These open, hand-held pastries are really in a class of their own. You bite into a light, flexible crust that holds a spicy lamb filling. It’s so good. Take another bite or two. Before you know it, you’re already reaching for another one.
It’s an easy enough recipe, but it does require some exotic ingredients. There’s tahini, pomegranate molasses, sumac. All are available at Mediterranean grocery stores or online, and it’s worth buying and getting to know these ingredients. Pomegranate molasses is a syrup of pomegranate juice that lends a slight sweet/sour taste to food. I like to add a small amount of it to salad dressings. In meaty dishes such as this, it balances the earthiness of tahini and the bright flavors of the ground spices. Sumac imparts a sourish taste, like lemon, and an attractive red color. See more about sumac in this post about spinach and feta turnovers.
When I first started eating these non-Western foods in Israel, I was startled by the presence of cinnamon in lamb dishes. But I soon realized how right it tastes. It sets off the slight gaminess of the meat and brings all the elements together.
Lahmacun (pronounced “lahma’joun”) are fun to eat folded over and out of hand, as a snack or finger food. If you prefer to make bigger pastries, they also make a satisfying meal. Serve with a good mixed salad.
For the dough
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tbsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp active dry yeast
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup sunflower or olive oil
- ½ cup water
- 2 tbsp olive oil for brushing dough circles
For the topping
- 10 oz ground lamb
- 1 large onion
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tahini (the raw paste, not prepared, ready-to-eat tahini)
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tbsp ground sumac
- 4 tbsp pine nuts, reserved
- A pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
- Make the dough. In a large bowl, blend the flour, salt, yeast, baking powder and sugar.
- In a small bowl, beat the egg and add the oil. Mix.
- Push a space open in the center of the flour. Pour the egg mixture into the space. Start adding the water, stirring.
- Mix to obtain a light dough. Knead a few minutes. The dough will be greasy; that’s fine.
- Cover the bowl with plastic. (Or you can recycle a clean grocery bag.) Set in a warm place to rise 1 hour.
- Make the topping. Chop the onion finely in the food processor, or by hand.
- Chop the tomatoes finely; no need to peel them. This is best done by hand.
- Keep the pine nuts separate. Mix onion, tomatoes, and the remaining filling ingredients in a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to mix everything extremely well, or knead the mixture by hand until all the ingredients are integrated.
- Preheat the oven to 375° F (180° C).
- Line two baking trays with baking parchment.
- Divide the dough either into 8 or 16 equal pieces. It won’t have doubled in size. Roll out the pieces into circles 1/16” thick (2 mm.). Brush each circle with olive oil on top and bottom. Set the dough circles to rise, 15 minutes.
- Top the dough circles with the lamb mixture. If baking large lahmacun, use 2 tablespoons each. If baking snack-sized ones, use 1 tablespoon. Spread the topping out to the edges of the dough. Sprinkle some pine nuts over each lahmacun.
- Allow to rise another 15 minutes.
- Bake 15 minutes. The dough should be baked through but still flexible, and the lamb cooked through but not dry.
- Serve warm.