Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lamb and Smoky Chili Lahmacun (Turkish "pizza")

I'm a bit of a pizza snob and consider delivery pizza to be cardboard smeared with red sugar paste tomato sauce and fake cheese.  So, I've always wanted to make my own.  When I found this recipe for lamb lahmacun, I was intrigued because it involved a very thin, crispy crust and lamb, which I've always got in the freezer.  Lahmacun originated in Syria, but is popular throughout the Middle East.  Translated, it means "meat with dough." The first time I made this, I didn't think it was very pretty.  Then I did a google image search and saw that mine looked pretty good.  ;)  I make this every time I've got 5 oz or so of ground lamb in my freezer.  It's a treat on a weekend when I've got some time to let the dough sit for 2 hours.  It's also a great excuse to drink a light to medium bodied red wine. 

The dough has to sit for a while, but making the lamb paste doesn't take very long at all.  I add a little extra smoky paprika since I use more lamb than a normal portion would call for (a proper half recipe for this would use 3.5 oz of ground lamb and I use 5).   I could never figure out what a "long red chili" was when it was called for in this book.  Further, Wegmans never has red chilis other than the tiny Thai chilis, and I don't think they belong in Turkish cooking.  So, I substitute a long green chili hoping that they're similar.  The combination of lamb, onion, tomato, spicy chili, and smoked paprika is absolutely wonderful!  And it makes my kitchen smell good. 

Turkish Pizza dough (this is a 1/2 portion from the book)
Serves 2 (Makes two pizzas like the one in the picture)
adapted from Turquoise
1.5 tsp dried yeast
scant 1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp warm water
2.5 oz plain Greek yogurt
1/8 c extra virgin olive oil
5 oz bread flour (I've made this with all purpose flour and bread flour and it's better to use bread flour)
1/4 tsp sea salt
olive oil

1) Mix yeast, sugar, and warm water.  Let it sit until the mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes. 
2) In a bowl, whisk yogurt and olive oil.  Make sure it's mixed very well.
3) Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl.  I used my mixer bowl, it seemed pointless to sift into one bowl and then move it to the mixer bowl.  (If you don't have a flour sifter, use a fine mesh strainer and hit the side of it with your hand.  This is what I did before I bought a flour sifter).
4) With your hand, make a well in the center of the flour and put the yogurt and yeast mixtures into it.  Use your fingers to mix it and roll it into a ball.
5) Using a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix it on low speed for 10-15 minutes until it's smooth and shiny. **I found this dough recipe to be very crumbly and it didn't cohere very well.  I added 2 extra spoonfuls of Greek yogurt and an extra Tbsp of olive oil while it was mixing. 
6) Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel.  Let it sit for 2 hours or until it has roughly doubled in size. 

Lamb and Smoky Chili Lahmacun
Serves 2
Adapted from Turquoise


Turkish pizza dough (above)

1 long green chili, diced
5oz ground lamb
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 vine ripened tomato, seeded and finely diced
1/8 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp olive oil + extra
sea salt
ground black pepper
lemon wedges
red pepper flakes

1) Preheat oven to 425.
2) Put the lamb, chili, onion, tomato, parsley, and paprika on a large cutting board or clean counter that you don't mind putting meat on.
3) Using a big knife or mezzaluna, chop the mixture until it has the consistency of a paste.  Mix in a little olive oil.
4) Knock back the dough and form it into 2 balls.  On a floured surface, roll the dough into two thin sheets.
5) Place each sheet on a baking sheet lined with tin foil.  Brush with a little olive oil. 
6) Carefully spread the lamb paste in a thin layer on each sheet of dough.  Add a little salt and pepper. 
7) Bake the pizzas for 8+ minutes or until the crust is crispy and the meat is cooked. 
8) Serve with red pepper flakes and lemon wedges.  (I found the lemon juice to add a nice burst of tartness, just don't overdo it).


Taste of Beirut said...

I applaud you for trying lahmacun, especially without a coach. I think the origin of lahmacun is Armenian or Turkish; nevertheless, whatever its origins, it is a pizza I adore and usd to eat like crazy as a teenager because it is sold in all neighborhood bakeries in Beirut and one just folds it up and squeezes lemon on it and can keep on walking!
I saw a recipe in sunset magazine that uses flour tortillas to make these.

Scienter said...

Flour tortillas sound much easier than making dough. I could make these on a work night if I didn't have to let dough sit for 2 hours!


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