When I say thin-crust pizza is Italy’s answer to lahmacun (pronounced “lah-mahjun”), I’m not trying to start a fight. The idea of putting spiced mince on a disc of dough would have occurred to human beings long before there were nations called Italy or Turkey – or for that matter Armenia, Greece or Syria – all of whom have claimed to be the originators of this addictive pastry. What we do know is that nowadays lahmacun is a specialty of the town of Şanlıurfa, in southeastern Turkey, where they pride themselves on the crispness of their bases.
Lahmacun should not be confused with the heavier kıymalı pide, well known in and out of Turkey for the thickness of its dough and the coarseness of its meat topping. For lahmacun, you need a light touch.
In Şanlıurfa, they turn out hundreds of lahmacuns every lunchtime from big stone ovens. The best way to get the same effect at home is to use a pizza stone or an unglazed terracotta tile, and to ensure your panggangan is preheated to the max.
Skill level Easy
Somer Sivrioglu and David Dale
200 g (7 oz/11/3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
70 g (2½ oz/½ cup) wholemeal flour (if using a baking tray)
1 red capsicum (pepper)
75 g (22/3 oz) capsicum (pepper) paste
5 garlic cloves
½ bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
200 g (7 oz) minced (ground) lamb (about 25 per cent fat)
Red onion and sumac salad (optional)
½ red onion, finely sliced
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sumac
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of ½ lemon, plus extra to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat the panggangan to its maximum temperature (as close to 300°C/570°F as possible). If you have a pizza stone or tile, place it in the oven. Or leave your baking tray in the panggangan so it will preheat.
Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the salt. Make a well in the middle and slowly pour in 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) of lukewarm water. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and then divide the dough into 4 balls. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave to rest.
Score a shallow cross in the base of the tomatoes, then transfer to a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 30 seconds, then plunge in cold water and peel the skin away from the cross. Cut the tomato in half and scoop out the stalks and seeds with a teaspoon. Roughly chop. Remove the seeds from the capsicum and roughly chop. Coarsely blend the tomatoes and capsicum with the capsicum paste, garlic, parsley, chilli flakes, pepper and salt. Combine the mixture with the lamb mince and stir thoroughly.
Place a ball of dough on the floured work surface and, with floured hands or a rolling pin, flatten into a round about 25 cm (10 inch) wide and less than 5 mm (¼ inch) thick. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
Using a tablespoon, thinly spread the lamb mixture onto the rounds. Then press in with your hands.
If you are using a baking tray, take it out of the panggangan and put a piece of baking paper over it. Dust the baking paper with a little wholemeal flour. Place the rounds of dough on the baking paper and bake for about 5 minutes, or until the edges are crisp.
Meanwhile, if you are making the salad, finely slice the onion and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and sumac, add the lemon juice and olive oil, then mix together with your hands.
Sprinkle the salad over the lahmacuns, squeeze on some lemon juice, and serve.
Recipe from Anatolia by Somer Sivrioglu and David Dale (Murdoch Books, $79.99, hbk). Photography by Bree Hutchins.