Here are two Turkish recipes your family will love, Lahmacun and Easter Bread.
Lahmacun aka Turkish Pizza
Known to the world as the ‘Turkish Pizza”, lahmacun is prepared by spreading a ground meat –spice mix on thin, crispy dough and baked in stone ovens at restaurants or on a metal plate or in the oven at homes. A healthy food thanks to Its very thin dough, lahmacun is added with lettuce, parsley, rocket, finely chopped onions, and optionally, regular or hot ground pepper. It is one of the most popular recipes in the Turkish cuisine as it can be eaten as a wrap, it is more affordable than many other meat dish, and offers an unparalleled flavor.
With a history of five millennia dating back to Babylon according to historic records, lahmacun was originally prepared on bread; over time, its dough became thinner and ground meat mix became thicker, taking its current form.
Lahmacun mix is prepared using ground beef and/or lamb, onion, tomatoes, pepper and various herbs. In Turkey, this mix varies depending on seasonal ingredients and from one region to another while certain regions also show slight variations in their recipes. For instance, among the four major cities in Southeastern Turkey, Şanlıurfa and Mardin prepare their lahmacun mix with onions while Gaziantep prepares it with garlic and Kahramanmaraş with both onions and garlic. According to lahmacun masters, the ideal dough is 20-25cm in diameter and 2-3 mm thick when rolled out. As the dough is unleavened, it won’t get thicker when baked.
More recently, lahmacun with cheese has also risen in popularity. Cheese, onion and greens such as parsley are being used in the mix of lahmacun with cheese, and it is wrapped around greens such as lettuce before consumed.
How to make lahmacun at home?
Ingredients (5-6 servings)
For the mix:
500g ground beef with medium fat
2 large onions
4 medium tomatoes
1 tablespoon paprika paste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 dessertspoon flaked/powdered red pepper (hot if desired)
1 dessertspoon black pepper
1/2 bunch of parsley
For the dough:
1 pinch of sugar
Start by preparing the dough. Gradually add 300ml water in 500g of flour and start kneading with your hands; add 5g of salt and 1 pinch of sugar in the dough before it attains full consistency and knead well. Since it is unleavened dough, let it rest for a day if you have the time, otherwise for 3-4 hours.
For the lahmacun mix, add 4 grated tomatoes and 2 grated onions in 500g medium fat ground meat. Then, add the tomato and paprika pastes and mix before adding the flaked red pepper and black pepper and 1/2 bunch of finely chopped parsley. In the end, you will get a very watery lahmacun mix.
Divide the dough into 30g lumps and roll them well into balls. Then slightly flour the counter and your roller and roll out the lumps of dough until you obtain circles 20-25cm in diameter. Evenly distribute the lahmacun mix on these rolled out doughs and spread with your fingertips to the rest of the dough by slowly pressing ahead. Apply the mix generously so you can get a delicious lahmacun. Set the oven to 250°C. It is very important that the oven and the tray are properly preheated before baking the lahmacuns. Before placing the lahmacuns on the oven tray, make sure that the tray is well floured so they won’t stick. In 6-8 minutes, your dough will be crispy and your mix will have been baked well.
Those who prefer to have lahmacun with cheese you may grate or cut your cheese in small pieces instead of ground meat.
Tips for Making Lahmacun
- Take the lahmacuns off the oven as they are baked and put in fresh ones while stacking the already baked ones two facing each other at a time so that the mix won’t stick on their back.
- As a drink, ayran is the best companion of lahmacun (add water to yoghurt and mix well)
- Best garnish for lahmacun are radish, onions, parsley and rocket.
- Tomatoes should not be used as garnish as they will spoil the taste..
- For the same reason, add the greens in moderation on the lahmacun.
Easter Bread in the Ottoman-Turkish Cuisine
Unique to the Ottoman-Turkish cuisine, easter bread used to be both baked at homes and available at non-Muslim bakeries. Customarily, Christians baked it at Easter and shared it with their Muslim neighbors. Some added a more unique touch to its flavor by putting gum mastic in the bread.
Easter Bread with Gum Mastic
For the Dough:
200ml milk (1 glass),
120g granulated sugar (6-7 tablespoons),
21g fresh yeast (1/2 package),
125g butter (in room temperature),
2 eggs (separate the yolk of one),
3g gum mastic,
2g ground mahlepi (1 level teaspoon),
500g all-purpose flour
For the Top:
1 tablespoon oil,
To prepare the dough of the easter bread with gum mastic, crush the gum mastic and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a mortar. Pour warm milk in a deep pot, use your hand to crumble the yeast inside, add the granulated sugar and mix. The obtained yeast mixture should be left to rest for 5 minutes in order to activate the yeast. Add the eggs and the butter softened in room temperature to the foaming yeast mixture. Add the gum mastic, mahlepi, and gradually, the sifted flour, and knead well. The flour must be added slowly as needed during kneading to obtain a soft dough. Cover the kneaded dough and keep it in a warm environment for 1 hour for it to leaven.
Once the dough has rested and doubled in size, divide it into lumps and each lump into three stripes (ingredients make 5 lumps).
Braid the 3 stripes together like braiding hair and merge the ends. Give the easter bread with gum mastic its final shape before placing it on a baking pan either oiled or covered with baking paper.
Add very little olive oil on the egg yolk and mix before applying them on the breads with the help of a brush. And finally, place the sliced almonds on top and let the tray rest for another hour to leaven.
Bake the rested easter breads in an oven pre-heated to 180° until their tops turn pink (around 25 minutes). Remove the breads from the oven and serve them either warm or cold. You may also prepare the same recipe without the gum mastic if desired.
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