CHEF and blogger Paul James writes for our paper.
A good actor friend of mine wanted to know when I was going to cook something traditional to Turkey.
Even though Turkish people generally prefer to eat at home with traditional homemade food, the ever changing lifestyle of a newer generation, not only in Turkey but seemingly everywhere else around the world, slightly loses that sense of coming together at mealtimes in exchange for the ever-growing fast food outlets.
Mention Turkish food and most of us will think of donner kebabs, where sometimes in your local chippy the lamb meat is hacked off the vertical spit and shoved into pitta breads that have been so badly prepared that it forces the contents to fall out of the bottom and usually onto your lap.
But even I was surprised by the array of specialty dishes when researching for a dish to recreate.
Turkish cuisine is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine which can be described as a fusion of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Central Asia among the others of neighbouring countries.
But Turkey has also influenced the Greek, Lavantine, Egyptian and Balkan cuisines, creating an array of specialities.
I wanted to create a dish that accommodates both the hustle and bustle of today’s fast moving lifestyle and a touch of traditional homemade food.
What better way to show this than when my lad’s at home from university and create a Turkish pizza or better known as Lahmacun and get him ready to go back to his student lifestyle again.
Described as Turkish pizza, due to its shape and superficial similarity, the Lahmacun is also a popular dish in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Palestine (lahm bi ‘ajin) and other Arab communities worldwide.
Lahmacun, pronounced ‘lahma’joun’, comes from the Arabic ‘lahma bi’ajeen’, which literally means ‘dough with meat’.
I’ve also blended my own spices together to form the ‘Lahmacun’ seasoning.
Visit recipesfrommytravels.com for more on Paul’s recipes and blog.
Lahmacun LAHMACUN (Turkish Pizza)
2 Large red peppers diced
2 red onions 1 finely sliced and the other left for decoration at the end
2 garlic cloves finely sliced
500g beef mince (but you can use the more traditional lamb mince)
1tsp smoked paprika
1tsp ground allspice
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp sea salt flakes (I used Mediterranean)
4tbsp tomato purée
100ml of Luke warm water
Juice of 1 lemon
Lemon wedges for later
Fresh parsley leaves
1. Heat oven to 180c
2. To prepare the meat mixture, heat a large frying pan or saucepan and add the beef mince and spice mix, Dry fry it until the mince is browned (stirring frequently so the spices don’t catch).
3. Now this is where my recipe differs from others, I like the red peppers and one onion diced and sliced, not blended into a paste…it needs to have a bit of texture.
4. Add the peppers, onion and garlic to the meat mixture and carry on frying until the onions become slightly translucent.
5. In a jug add the lemon juice and tomato purée and give it a mix.
6. Let some boiled water from a kettle cool down and stir it into the lemon and tomato purée mixture.
7. Pour into the meat mixture and continue stirring for a few more minutes or until the meat mixture reduces down.
8. Now spread the meat mixture evenly over the flatbreads and bake in the oven until the meat mixture turns slightly dark and the flatbreads crisp up on the edges.
9. Serve on a plate with a scattering of sliced raw red onion and parsley.
10. Sprinkle with some sea salt flakes and a tomato side salad with lemon wedges.