Lahm Bi’ajeen

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I never ate lahmacun when I lived in Turkey. It always looked delicious, sold from street carts – flat bread spread with a smidgen of lamb and then rolled up with herbs and/or salad. But I didn’t eat meat then so I stuck to other delicious street treats such as midye tava  (mussels in batter with a garlic sauce in a bun – I really, really loved this),  midye dolma (stuffed mussels), balık ekmek and kestaneler (roasted chestnuts). I also had an unhealthy relationship with su böreği. I was much younger when I lived in Turkey and we spent quite a bit of time in bars – su böreği can make the next morning a lot better – that is all I am saying.

When we started keeping our own sheep, I made a few attempts to create lahmacun from our lamb. I made a basic flat bread. Cooked up some onion and minced lamb, added pomegranate molasses and then spread it on the read and cooked it. It was good.

But then I found Ottolenghi’s recipe for Lahm Bi’ajeen (which is Arabic for meat with dough and has mutated into Turkish as lahmacun – see, don’t say you don’t learn stuff here) and this was a game-changer.

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The dough here is a mix between a pastry and a flat bread. It is also a very wet dough, but stay with it, when you  roll it out in lots of flour it will be fine. I made a few little changes to Ottolenghi’s recipe. I don’t have milk powder so I added a little milk to the mix and cut back on the oil. I think if you don’t want to add milk powder or milk you could just add a little extra oil to make up the fluid. I also don’t have any parsley so that got left out. But I did have some pomegranate seeds leftover from my yearly purchase of a pomegranate so I used them and they worked beautifully. Oh, I used some minced hoggat from last year’s lambs – it was beautiful – why do people want to eat lamb  when hoggat and mutton is so good?

Yes, there are a lot of ingredients, but they were bizarrely all in my fridge and cupboard and I live in the middle of nowhere so you can probably get them from the shop near you.

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Lahm Bi’ajeen: for the topping – 250g minced lamb; 1 onion finely chopped; 2 tomatoes finely chopped; 3 tbs light tahini; just over 1 tsp salt; 1 tsp ground cinnamon; 1tsp ground mixed spice (I couldn’t be bothered to grind up some allspice, but next time I will make more of an effort!); pinch of cayenne pepper; 1 tbs lemon juice; 1tbs pomegranate molasses; 1tbs sumac; handful of pinenuts; pomegranate seeds. For the dough: 230g strong white flour; 1 tsp salt; 1.5 tsp fast acting yeast; 1/2 tsp baking powder; 1 egg; 1 tbs sugar; 100ml of sunflower oil; 25ml of milk; 100ml lukewarm water + extra olive oil.

Make the dough by putting the flour, salt, yeast, baking powder and sugar in a food mixer. Add the oil, egg and milk and mix. Then gradually add the water. The dough will be very wet but will start to come together as it is kneaded. You might not need all the water.  When it can be shaped into a ball, brush with a little olive oil and then cover with a clean tea-cloth and leave in a warm place for an hour.

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Meanwhile make the topping. Put all ingredients apart from the pine nuts and pomegranate seeds in a bowl and mix.

Set the oven to very hot (250c) and line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.

Pinch out small bits of the dough and roll out on lots of flour into thin discs – about 1-2 mm. Pop the discs on the baking tray, brush with oil and leave to rise again. After 30 minutes or less if you are hungry smear the topping over the dough. Sprinkle with pine nuts and cook in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Before serving sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and eat with cacık and lettuce.

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N.B. These are not easy to roll up but you can cut them in half and fold over.

N.B. I wish I had taken some better photos, but I was so exhausted from a busy day it was amazing I could even make some food.

N.B. Lettuce courtesy of my lovely friend Kerry as I haven’t got it together to grow autumn lettuce in my polytunnel – I blame the wretched books quite frankly.

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