Originally posted by me on half-slips.blogspot.com
Ever since I became interested in food, street vendors have held a special allure for me. There’s something magical about warm, delicious, unhealthy food served to you as you stagger home drunk. I don’t believe any kind of food is more satisfying. It’s also a distinct. Every city tends to have its own take on street food.
Edmonton isn’t much for night life or street food, but we have managed to pick up a specialty which we imported from the other side of the country: the donair. Donairs are actually native to Halifax, but managed to skip over most of the county and settled in Alberta as well. I hear they’re best in Halifax, but hey, I go with what I know.
What makes a donair a donair?
- Donairs are generally made with beef instead of lamb. That said, lamb isn’t a sin or anything. But if you buy a donair, you usually get beef.
- Toppings are usually just tomatoes and onions. Lettuce and cheese may be found.
- The sauce has nothing to do with tzatziki or yogourt. It’s made out of evaporated milk, sugar, and vinegar.
I love donairs, and since moving to Athabasca, I can’t get them here. The only place in Athabasca which claims to serve donairs serves a pita full of sadness and dashed dreams. My only recourse was to make them at home. I’ve now made donairs a couple of times, and have now abandoned my old meatloaf technique and now roll out the meat thin over a cookie sheet.
Donair (yields 4-5 donairs with a pita or two left over)
- 2 cookie sheets
- A big bowl
- Aluminum foil
- Pizza stone or cast iron pan (replaces one of the cookie sheets)
- Squeeze bottle
- Stand mixer
- Wax paper
- Pizza cutter
- 3 cups flour
- 2 ½ tsp instant yeast, or one package
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 ½ cup warm water
- 1 pound double-ground beef or lamb (either get your butcher to run the meat through the grinder a few times, pulse it in a food processor, or just wail on it with a knife until the meat is very fine)
- ¼ cup fine bread crumbs
- 1 tsp each of black pepper, cayenne, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder
- 3 tsp paprika
- Good pinch of kosher salt
- 1 can evaporated milk
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ cup vinegar
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Onions, sliced
- Tomatoes, sliced
- You can also add cheese or shredded lettuce. Donair shops typically use processed white cheese or the like. I think havarti works great.
To make the pita
Sift or whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients, knead into a dough by hand, or 10 minutes in the stand mixer. Once the dough has risen, preheat your oven to 400 with a pizza stone in the oven. No stone? Flip over a cast iron pan or a cookie sheet. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts, and roll into balls. Let rest for 20 minutes. Roll the balls out into ¼ inch thick circles. Bake as many as will fit for 3 to 4 minutes.
To make the meat
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well-combined. Lay out your cookie sheet upside-down, and cover with a lot of aluminum foil. You want a couple inches sticking out on all sides. Smear some oil or cooking spray on the foil. Plop the meat down, and then cover with wax paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the meat so that it’s even and thin over the sheet. Trim it, and then crimp up the edges to catch the juices.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for around 10 minutes. If you like your meat crunchy, bake longer. Once done, cut the meat into long strips with a pizza cutter.
To make the sauce
In a large bowl, vigorously mix the evaporated milk, sugar, and garlic powder together until the sugar is absorbed. Pour in the vinegar, and very gently stir until the sauce thickens. Store in a squeeze bottle.
Lay out a rectangle of aluminum foil and place in the pita. Place on as many strips of meat as you like, add your toppings, and douse in sauce. Make sure the side of the pita faces a corner of the foil. Lift the corner, pass it over the pita, tuck under, and then roll, making sure to tuck the bottom of the foil in. Tear down the top, and you’re ready to go!
Serve with a lot of beer.