Turkish Lahmacun with Piyaz
Joan has been travelling virtually wherever her imagination takes us through cuisine, sights, and cultural exploration. How about meeting her in any one of her itinerary stops and presenting your interpretation of the cuisine from that destination? Who wouldn't enjoy taking a journey around the world even if it is from the comfort of your favourite armchair?? No passport necessary, no cancelled flights or long airport layovers. You can also do a little daydreaming through your taste buds. We have already met up in Panama where we feasted on traditional dishes and visited the markets, caught our own salmon and alien looking King Crab in Alaska ...so next stop on her tour is, you guessed it:
Turkish cuisine is a unique and exotic fusion historically based on influences from its surrounding countries. Since the days of the powerful Ottoman empire, Turkey has been at the centre of trade, especially in spices, which allowed Ottoman chefs to borrow, adapt, and perfect dishes from many other cuisines. The country’s tumultuous history has left a deep legacy. What a wonderful mixture of cooking styles exist within Turkish cuisine. It is bordered to the northwest by Greece and Bulgaria, to the northeast by Georgia and Armenia, to the East by Iran, and to the south by Syria and Iraq...and is influenced by all.
Turkey produces a large amount of fruits and vegetables and being bordered by the Black Sea to the north and to the west by the Agean and Mediterranean Seas there are many different types of seafood available. The variety of Turkish food is enormous, from a choice of different soups to an astounding variety of meze (colourful platter of appetizers or small dishes) followed by fish and meat dishes. After the main course is finished, take a break to contemplate which famous Turkish sweets or pastries to try before finishing with a Turkish coffee or tea.
Turkey is a paradise of sun, sea, mountains, and lakes that offers a complete change from the stress and routine of everyday life. This is the perfect combination for relaxing on sandy beaches or enjoying the tranquility of mountains and lakes. What better place to explore a cuisine, relax and share a table with like-minded individuals than through a culinary tour with The International Kitchen. In Turkey join The Cuisine of Sultans or Turkish Flavours tours where you will spend ten glorious nights exploring Turkey during one of these unforgettable cooking vacations. Journey from Istanbul to Cappadocia, Izmir, Kusadasi and Bodrum laced with hands-on cooking classes featuring delectable local dishes.
"We spent the morning touring the Spice Bazaar where the scent of hundreds of spices permeated the air and strolled the Fish Market, a bustling labyrinth of stands peddling fish, fruits, vegetables, and spices (with a couple of pastry shops thrown in!). All of this makes for great street theater!!!!! We participated in a hands-on cooking class with a local woman, who shared her experiences with traditional Aegean cuisine using ingredients grown in her garden. We drove North to the Urlice Winery where the Ogunlu family shared their expertise in the production of biodynamic wines;. We visited the fascinating Goreme Valley, where for over thousands of years the rain has eroded the landscape to give rise to strange lunar-like formations known as “Fairy Chimneys” . We discovered the Underground City of Kaymakli where 6th century Christian inhabitants of this region began to tunnel into the soft volcanic rock with eight different levels, several thousand people lived in this subterranean city. Turkey is a myriad of sites and sounds."
From the many meals we were offered, Lahmacun really stood out for me. This pizza-like, thin, round dish, topped with herbs and minced meat (also known as Armenian Pizza, Turkish Pizza, Lahmajun and Lahmajoon) is very famous in Armenia and Turkey. Although I admit that I was very hungry, the smell, the taste and the healthy ingredients in Lahmacun impressed me so much that it quickly became my all-time favourite Turkish dish. Lahmacun or Turkish Pizza is a dish consisting of a round, thin piece of dough topped with minced meat (most commonly beef and lamb). Lahmacun is often served sprinkled with lemon juice and wrapped around vegetables, including pickles, tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce, and parsley or cilantro.
Like any other pizza-like recipe, it is certainly nice to have a brick oven to bake Lahmacun which is non existent here in my condominium, but it is absolutely doable in a simple conventional oven like we have at home.
To speed up the process you can purchase store bought leavened bread dough from the nearest bakery. Take walnut-sized pieces from the dough and roll them out until they are thin and plate size. Add the topping given below and bake for 6-7 minutes.
In Turkey it is customary to say ‘Afiyet Olsun’ meaning Bon Appetit, and to the chef or person that cooked your food ‘Elinize Saglik’ which literally means “health to your hands”, but is interpreted as meaning “well done, very delicious”. Make it, and decide for yourself if there is anything not to fall in love with!
**Turkish Lahmacun Pizza with Piyaz**
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1+1/2 cup of warm water
4 1/2 cups of flour
Little oil to brush the dough
Ingredients for the topping:
12 oz of minced beef or lamb (I always use 85 % lean beef)
1 large onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups of fresh curly parsley
1 cup of fresh mint
1 medium tomato
1 teaspoon chili pepper
1 jalapeno (optional) (I personally use pickled hot peppers instead of jalapenos)
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
1 teaspoon of cumin (optional)
salt according to your own taste
Juice of 1 lemon
little oil to brush the dough
Directions for the dough:
In a small bowl mix yeast and the sugar. Add 1/2 cup of warm water, stir well, close the lid (or cover with plate). You can leave the bowl on the counter but I usually put it somewhere warm. Warmness accelerates the process and better activates the yeast. Activating yeast is important to have a better rising dough. Keep the mixture warm for about 15 minutes without opening the lid. When the time is up, you should have a nice foamy liquid. Even if you do not, still keep it and make the dough. It will still work.
In a large bowl combine the remaining water, flour and the yeast mixture.
Mix everything well and kneed it into a nice soft, springy dough. It should be soft as your ear lobes. Add flour or water as needed. A well-kneaded dough will be much easier to work with later. Keep this in mind!
Coat the dough with just a little bit of oil, cover with damp cloth and leave it to rise in a warm place. I usually cover the bowl with the lid and bundle it up nicely to have a good volume dough. Give it a rest for around 1 hour before you take it out from the cover. When you do take the dough out, make sure it has doubled in size.
Once the time is up, open up the lid and punch the dough a little. Flour the working surface and drop the dough. Cut it into pieces smaller than a tennis ball but larger that a golf ball. You should have about 10-12 pieces.
Roll each one and place on the floured surface. Cover with a damp cloth and let it stand until your topping is ready (20 min). Turn the oven on and keep it at 420 F.
Directions for the topping:
Meanwhile, prepare the topping.
Wash the greens well and chop them nicely. I usually wash and soak parsley with mint in water prior to using them. This way all the dirt remains in the water.
Cut the onion and garlic in pieces, put the pieces into a chopper and chop until nicely minced.
Heat the skillet in medium-high, melt the butter, add onion+garlic mixture, saute for about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low, close the lid and simmer for 2 more minutes. Take the skillet off the burner and cool the onion mixture.
Peel the skin off tomato and cut it to very small pieces.
Have all the ingredients in one big bowl. At this point, add lamb, chili pepper, salt, cumin, lemon juice, paprika, chopped jalapenos (or chopped pickled hot peppers) and mix everything very well.
The dough is well rested at this point. Take one by one and roll into a round, flat circle or an oval measuring up to 5 mm in height. The author of the recipes likes to make her Lahmacuns very thin. This way they come out a little crispy. If you want them much softer roll the dough a little thicker but no more than 5-8 mm.
Some use pizza stones to bake Lahmacuns. While it is a good alternative for the original brick ovens it is not very practical if you are making quite a few since it will take a while to cook up all of the lahmacuns. So, I suggest using regular baking sheets. Sprinkle some non-fat cooking spray (or just a little oil will work), place rolled dough on the sheet, slightly brush with some olive oil (canola oil works too) top up with 2 Tbsp of the ready topping. Spread the topping evenly and very thinly.
I place 2 rounds in one regular 11″x17″ size baking sheet. If you have bigger sheets and want to use those, you are more than welcome to do so. 3 baking sheets are enough to keep the whole process going pretty fast. Put two baking sheets in the oven at a time. The top one usually gets baked faster. When you take the ready batch out, rotate the bottom one to the top and place a new batch on the lower rack.
The oven should remain at 420F – not too high and not too low. Since you are going to be constantly opening the oven, the temperature ideally will stay at about 370F. Cooked Lahmacuns are crispy at the ends and softer in the middle. Corners usually get nicely tanned. Take them off the baking sheet to a wider container and cover with a towel until you are done with every single one of them. Humidity under the towel will soften Lahmacuns, making it very easy for you to roll them around the fresh ingredients you might want to use.
Serve lahmacun immediately with the piyaz rolled up inside and lemon wedges to squeeze over on the side.
(Sliced tomatoes, onion and parsley salad with herbs)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground sumac - optional-
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon paprika flakes - optional
Work sumac and the salt into the onion slices with your hands really well. Combine with the chopped tomatoes, parsley and paprika flakes. Whisk together the extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice and pour over the piyaz. Season with salt (if needed) and freshly ground black pepper.
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