Traditional lahmacun

Traditional lahmacun

Steven Joyce

In Istanbul, lahmacun, a Turkish alternative to pizza, come in many forms: some are baked so the dough is crisp and crunchy, others are so soft they are served rolled up and wrapped in paper. Traditionally they are topped with spiced lamb, then finished with a squeeze of lemon. It is impossible to get authentic blackened and bubbled crusts in a domestic oven, but if you crank it up to its maximum heat you can achieve delicious results nonetheless. I like to serve them with shepherd’s salad and a bowl of garlic yoghurt or cacık for dunking the crusts. For a little more heat add finely chopped fresh red chilli, or scatter with chilli flakes to serve. This is plenty for 4 hungry people but could serve more.



Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon active dried yeast
350ml lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
500g strong white bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
polenta, cornmeal or semolina, for dusting


Quantity Ingredient
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
450g minced lamb
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Quick red pepper paste
or 1 teaspoon hot or sweet paprika
1 tablespoon turkish tomato paste
or 2 tablespoons concentrated tomato puree
4 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
1 teaspoon sumac, (optional)
1/2 onion, very finely chopped
1 large fresh tomato, skinned, deseeded and very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
lemon wedges, to serve


  1. Preheat the oven to its highest setting. Place two baking trays or pizza stones into the oven. Unless you have a big oven, you may need to cook the lahmacun one or two at a time.
  2. Mix the yeast, water, sugar and oil together in a jug. Leave in a warm place for 10–15 minutes to activate the yeast. It should form a thick, frothy head. Thoroughly mix the flour and salt with the yeast liquid in a large mixing bowl. The dough will be fairly sticky at this stage.
  3. On a floured surface, start to knead the dough, using floured hands and knuckles to stretch the dough out, before folding it back on itself. (If it is really too sticky to do this, add a tablespoon or two of flour to the mix.) Knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth or oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size. (Depending on the temperature, it may take longer to double in size. You can tell when it has finished rising as the dough will dent rather than spring back when you press it.)
  5. Meanwhile, make the topping. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Remove from the heat and grind lightly in a pestle and mortar. Put the spices and all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix together using your hands: the end result should be a fairly smooth paste.
  6. Knock back the dough and divide into quarters. On a floured surface and with a floured rolling pin, roll each one into a circle roughly 30 cm diameter. Take the hot trays or stones out of the oven, dust them with polenta, cornmeal or semolina, and carefully slide two of the dough circles onto them. Working quickly, smear each dough with a portion of the topping, using the back of a spoon to smooth the paste evenly, leaving a border around the edge for the crust.
  7. Cook for 8–10 minutes or until the dough has browned and bubbled slightly. Squeeze over a little fresh lemon juice, sprinkle with some parsley and serve immediately. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
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