Lahmacun (Turkish Pizza)
I’ve been on a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean kick lately, as I’m sure you can tell with this recipe and the couscous a couple posts back. I think I’ll go on record to say that this is my favorite cuisine. Ever. In fact I’ll even go as far as to say that hummus is my favorite thing on the planet. Period. Point blank. I’d eat it every single day, If my mom would let me, but sadly I can already hear the “you need a well balanced meal, eat something else” lectures. Unfortunately this isn’t a hummus post so let’s turn our attention back to what’s important. Although this here is a hummus post. I don’t use the word “favorite” lightly (insert montage of the 250 times I’ve used it on the blog so far) so this is some serious stuff, but not really because I actually say it all the time. I have a new favorite every day. I’m sure half of you are looking at the title and content of this post and thinking “oh my gosh, what in the world did Jonathan make? Is he crazy or something? He’s lost his mind. What is this weird flatbread looking thing with the reddish-brown stuff on top?” Well, if you’re not familiar with this dish, you’ve been missing out and quite frankly I feel sorry for you. But have no fear, I’m glad to be the one to open your eyes. I feel honored. On the other hand, the rest of you are intrigued and maybe thinking, that Jonathan sure knows what he’s doing. He’s such a smarty pants, and what do you know I am wearing my smart pants today. Whichever group you fall under, you’re all right. I have lost my mind, but in the best way possible, I promise. I’m coo coo for lahmacun, what can I say?
I know right off the bat that this post will probably—okay most definitely— bomb and go down in flames. (Weeeeeeeewhoosssshh KA-BOOM! See that friends? That’s the post going down in fiery flames!) Most people won’t like or appreciate it as much as I do, and I’m okay with that. More lahmacun for me. Really though, what isn’t there to like? Crispy flatbread topped with seasoned meat and veggies? Yes please, count me in. I’m all about different textures and flavors when it comes to eating, so I decided to make a homemade tzatziki sauce to go on top of it. I live for the heat—hot from the oven not spicy heat—from the pizza and the cool freshness from the cucumber yogurt sauce. And because I know my mom would be reading this, I topped it with diced tomatoes and shredded purple and green cabbage. I’m sure she would have disagreed with me just eating bread and meat so I had to throw a few more veggies in there somehow. Plus I really like purple cabbage. In all honesty I just love the way it looks. It’s bright purple for crying out loud! For those of you who do know what I’m talking about and happen to love this dish as much as I do, well then, we’re now best of friends, write to me every five minutes. We’ll share a few Turkish pizzas together and eat hummus everyday. It’ll be a blast, I assure you.
We’re dividing this recipe into three acts, as if it were a delicious play or story we’re unfolding. It’s really just so I can justify the fact that I was dying to play with my new chalkboard and take some fun photographs. So that’s what I did. I mean after all I did go through all that trouble of painting and making the chalkboard so why not use it? The first act is the crust. That’s what we’re going to work on first as it needs to rest the longest.
The crust is the most important thing ever. If you screw this up, that’s it. You can kiss your lahmacun making skills goodbye. Friendship over. Don’t write to me anymore. Lucky for you it’s the easiest thing to make. You can’t screw it up.
We have to wake up the dry yeast with warm liquid of some sort. You can use water if you’d like, however I find that to be rather bland and one note. So I like to use milk instead. Of course if you’re allergic to milk or don’t have any on hand because someone finished it all and just left the carton in the fridge, well then by all means just use water. The milk needs to be warmed to about 110°-115°, it should be warm to the touch, but not hot at all.
**Note: If the milk or water is too hot, it will actually kill the yeast, and your dough won’t rise. So make sure it’s warm enough to waken the yeast but not too hot to kill it. If you dip your finger into the liquid, it should be bearable.**
Pour the milk into a medium bowl.
Just like you and me, the yeast also needs food to grow. So add in a bit of sugar. You can use honey instead also.
And of course we mustn’t forget about the yeast. Add that as well. Give it all a gently stir.
Place the yeast mixture somewhere warm and allow it to do it’s magic. I like to place it in an oven (that is turned off) for about 10 minutes.
**Note: After ten minutes the mixture should be foamy and the yeast should have expanded and appear frothy. If the mixture isn’t foamy at all, then you didn’t do it properly and you should start over. This step is crucial and has to be done correctly or else your dough will not rise. No pressure at all though.**
In the meantime combine the flour and salt in a bowl of a mixer.
Stir until evenly combined.
Add the yeast mixture and oil to the flour.
If you’re doing this by hand, more power to you (you’re a much better baker/cook than I am) but if you’re doing this with a mixer (good for you, let’s hear it for laziness), make sure you attach the dough hook.
Stir on low to begin with to allow the flour to mix into the wet ingredients properly. Once the dough has come together, raise the speed to medium-high and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky.
Once the dough is ready, remove it from the bowl and shape it into a ball. Grease the bowl with oil, add the dough ball and turn it over to grease both sides.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel, place in a warm place for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.
Again, I like to place the bowl in the oven (not turned on) because it’s warm and cozy enough for the dough to rise.
While the dough is doing its thing, let’s turn our attention to act II. The second act happens to be (in my humble opinion) the most delicious act. It’s the filling or topping, depending on how you look at it.
We begin by roughly chopping some veggies to add to the food processor.
We’re going to need a few tomatoes, a red bell pepper, a green bell pepper, and an onion.
We’re also going to need a few garlic cloves and fresh parsley.
Add them all to a food processor and pulse until broken down and the veggies are cut into tiny pieces. Almost like a smooth salsa.
Right now there is a ton of liquid in this “salsa,” and it’s unwanted liquid at that. The last thing we want to do is add this excess liquid to our meat, which will in turn make our dough soggy. So what we need to do is drain the “salsa” with a sieve. I’m using a little sieve for the purpose of the photographs, but if you have a normal sized one, then it will go much faster. Pour the veggie mixture into the sieve and push down with the back of a spoon to drain off the liquid.
Pour the drained veggie mixture into the meat, which you should have placed into a large mixing bowl. I forgot to mention that before, so I’m mentioning it now like if I had said it right from the start. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I did mention it.
Traditional lahmacun is made with ground lamb. I’m not the biggest fan of ground lamb so I decided to go off the beaten path and use ground beef instead. If you’re a lamb fan, then by all means, use lamb. Either way, choose a ground meat that has very little fat in it.
We’re going to season this with:
Crushed red pepper flakes
Give everything a rough and thorough mix with your paws. Just dig in with your hands and don’t worry about grabbing a spoon or anything. Why dirty another kitchen utensil when you have two of the best utensils on you?
It’s okay to get a little dirty in the kitchen every once and while or if you’re like me, all the time.
Cover with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge, to marinate, while the dough continues to rest and rise and double in size. I couldn’t help the rhyme. I saw the opportunity and I took it, sorry.
And now for the final act. The tzatziki sauce. It ties everything together.
Tzatziki is actually a Greek sauce made with Greek yogurt and cucumber. It’s not traditionally served with lahmacun, BUT I happen to love it. I think it’s one of my favorites (eh there I go again) second to hummus of course.
I thought it would pair nicely with the Turkish pizza and this is my blog after all, the best part of calling all the shots is that I get to make what I want, when I want so I’m making the tzatziki.
We start by peeling a cucumber and cutting the ends off. Then with a vegetable peeler, we’re going to peel away long ribbons of cucumber. That way we get thin slices.
Give the ribbons a rough chop and add it to the greek yogurt.
We’re also going to chop up a pile of fresh parsley and mint. Run your knife through it and add it to the sauce as well.
Season the whole lot with salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and lemon juice (lots of lemon juice). Make sure it’s fresh lemon juice, don’t use that bottled stuff. That’s some really bad lemon flavor if you ask me, and I just know you were asking me so there you go.
Give it a stir, taste for seasoning, adjust accordingly, and you’re done! Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. This is best if made earlier in the day or the day before so that the flavors can marry and blend together.
Let’s get a couple toppings prepped. We need to dice a few tomatoes and shred some purple and green cabbage.
Set the toppings off to the side and grab the dough and the meat topping/filling. We are finally ready to assemble and make and cook and eat. And eat? Did I say eat?
The dough should have doubled in size, punch it down with your hand to let out the air.
Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.
Cut the dough into 16 even pieces. I just sort of eyeballed the cutting process, making sure they are each similar in size. They don’t have to be exact just close enough.
Transfer the dough pieces to a baking sheet, on a single layer and cover with a towel. This will prevent the dough from drying out while you roll out each piece.
So we’re going to work with one piece at a time, rolling it out in a very thin circle. It should be as close to as thin as paper (or the thinnest you can get it).
If you have a pizza stone, that would be best but if you don’t (like I don’t) then you can just use a baking sheet.
**Tip: I turn over a baking sheet and line the bottom with foil paper. Lightly spray it with cooking spray, to prevent the dough from sticking and bake them in a 425°F oven until crispy. Using the flat underside of the baking sheet will achieve optimum crispiness.**
You will only be able to fit two pizzas per baking sheet so you’ll have to do this in batches.
Top the pizzas with a handful of the meat mixture and spread it evenly into a thin layer, leaving about 1/2 an inch of a border around the edge of each pizza.
Bake in a 425°F oven for about 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the dough is crispy and golden brown on the edges and bottom. You might have to babysit them as they can cook rather fast depending on your oven. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and allow to cool. Transfer to a cooling rack and continue making and baking the pizzas until all the dough and filling has been used.
Once all the pizzas have been cooked you can rewarm the ones you are going to serve and enjoy right away with the sauce and various toppings we prepped earlier.
Let me show you the bottom of one of these just so you can see the crispy magic that is lahmacun and with that said, let’s all just stare at the brown crispy bottom of this flatbread.
Okay, show and tell is now over. Thank you for paying attention. We’re finally ready to eat this pizza and if you’ve never heard of this before I hope that this post has convinced you to give it a try. Sure, it might not be for everyone, I can accept that, but you have to at least try it once before you say you don’t like it. Who knows, this might be your new favorite dish for all you know. I’ll take all the credit, naturally. Now you don’t want to pass on the opportunity for me to relish in the glory do you?
The best way to eat this is pretty much like a giant taco. We’re being multi-cultural here, but really it’s just the best way to describe it. Top it with a sprinkling of the diced tomatoes and shredded cabbages. Drizzle on the tzatziki sauce, squeeze some fresh lemon juice on top, fold and eat away. They should be called Turkish tacos. Although I guess you can cut it into triangular wedges and eat it like pizza. That would be fine as well.
These actually freeze exceptionally well. You can bake them off, wait for them to cool down completely and then store them in a freezer storage plastic bag, zip it up tight and place it in the freezer. Then when you are ready to eat, just pull out a couple pizzas, place them on a baking sheet and warm them up in the oven until crispy once again. BOOM, weekday snack? Yes. Weeknight dinner? Hopefully! Breakfast? Why not?!
If you’re not a meat eater, you can easily make this vegetarian. Just take out the meat and added tons of sautéed spinach instead. Keep the rest of the ingredients and you’ll have the best meet-less lahmacun! That’s actually the kind my sister likes as she isn’t a big meat eater. She prefers the veggies. What a weirdo.
[Insert hilariously witty last sentence here.] The end.
Lahmacun (Turkish Pizza)
These Turkish pizzas are topped with a seasoned ground beef and veggie mixture and are baked until golden brown and crispy. Pizza with a twist, topped with a creamy tzatziki sauce, tomatoes and shredded cabbage. They’re the perfect treat for any night of the week because they can be made in advance and warmed in the oven for a quick meal.
yield: 16 small pizzas
For the dough:
- 5 cups (625 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups (356 ml) whole or skim milk, warmed
- ¼ cup (59 ml) vegetable oil
- 3 teaspoons (18 grams) salt
- 1 teaspoon (4 grams) sugar
- 1 packet (2¼ teaspoons) (8 grams) active dry yeast
For the filling/topping:
- 1 pound ground beef or lamb
- 3 roma tomatoes
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons (32 grams) tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon (3 grams) crushed red pepper flake
- 1 teaspoon (3 grams) cumin
- 1 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
- 1 teaspoon (3 grams) black pepper
- 1 teaspoon (3 grams) flaked or regular paprika
- handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- handful of fresh mint, chopped
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 tablespoons (15 ml) olive oil
- chopped tomatoes, for topping
- shredded purple cabbage, for topping
- shredded green cabbage, for topping
1. In a medium bowl combine the warm milk, sugar and yeast. Gently stir and allow to rest in a warm place (I like to use the oven turned off) for 10 minutes until foamy and frothy. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour and salt. Add the oil and yeast mixture and stir with the dough hook until the dough comes together, on low. Raise the speed to medium-high and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky. Turn out onto a slightly floured surface and form into a smooth ball. Grease the same mixing bowl with oil or cooking spray and return the dough ball. Turn it over to coat both sides and cover with plastic wrap and a damp cloth. Place in a warm place (oven again) and allow to rest for at least 2 hours or until doubled in size.
2. In the meantime, make the filling/topping. Place the ground beef in a large mixing bowl. In a food processor, chop the tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, onion, garlic cloves, parsley and mint. Pulse until completely chopped. Transfer the “salsa” to a sieve and allow the excess liquid to drain off. Pour into the bowl with the ground beef and add the remaining ingredients. Using your hands, stir the beef mixture until evenly combined.
3. Line two baking sheets with foil paper and grease with cooking spray. On a lightly floured work surface turn out the dough. Cut into 16 even pieces and transfer to a baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel to prevent from drying. Working with one piece at a time, roll out the dough into very thin circles. Place the rolled dough on the prepared baking sheets, two on each sheet. You will have to bake the pizzas in batches.
4. Grab a handful of the filling/topping and spread it evenly on each of the circles leaving about 1/2 of an inch border. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and crispy on the edges. Transfer the pizzas to cooling racks and allow the baking sheets to cool slightly before repeating the steps with the remaining dough and filling. Once all the pizzas are cooked you can serve with chopped tomatoes, and shredded purple and green cabbage. Serve with homemade tzatziki sauce (recipe follows). Any leftover pizzas can be frozen in freezer bags or containers and rewarmed in the oven. Enjoy!
Make this sauce for all your dipping or topping needs. It’s delicious dipped with warm pita bread or tasty in wraps and sandwiches. Whip up a large batch and keep it in the fridge for your weekly meals or snacks.
yield: about 1½ cups
- 1 cup (285 grams) greek yogurt
- 1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced into pieces
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 1 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
- 1 teaspoon (3 grams) freshly cracked black pepper
- handful fresh parsley, chopped
- handful fresh mint, chopped
1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until evenly combined. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Store, covered, in the fridge. Will keep for up to 1 week. Enjoy!