What marks the beginning of the winter…

is a robust fire…

A fire with yellow-blue flames, cracking sounds and the warmth filling the room.

And also maybe a little smoke smell. We still have not excelled in making a perfect fire in our little fire place but are very stubborn. So we try every year no matter how much we are covered in smoke and no matter how painstainkingly I clean the soot from the blinds every spring.

I did not have the luxury of fireplace back in Turkey. But I had other experiences to remind myself that the winter was upon us. Long waits for the bus in cold weather, heavy coats, big boots and the smell of burning coal in the air. One specific thing that would make me realize the winter’s arrival was our lunches during my college years in Istanbul. There was a little restaurant right across from the college campus. They had the best red lentil soup and little lahmacuns. We were regulars there at lunch hours, eating soup with crusty bread, ending the meal with lahmacun (if  we were just girls, we would also double end it with some kind of milk pudding dessert, however the guys, especially Gokhan and Serhat, would double up on lahmacun normally. You know, the men gotta have their meat!).

After we made the first fire of the season on Sunday night, I had to try my hand in lahmacun just for the sake of old days.

Lahmacun is a type of very thin crust pizza of Middle Eastern cuisine. It is topped with ground beef or lamb. I have been able to find at some Syrian or Turkish restaurants around North Carolina. If you have any Middle Eastern restaurant around you, look at the menu and see if you can find any variation of lahmajun or lahmacun on it.

We use lahmacun as a wrapper and fill it with shredded lettuce, thin red onion slices rubbed with sumac, and parsley with a little squeeze of lemon juice. A big glass of cold ayran, which is a Turkish drink made with yogurt, salt and cold water, usually accompanies it.

I have seen some recipes that add dry mint, cumin, allspice to the topping but I like the simple version. Feel free to adjust or add more spices than it calls for, based on your taste. I found two recipes, one in Anissa Helou’s Mediterranean Street Food and one in Ayla Algar’s Classical Turkish Cooking. This recipe is a hybrid/tweak of those two. Also as evident from the pictures, I need to work on my “perfect circle” when I am rolling out the dough and not to have edges sticking out that can char so quickly! I believe I’ll get there one day. (I hope!)

This post goes out to my dear college buddies now living all around the world. Hope we get to go to lunch one day again!

Lahmacun

(Makes 4 – 8 to 10 inch diameter or 6 – 6 inch diameter lahmacuns)

Click here for printable Lahmacun Recipe

Dough

  • 2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1-3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Topping

  • 8 ounce ground lamb or beef (I pulse the already ground meat at the food processor 4-5 times)
  • 1/3 cup very finely chopped onion (I used pulse option on food processor)
  • 1 green onion- very finely chopped  (First, I cut the stalk in two lengthwise, then chopped finely)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 medium size ripe tomato, peeled, cored and chopped very finely
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Turkish Aleppo pepper (optional- depends on how spicy you like)

Garnish

  • Shredded lettuce
  • Red onion rubbed with sumac (slice  very thin half moons, rub with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sumac)
  • Parsley
  • Fresh lemon juice

1. Combine yeast, sugar and warm water in a mixing bowl. Let it proof for 10 min.

2. Add 1/2 cup of the flour, combine with yeast water. Let it rise for 30 min.

3. Add the remaining flour, salt and olive oil to the yeast mixture. Mix to combine well. The dough should form a stiff ball. If  the dough is dry and has hard time coming together, add one more tablespoon to bring it the dough together. Turn it onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.

4. Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in and cover. Let it rise for an hour or two until it doubles.

5. In the mean time, mix all the ingredients for the topping.

6. Divide the dough into four or six equal sizes. Form each portion into a ball. Let it rest for 30 min.

7. Put your baking tile/stone in the oven. Heat the oven to 550 degrees. It takes 30 minutes for the tiles to get hot.

8. Pat each dough into a circle on a floured work surface. With a rolling pin, roll out each piece into a bigger circle. It should be thin.

9. Divide the topping into four or six (depending on how many lahmacuns you have). Top each lahmacun dough with its portion of the topping, almost smearing it all over the surface very thin, leaving 1/4 inch dough untouched around the perimeter. Make sure you get an even cover and not have any clumps of meat. (I left some intendation marks with my nails around the perimeter on several of them to see if the dough would bubble up around the edges. The ones with the marks stayed flatter around the edges)

10. Bake it at 500 for about 8 minutes. The edges would turn crisp and meat will cook fast since it is a thin layer.

11. Cover the baked lahmacuns with a damp kitchen towel or cover with a glass cake dome for about 5 minutes. The moisture will make it softer. If you want crispy ones, then skip this step.

12. Put any of the fillings, wrap it and enjoy with a glass of ayran.

 

 

 

 

10 Comments:

  1. by Calantha
    10:03 pm
    Dec 26, 2011

    Those look delicious, and what a wonderful way to ring in the New Year. All the best in 2012, Ilke!

  2. by Ilke
    10:12 pm
    Dec 26, 2011

    Thank you Calantha! Hope a great year is awaiting for you!

  3. by Gokce
    6:17 pm
    Dec 27, 2011

    Barisla dibimiz dustu – super bir masa hazirlamissin Ilke! Well done!

  4. by Parsley Sage
    5:50 pm
    Dec 28, 2011

    Oh, I’d have been with the boys on this one. Give me an extra lahmacuns! Heck, let’s go crazy and give me two :)

    These look delicious!

  5. by Shelley
    10:55 am
    Dec 30, 2011

    Pizza must be the universal cuisine- it would seem that evey country has a version. Since I’ve never met a pizza I didn’t like, I’d love to try lahmucun. Hope you had a great holiday!

  6. by Lemon
    12:02 pm
    Dec 30, 2011

    These Lahmacun look so delicious and fresh, much better than the ones I sometimes see in Turkish fast food shops.

  7. by Snippets of Thyme
    12:25 pm
    Dec 30, 2011

    O.K., first…I love your mugs. And…yes, we have lots of Middle Eastern restaurants in Houston so I will try hard to remember that thin crust pizza with lamb. Then…I love that last photo with the overhead shot. Finally…you asked what I used in the background of one of my photos. It is a ceramic flooring tile that I purchased for only a few dollars at Lowe’s!

  8. by Barbara @ Barbara Bakes
    1:07 pm
    Dec 30, 2011

    Beautiful pictures! It looks like a fabulous meal to eat around a fire. Happy New Year!

  9. by Peggy
    11:43 am
    Dec 31, 2011

    What a beautiful treat! I love seeing different cultures’ interpretations of “normal” dishes. I think this would be way better than any pizza I’ve ever had =)

  10. by Sook
    12:51 am
    Jan 3, 2012

    What gorgeous pictures! Everything looks so fresh and delicious!

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