Lahmajun + Yogurt Drink (Ayran)

I am a huge fan of Turkish food. Have been even since I tried my first doner kabab in Baku, sometime back in the early 90s (boy, was I excited!), when the Soviet Union had just collapsed, and countless donerci shops began to spring up rapidly soon after. Also, ever since I have been blessed with a mother-in-law (she is a recipe addict just like I am) who has ever so kindly handed down to me at  least 8 thick Turkish recipe notebooks she compiled over many years.

Our typical family table features food from both sides. Sometimes it is difficult to tell which comes from where, as some dishes are commonly prepared both in Turkey in Azerbaijan. Albeit many similarities between the cuisines of the two neighboring countries, there are differences as well.

Take, for example, lahmacun, a delectable Turkish flatbread topped with spicy lamb filling (think thin crust pizza), originating in the south-east of Turkey but popular across the country. We don’t make it in Azerbaijan. But thanks to local Turkish restaurants that feature this delicacy on their menu, it is a favorite among the Azerbaijanis, too, including myself. Here, in California, both hubby and I have occasional nostalgic cravings for lahmacun. At times like that,  I often set out to make it myself. Making lahmacun from scratch is not as difficult as it may seem, although I’ll admit, it’s a bit time consuming. But I assure you, the end result is well worth the effort. Although I lack tandir (clay oven where lahmacun is meant to bake) for that authentic taste, my good old oven yields pretty good results too. I serve lahmacun with ayran, a refreshing yogurt drink popular both in Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Here’s the recipe. As they say in Turkey – Afiyet Olsun (bon appetit)!

LAHMAJUN (Lahmacun)
Turkish flatbread topped with spicy lamb

Adapted from The Sultan’s Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook, by Ozcan Ozan.

For the Dough:
1 tablespoon active dry yeast or moist fresh yeast (crumbled)
1 teaspoon sugar
1  3/4 cup warm water
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons salt

For the Topping:

1/2 pound (225 g) medium-lean lamb, ground twice
1 small onion, finely diced (1/2 cup)
3 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely diced (1 cup)
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 garlic gloves, minced
1 tablespoon Turkish red pepper or ground red pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
salt
about 4 tablespoons cold water

cornmeal, for dusting
butter, to brush

To Serve:
sprigs of parsley
lemon wedges
ayran (recipe follows)

Method:

Prepare the dough. First, make the starter. In a small bowl, mix together the yeast, sugar, and 1/2 cup of the warm water. Stir and dissolve the yeast well. Let the mixture stand in a warm place for about 10 minutes, until it’s frothy. Sift 1 cup of the flour into a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture and stir well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for 30 minutes, until the mixture has the texture of a sponge. Now, finish the dough – Sift the remaining flour onto this mixture. Add the salt and remaining  1 1/4 cups warm water, and stir well.

Turn the dough onto a cool, lightly floured work surface (preferrably marble), and sprinkle it with flour. Dust your fingers with flour so they won’t stick to the dough, and knead the dough for 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic and not sticky. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. Let it rest for 1 hour, or until it is doubled in size.

Meanwhile, prepare the topping. Place all the topping ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 450F (230C). If you are using a pizza stone or a quarry tile, put them on the middle rack of the oven. I use a regular rimless baking sheet, turned over. In this case, do not preheat it in the oven.

Dust your fingers with flour. On a cool, lightly floured work surface, turn out the dough once it has risen. Gently punch out the air, roll out the dough into a cylinder and cut it into 8 equal pieces with a sharp knife. Shape each piece into a ball, then press each ball with the heel of your palm to flatten it. Loosely cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let them ret in a warm place for about 20 minutes.

To assemble, flatten each piece of dough with the heel of your palm once again. Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece of dough into a thin 10-inch (25 cm) circle. Sprinkle the back of a baking sheet with some cornmeal and carefully transfer the rolled out circle to it. Or, sprinkle cornmeal over the pizza stone or on your baker’s peel.

Divide the lamb mixture among the rounds of dough, spreading it thinly and leaving a 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) border around the edges. Bake lahmacuns, one by one (or in batches if you have enough room in your oven) until the meat is browned, about 7 minutes each. Remove from the oven and brush the edges with some butter (stick or melted). Garnish with parsley sprigs and lemon wedges. Serve with ayran (recipe follows). To eat, squeeze the lemon onto the lahmacun, fold it over or wrap around parsley springs.

And here’s my recipe for ayran.

AYRAN
4 cups thick plain yogurt
4 cups cold water
salt, to taste

Combine the ingredients and beat well in a blender or with a balloon whisk in a bowl, until the mixture is smooth and the top is frothy. The consistency of ayran should be that of heavy cream, so adjust the amount of yogurt and water accordingly, depending on how thick your yogurt is. Pour ayran into tall glasses and serve immediate. You can also serve it over ice cubes if you want it icy cold.

Your Comment

33 Comments
  1. I am a big fan of lahmajun! That is such a delicious speciality! Yours looks scrumptious!

    Cheers,$

    Rosa

  2. Thanks for this recipe! I love lahmacun! I will make this soon!

  3. your bread looks fantastic! the Lebanese make this a lot, too! I used to eat it everyday when I was in Lebanon! I now hunt it down in Lebanese bakeries…some very good ones in the Detroit area.

  4. Isn’t it amazing how this can be termed a kind of pizza. Food travels…

  5. Looks great. I’ve not had this before. I will try it in a restaurant first before I make it. Great photos!

  6. I definitely must try that filling! Sounds delicious!

  7. Both of them look tempting Farida. Ayran is something similar to our lassi :)

  8. delicious !!!!!!

  9. I too like turkish food a lot, this looks lovely!

  10. That looks sooo yummy!! Especially the lamb topping.

  11. Wow! Today, I was contemplating buying a bag of (very good) frozen lahmajun at the Turkish store. I can easily down half a dozen of these babies! We used to eat them in Beirut, sprinkled with a fresh squeeze of lemon. I think we had the Armenian community to thank for the lahmajun, they brought it withy them from Turkey when they escaped.

  12. Dear Farida!

    Thank you for such a wonderful site! I have just tried you Baklava and it is absolutely wonderful :). I was just planning to ask you for your recipe for Lamajun and here it is! Can’t belive it :)

    Thank you again!

  13. This sounds so good Farida! I am so glad you stopped by my blog, I have been thinking about you and your cookbook, and that was just the reminder I needed to get over here. I have now subscribed to your blog, so I never have to miss a delightful (and tasty) post!

  14. Fari, are you surprised I’ve never even heard of lahmajun?
    Of course not. I’ve always said, visiting your site is not only eye candy, it’s educational.

    I see some similarities between lahmajun and pizza, (the latter I’m very familiar with, and make often), so lahmajun looks doable.
    And now that Thumper is back in school, I’ll have more time to play with food. Thanks querida!

  15. Farida I adore Lahmacun, I remember first eating it in Turkey. Actually it’s not that long since I blogged about it myself:
    http://culinarytravelsofakitchengoddess.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/memories-maketh-the-meal/

  16. Wow…that’s an delectable recipe…love that pictorial….

  17. THANK YOU, FRIENDS, FOR ALL YOUR COMMENTS.

  18. Feride, lahmacun is my favorite fast food here. I love putting parsley and some sliced onions on it and then squeezing lemon, then wrapping it. And Ayran is always the best companion of lahmacun. Mom makes it at home, but I’ve never tried it myself. Your lahmacun looks heavenly. Maybe it’s time for me to try it at home.

  19. When I saw the pix of the lamb, I was reminded of a meal I’ve had twice in recent weeks (and haven’t written it up on my blog yet) at Sapphire, in Laguna. The chef has a souvlaki on the lunch menu. It’s just SO SO good. I can’t seem to order anything else but that because the taste sends me. I know it’s not the same thing as lahmounjon (spelling?) which I order sometimes at Zov’s Bistro in Tustin, when it’s on the menu. But it’s similar to it since it’s pita bread, slathered with some kind of yogurt-cheese mixture, then the cooked ground lamb, then topped with a garlicky lemony green salad. I have no idea what Sapphire’s chef does to the lamb – it may be nothing much, since I haven’t observed anything else in it except the ground meat. Anyway, you might want to zip down there one day and try it. They have a lovely patio, with a view of PCH and the ocean, that’s just delightful.

  20. ZERRIN: Lahmacun is one of my favorite snacks too. I so wish they had a good lahmacun place where we live – I mean real lahmacun out of the oven, with yogurt, I don’t need anything else there:)

    CAROLYN: That must be a Greek place, right? I haven’t been to that place., but will surely check it out when we go to Laguna. That lamb you have tried must be gyro on pita with yogurt. I love it too!

  21. Farida, my mouth is watering for some lahmacun now. It’s one of my favorite foods and especially with ayran. By the way, your lahmacun looks very similar to lahmacun in Turkey. Great job!

  22. Ellerine Saglik Feridecim! This looks absolutely delicious! I can go for a glass of cold Ayran right now!

  23. i was just talking about this dish with a friend looks wonderful.

  24. hello Farida
    every time I come and vist you I am so happy because I travel a liitle bit !! this receipe looks fantactic thanks for hte trip ; a big hello to Azerbaidjan from Paris in France !! anf if you like pistaccios come and see my chef dessert !! cheers Pierre

  25. Hi Fardia! Long time no see… :) I love Lahmajoon, I’ve been eating it for years. Only, my understanding was that it is originally an Armenian dish. I have been buying them ready made from a little Armenian bakery for going on 15 years now. Of course, much of the cuisine of Anatolia is common to all the peoples who live in the region, so I’m not surprised. I like Lahmajun a great deal, especially with some thick Greek yogurt, or even, tzatziki over top. Yum! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  26. SAM: Yes, long time no see:) Hope you are fine. I will be heading over to your blog soon. Armenians make lahmajoon too, but as far as I know it is originally Turkish. Greek yogurt would go great with it!

  27. Hi Farida .I love lahmacun and ayran.I like to add chopped coriander and small diced cucumber into my ayran.I didn’t know you put raw meat mixture on the dough.Love your recipes and presentation as always.Good luck!

  28. Hi my darling Farida,

    Thank you for sharing with your website’s funs the recipe for Ayran! I have introduced it to my Canadian froends and they loved it so much!

    Ayran is also good with a pinch of dry meant powder or handful of chopped fresh mint in ayran.

    Ayran is good for your stomach. Drink it with unfamiliar food and you will mitigate potential harm to your digestive system.

    Drink it in hot summer and you will replace lost sodium, get energized and cooled.

    Ayran will help to relief the pain if you have eaten too much.

    This is a miracle drink :)) Obviously, I love Ayran!

  29. Sorry for misspellings. Mint, not meant. Friends, not froends.

    Sevinj

  30. HMMM LAHMAJUN IS TURKISH FOOD.I LIKE PIZZA BUT I JUST LOVE LAHMAJUN.THANK YOU FARIDA KHANIM