Lahmacun: Spicy Minced Lamb Flatbreads
David Pritchard, the director of Mediterranean Escapes, and I are both occasionally so overwhelmed by the energy, vitality and sense of theatre of a food event that we think it should be the setting for an opera. The restaurant of Imam Cagdas in Gaziantep was one such place. It was a large and enormously busy restaurant turning out an array of tender, aromatic, charcoal-imbued kebabs, and these lahmacun. This was food more influenced by the lifestyle of central Asia than the Mediterranean: dishes that could be cooked by nomadic tribes on the move. As soon as you arrive, you are served with warm, fresh lavash, the thin, crisp, local flatbread; a bowl of ayran, a drink made of water, natural yogurt and a pinch of salt; salad dressed with pomegranate molasses, and these lahmacun, which you fill with a fistful of fresh parsley, sprinkle with lemon juice and roll up to eat. In the space of 45 minutes, 20 or 30 chefs and waiters must have served about 300 people. This is fast food at its best. Just make sure to roll the dough thinly, spread the lamb topping right out to the edges and cook it quickly in a very hot oven.
|1||quantity Flatbread dough (see below for ingredients and method)|
|For the topping:|
|600g||lean minced lamb|
|200g (about ½ each)||red and green pepper, stalks and seeds removed|
|1||garlic clove, crushed|
|15g||flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped|
|1½ tsp||Aleppo pepper|
|Flat-leaf parsley sprigs and lemon wedges, to serve|
|For the flatbread:|
|2 tsp||easy-blend yeast|
|2 tbsp||extra virgin olive oil|
You will need a food processor.
First, make the dough. Sift the flour, salt and yeast into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add 250ml warm water and the olive oil and mix together to make a soft dough. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Put back into the bowl, cover and leave somewhere warm for about an hour until doubled in size.
For the topping, bring the minced lamb back to room temperature if necessary. Roughly chop the onion, red pepper and green pepper, put them into a food processor and process, using the pulse button, until finely chopped but not a pulp. Tip into a sieve set over a bowl and press out the excess liquid. Add to the minced lamb with the crushed garlic, chopped parsley, Aleppo pepper and 2 teaspoons salt. Mix together into a soft paste using your hands. Divide the mixture into 12.
Preheat the oven to 240°C/Gas Mark 9. Punch back the flatbread dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead once more until smooth. Divide the dough into 12 evenly sized pieces. Working with 4 pieces at a time, roll each one out very thinly on a lightly floured surface into ovals of 14 x 24 cm. Place side by side on 2 lightly floured baking sheets.
Using your fingertips, spread one portion of the lamb mixture evenly over each base, taking it right up to the edges because the mixture shrinks as it cooks. Bake for 8 minutes until the dough is lightly browned. Serve straight away. The traditional way to do this is to pile a few parsley sprigs towards one end of the flatbread, squeeze over a little lemon juice and roll it up, much like you would a taco. While your guests start to eat, repeat with the remaining dough and lamb topping. This is one of those dishes where the cook always eats last.