I'm a freelance writer with interests in cooking and photography, as well as British culture.
Runaway Success Cookbook
The Takeaway Secret, a cookbook written by Kenny McGovern, took the UK by storm in the lead-up to Christmas 2010 when it briefly became the third-highest bestselling book on Amazon. The only reason it didn't rise higher is they ran out!
In the UK, the takeaway culture is strong, but the prices are high. The genius of this book is that it teaches readers how to cook their favourite fast food dishes at home.
Who Is Kenny McGovern?
The author of the cookbook, Kenny McGovern suffered from severe social anxiety and agoraphobia. Unable to leave his home, he spent five years refining recipes until they tasted exactly like the takeaway dishes he was trying to replicate.
Initially, he did it only for himself, so he could enjoy his favourite takeaway foods at home whenever he wanted. Then he decided to share his amazing recipe collection with the world. And thank goodness! This is like no cookery book you've read before because the foods really do taste like the takeaway items they're recreating!
Why the Book Is a Brilliant Masterpiece
At roughly £5, The Takeaway Secret became a screaming success—a brilliant masterpiece of fast takeaway food you can make at home affordably, easily and with confidence about what's gone into it. This isn't a junk food recipe book; you get to determine the quality of the ingredients, so you're feeding yourself and your family exactly what you want, at a fraction of the price and without any guilt.
The recipes in the book call for common ingredients, and there's no need for fancy equipment or technical skills. This means the recipes are perfect for home cooks, both novice and professional, to recreate their favourite takeaway and fast-food restaurant dishes in their own kitchen.
The Takeaway Secret Doner Kebab Recipe
Everybody has their own favourite recipe in the book, but many people will tell you that the doner kebab is among their favourites. I am including that recipe here.
- 1 teaspoon plain or all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried Italian herbs
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 500 grams / 1.1 pounds lamb mince or ground lamb (as fatty or as lean as you like, though fatty works best)
- Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F, Gas Mark 4).
- Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Add the lamb mince to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Punch and knead the mixture so it's compressed and no air pockets remain. The kebab meat should be extremely smooth and tightly packed.
- Tip the seasoned mince out, shape it into a loaf and place it on a baking tray.
- Bake in the centre of your oven for 40 minutes. Then turn the loaf over and continue baking for another 40 minutes. The loaf should be evenly browned.
- Once cooked, remove your doner kebab from the oven and cover it with foil, allowing it to rest for 10 to 20 minutes.
- Slice the doner kebab as thinly as you can, just how you like it from your local takeaway. Serve with pitta bread stuffed with salad and sauces.
How to Slice Doner Kebab Meat
One of the trickiest things about making your own doner kebab is slicing it very thinly. Most people struggle with this.
In kebab shops, they use super-sharp catering knives and work on a kebab the size of an elephant's leg, so it's easier for them. I've even seen kebab shops now using electric shaving knives.
The first few times I tried cutting my own kebab meat, I struggled to slice it thinly enough. It just didn't have the aesthetics of shop-bought kebab. But then I had the genius idea to reach into my cupboard for my Borner V-Slicer (mandoline).
My Borner V-Slicer slices and dices vegetables and makes juliennes—and I wondered if it would also work on the kebab meat. It did! Not only did it slice the meat thinly, but it also produced the rest of my kebab filling: shredded cabbage and sliced onions, tomatoes and cucumbers in just a few seconds.
If you've got a mandoline slicer, try using it for kebab meat!
Storing, Freezing and Reheating Tips
If you're like me, and you've followed the Kenny McGovern doner kebab recipe above, you'll find you've got a lot of fabulous-tasting kebab meat that needs to be stored, frozen and later reheated.
Storing Kebab Meat
Wrap the meat in tin foil and pop it in the fridge, or use Lock & Lock boxes, which are my personal favourite because of the way they stack and allow me to easily see what's inside. The meat will be fine for at least three to four days in the fridge like this.
Freezing Kebab Meat
You can freeze your kebab meat once it's cooked. I would recommend slicing it first, which will make it easier to defrost later.
Simply slice your meat, wrap it in foil or pop it in a freezer container and put it in the freezer. To defrost, if you've sliced it, you can simply microwave it on the defrost setting, a couple of minutes at a time, turning and separating it as you go. Then, once it's defrosted, simply give it a blast of the microwave on full power for about 30 seconds. The only thing you have to watch is that it doesn't dry out, so I tend to defrost it by wrapping it in a paper kitchen towel, or in a covered dish with a couple of vents. Just try to keep the moisture contained.
Reheating Kebab Meat
You can microwave it, turning it to make sure it's hot throughout. Just one to two minutes should do in 30-second blasts, turning it each time.
If you've wrapped your donner meat in foil, you can pop it into a hot oven for 20 minutes.
Why I Love This Cookbook
Every recipe has been lovingly recreated to give you that authentic takeaway flavor. Not only that, but all of the recipes are easy to make. They don't call for fancy ingredients, and they don't require fancy kitchen equipment or techniques. Anyone can make these dishes successfully.
But it's not just recipes. It's the extra tips and mentions of specific brands that make a difference. For example, the book recommends not just any American mustard with the burgers, but it specifically suggests using the French's brand. Really being specific is what makes these recipes spot-on. Another example has to do with the gherkins that accompany the burgers; the book advises making sure that dill is listed in the ingredients.
There are literally hundreds of great tips like these scattered throughout this immensely readable book.
Whether your favourite takeaway is McDonald's, Subway or Greggs, or if it's your local Indian or Chinese place, or perhaps it's something from a fish and chip, burger or kebab shop, then this book will change your life!
More Takeaway Secret Recipes
The book contains a full 150 pages of recipes to dip into. Here's a listing of some of them:
- Middle East: Doner Kebab, Lamb Kofte, Chicken Kebab, Chip Shop Kebab Meat, Takeaway Kebab Sauce
- India: Vegetable Pakora, Chicken Pakora, Chicken Tikka, Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Korma, Tandoori Chicken, Naan Bread
- China: Szechuan Chicken, Sweet & Sour Chicken, Chicken Balls in Sweet & Sour Sauce, Beef Chow Mein, Chilli Chicken Chow Mein, Char Sui Pork, Prawn Toast, Chicken Noodle Soup, Chinese Egg Fried Rice
- United States: Pizza, Quick Pizza Sauce, Southern Fried Chicken, Chicken Wings, Chicken Nuggets, Chicken Burgers, Char-Grilled Chicken Sandwich, Triple-Decker Burgers, Spiced Onions, Kebab Sauces, Subway Rolls, Garlic Bread, Mega Burger, Spare Ribs, Sausage & Egg Muffin, Cookies, Wraps
- And more!
Where to Buy It
You can order the book on Amazon, though sometimes it's out of stock. If that's the case, you may be able to find a copy on eBay.
Read More About McGovern's Story
- 'I couldn't leave the house so I made my own fast food' - BBC
Kenny McGovern, who had agoraphobia, recreated his favourite takeaways and published the recipes.