, peppercorns, cardamom pod, star anise, sumac, paprika and salt and heat until the seeds pop and the spices release their aromas. Transfer to a spice grinder and grind (a regular coffee grinder works well for this). Transfer to a bowl and add the paprika, ginger, cilantro, lemon juice and olive oil.

Make slits in the leg of lamb and place the whole garlic cloves in the slits. Place the lamb in a large roasting pan and coat with the spice mixture. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Turn the lamb so the fat side is up and add the  boiling water to the pan. Use this as the basting liquid throughout the roasting process, adding more water as needed and keeping about 1/4 inch of liquid in the pan at all times. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven.

Roast the lamb for about 4 hours or until cooked to your liking, removing the foil near the end of the cooking time so that the spice rub will crisp and caramelize. 

Transfer the lamb to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes, then cut into slices.

Serve the lamb with the tzatziki, pomegranate seeds and pita bread.


  • 2 medium cucumbers
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more, to taste
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill or mint
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt or regular yogurt, strained
To prepare the tzatziki, peel the cucumbers, then cut them in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon, scrape out the seeds. (If you use small seedless or European cucumbers that have few seeds, you can skip this step.) Slice the cucumbers and place in a colander. Sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon salt and let stand for 30 minutes to draw out the water. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels.  

In a food processor, combine the cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, dill and a few grinds of pepper. Process until well blended, then stir the cucumber mixture into the yogurt. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.

Refrigerate the tzatziki for at least 2 hours before serving so the flavors can blend. This resting time is very important. The tzatziki will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, but you will need to drain off any water that accumulates and stir each time you use it.