Lahmacun/ Middle-Eastern Pizza
**The first pic is not related to the recipe
Its very difficult to concentrate on what you're trying to say or in my case, write, when there's loud blaring music going on near my house. Well, we have Navratri going on here. Its the festival of dance revelry sans and booze of course. It goes on for 9 days where people don traditional garbs and dance in very large groups until the wee hours of the night. If you want, you can find more info about Navratri here. Here's a pic to give you an idea. (Courtesy: Google)
This music is going to go on for about 4 more hours and I don't have the patience to wait till then. I am just so excited to share with all of you what I made today!!
I dared to venture into unchartered territories to make something with lamb meat. I eat non-veg., but I usually limit myself to eating chicken and some sea food. Cooking chicken is something that I have been doing since a few years but I have barely any experience cooking with lamb meat. I have only cooked it Indian style with curry et al. But today I wanted to try something new. I had come across Lahmacun (pronounced lah-ma-joun) when I was travelling. Its something like a Shwarma if you're familiar with the middle eastern cuisine.
Lahmacun (literally-meat with dough), to simplify, is a Pizza - Middle eastern style. The toppings range from a variety of meats. Mostly a combination of beef and lambs. I don't do beef. Thats why I am using only lamb meat here. Middle eastern ingredients give this dish such subtle yet bold flavours. You taste the meat along with the other aromatics. The best part is that you can play with textures. I wanted to make it like a thin crust pizza. So there was the crunch of the base and the softness of the toppings. Yumm yumm...Lets get to it then!
Oh and before I miss out, I'm not making the dough with yeast. Good news for people who don't know how to work with yeast. I am using baking powder instead along with a few other ingredients. The dough comes out soft and springy to touch and bakes to perfection.
Time taken: 45- 50 mins
For the dough
500 gms/1 lb flour (I used 70% wheat + 30% plain flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
150 ml milk
3-4 tbsp olive oil (I poured the oil over the milk which is what you see in the pic)
water as required
To make the dough, combine the dry ingredients and mix well. Make a well in the centre and pour the oil and milk combined. Bring the dough in from the sides little by little with a fork and work it into milk/ oil mixture. When you don't see any liquid, use your hands to bring the flour together into a dough. Add water gradually- not more than 2-3 tbsp at a time. Keep kneading it for 10 mins till it comes together beautifully. It should be almost smooth and should spring back after you press it down with a finger. Your dough is ready. Cover with damp kitchen towel and set aside till you work on your topping.
For the Topping
250 - 300 gms lamb mince
2 medium tomatoes
2 medium onions
6-8 garlic cloves
1" ginger (optional)
Handful of Mint leaves (soaked in water to remove dirt)
Handful coriander leaves (soaked in water to remove dirt)
Handful parsley (washed and dried)
1 Pickled jalapeno chopped finely
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp cumin (freshly roasted, coarsely ground)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp red chili powder ( I used just red chili powder, no paprika. I like it spicy!)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 green chili (shopped finely) (Optional)
2 tsp butter
A pinch of love
Take the lamb mince and mince it again about 3 times in your food processor. Or you can ask your butcher to mince it really finely. It should almost be a consistency of a coarse paste.
In your food blender, make a paste of onions and garlic. Heat the butter in a pan and saute the onion garlic paste till they get translucent. You can also add some ginger if you like, I did. About 1" pc of grated ginger should be enough.
Chop your tomatoes really finely.
Take the coriander, mint and parsley and grind to a paste.
Now combine all the ingredients- lamb mince, sauteed onions, tomatoes, the herbs, lemon juice along with the seasoning. Don't forget to add your love. Mix well so the mince is evenly seasoned. Doesn't it already look and smell so beautiful!
Divide the dough in 4 equal parts. Shape them into round balls. Take one ball and roll it out. Try to make it circular but it doesn't have to be perfect. Depends on how you want your crust, you can roll it out thin for crisp crust and a little thick for a soft crust. I rolled out mine till it was about 2-3mm in thickness.
Now place 2 tbsp of the mince mix on it and flatten it out with a spatula or your fingers. Try to keep it even and make sure its a thin layer, no more than 2-3 mm.
Meanwhile have your oven heated at 250C or 480F so its quite hot. Dust the baking tray with a little bit of flour before placing the lahmacun on it. Pop it in the oven and reduce the temperature to 200C or 400F. You can also use a pizza stone to bake these. Bake for 10 mins till the crust looks brown and the mince also turns golden. You don't want to over cook the mince otherwise it will be dry. You want it to be cooked properly and yet juicy. Remove from the oven.
Serve with pickles, onions, tomatoes or chutney, whatever catches your fancy. Its as simple as that! I served mine with some lemon-ed onion rings and mint coriander chutney. No wonder its a great street food in places like Turkey.
For people who want to make a vegetarian version, use soya nugget mince, or oven- roasted eggplant. That should work great with the other flavours here. Indulge!! :))