Lahmacun or Turkish pizza (flatbread) is an easy and delicious dish - a thin base topped with a deliciously seasoned meaty topping. Perfect finger food.
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I'm not quite sure when I first had lahmacun, but I definitely remember one of the more memorable times I had it was on a work visit to Cyprus a few years ago. Some colleagues from the office in Nicosia very kindly took me out for some food and drinks after work one evening, after a long day.
I think the host had already eaten and assumed myself and our other colleague had too since it was pretty late, and so had chosen a place that didn't really serve meals but they did have homemade lahmacun.
As soon as I took a bite I loved it.
What is lahmacun?
Lahmacun is often called Turkish flatbread or Turkish pizza. It's a very simple, thin dough base with a spicy meat, tomato and onion topping that makes a fantastic finger food whether you enjoy as you watch football or any other excuse to eat it.
The topping is really pretty simple but a great mix of flavors. You can spice it up or down as you prefer with a few more chili flakes to taste.
As I ate it that time in Cyprus, I was pretty sure I'd had it before some time but I gave up trying to remember. Instead I just inhaled it, it was so delicious. After a long day at work, lahmacun and a nice cold drink sitting outside was the perfect end.
True, sitting outside is not exactly an option in New England weather at this time of year, but it's still nice to bring some of that warmth inside with this dish. For a cheese-loving family like ours the idea of a flatbread/pizza without any cheese is a little tough at first. But believe me, the taste soon wins you over.
Steps to make lahmacun
It's really easy to make:
- Form the dough into small circles.
- Blend up the topping ingredients in the food processor.
- Spread the mixture on your bases.
- Bake until golden around the edges and the meat is cooked.
Here I've made the base as it's definitely worth doing if you can, but you'd be forgiven for cheating with ready-made if you like.
It's pretty common to put some salad inside the lahmacun, roll it up and eat it, as we did, and you can always add some grilled halloumi in there if you want to get that bit of a cheese fix.
Variations on lahmacun
The meat mixture on top is a mix of onion, tomato and either lamb or beef (I believe more traditionally lamb which is my preference but you can use beef instead). You typically season this with pepper, parsley and sometimes a few spices such as some cumin and chili flakes. You can miss out or cut back on the chili and let people add at the end as well, if you like.
Although not as traditional, I seem to remember when I had it that time in Cyprus there were pine nuts on top as well. These are often combined with lamb in dishes in the region and being another favorite, I had to add some here as well.
You can enjoy this as an appetizer, being a great finger food, but you can also have a couple each as a main, particularly if it's paired with a salad as we had. Ours was a simple mix of tomato, cucumber and parsley dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. Rolling the salad inside the lahmacun gives you all the tasty topping, fresh salad and crunchy base in each bite.
However you decide to eat it, lahmacun is a great dish to enjoy for many an occasion. So mix up some topping, make or buy your base and pop them in the oven for a delicious meal.
Looking for dishes to serve with this? Try these!
- Kisir, Turkish bulgur salad
- Pomegranate tabbouleh
- Israeli salad (which is similar to other tomato-cucumber salads in the region)
- Some Turkish-style stuffed apricots after would also be delicious!
- Plus get more ideas for regional flavors in the Middle Eastern recipes archives.
If you're looking for other cultural takes on pizza, try my Catalan coca (Spanish pizza with peppers and onion) or flammekueche (pizza/flatbread from France/Germany with bacon, onion and creme fraiche).
Lahmacun - Turkish flatbread
For the base
- ¼ oz fast acting instant yeast 7g, 1 packet/sachet
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp warm water
- 2 cups white bread flour 300g, or all-purpose would be fine
- 1 tsp salt
- 150 g Greek yogurt 1 small pot
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ cup water 60ml, or a little less
For the topping
- ½ red onion large or 1 small
- 1 tomatoes large or 2 small
- ½ red pepper
- 1 handful parsley leaves
- ½ lb ground lamb 225g lamb mince, can use beef
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp pine nuts approx
- red pepper flakes and lemon to serve
- To make the base, dissolve the yeast and the sugar in the 2tbsp of warm water. Leave them to start throthing a little. Meanwhile mix together the flour and salt in a large bowl and measure out everything else (you can blent together the yogurt and oil if you like but not essential).
- Add the yogurt, oil and yeast mixture to the flour and salt and mix well, adding a little water as you go until you get a smooth, very slightly damp mixture. It's often easiest to mix by hand, at least towards the end.
- Tip the mixture out onto a floured surface and knead for around 5 minutes. It should stop feeling sticky and more elastic. Clean out your mixing bowl, gently brush with a little oil then put the dough back in and put it in a warm place, covered with a cloth, for around 2 hours to rise.
- After the dough has rested, pre-heat the oven to 450F/230C.
- Roughly chop the onion, tomato and pepper - deseed half the tomato to save the mixture getting too wet. Place all along with the parsley in a food processor and blend to a rough paste.
- Add the lamb, allspice, cumin and a good grinding of salt and pepper. Blend until combined.
- Knock back the dough and divide into eight balls. Cover the ones you are not using until ready and roll them out into thin circles, around 6in in diameter (really just as thin as you can make them.
- Transfer to a lined baking sheet and spread a spoonful of the topping mixture over the top, carefully spreading it into a thin layer (it's often easiest to finish by hand and press it out).
- Sprinkle over a few pine nuts on the top of each.
- Bake in the oven for around 12-15min until browning around the edges and the topping is cooked.
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