Although many refer to it as Turkish Pizza, this delicious Middle Eastern pastry is also popular in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Armenia, and, of course, Turkey. There are so many versions of this Levantine flatbread, however in this new Illustrated Middle Eastern Recipes post, I will be sharing with you my husband’s signature recipe, which I think is the most delicious version I have ever tried so far!
The internet likes to call it Turkish Pizza, but the Turks call the round-shaped meat pies as Lahmacun, and in Lebanon and the Levant it is called Sfeeha. Armenian home cooks make a spicier version of this dish and call it Lahmajoun, while Jordanians like a milder, meatier variation.
My husband’s recipe is a bit different from every Sfeeha or Lahmacun recipe I have tried so far. It is tremendously delicious and compared to other recipes it is somewhat light. Many recipes out there like to mix olive oil in with the meat, but this recipe is actually oil-free. I’ve also come across recipes that recommend adding milk to the dough, but we’ve tried that and we didn’t really like it, and so you’ll find that the dough in this recipe is a lot similar to Italian pizza dough.
The Secret Ingredient in our Turkish Pizza
My hubby’s recipe depends on a key secret ingredient that lends these meat pies their unique and distinctive flavour, and that is pomegranate molasses. When I was a kid, I remember hearing my uncles talk about their deep admiration for Lebanon’s pomegranate syrup, known for its distinctive sweet and sour flavour.
Back in the day, before it was possible to shop over the internet, my uncles used to order their pomegranate molasses from family members travelling to Lebanon, and I remember how specific and meticulous they were about where to get it from. I also remember that their prized order often came in dark medium-sized glass bottles with vintage-style labels that made those bottles all the more special. In short, without pomegranate molasses this recipe won’t taste as heavenly as we intend it to be, so make sure you buy from a good brand as it will make all the difference!
Lahmacun: The Recipe
Feel free to serve Lahmacun, or Turkish Pizza, as a main dish or as a side dish, part of an elaborate Middle Eastern feast. Some Middle Eastern households serve chilled cow-milk yoghurt, along with Lahmacun or Sfeeha, as a condiment or dipping sauce. If you live in Europe or in the Americas, you might want to try Greek yoghurt that has a similar consistency to Middle Eastern yoghurt, which is quite refreshing and tastes divine.
But if you want to go all out and savour these meat flatbreads like a true Turkish foodie, then you must serve fresh herbs (like parsley and mint), sliced onions, and fresh tomatoes as a topping. You then, roll up the Lahmacun like you do Shawarma or a Burrito, and enjoy with chilled Ayran (a cold yogurt beverage mixed with salt, famous in Turkey, Iran, Lebanon and Jordan, among other Eastern cuisines).
- 4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 2 cups of warm water
- 10g dried yeast
- A pinch of salt
- 450gm minced (ground) beef (or lamb)
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- ¼ cup pomegranate molasses (aka, Dibs Rummaan, or Debs El-Remman)
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- Salt and pepper
- Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl. Cover, and let stand for 10 minutes, or until bubbles appear on the surface. Stir in the flour and a pinch of salt, and mix until dough turns into a well-combined ball that is still sticky to the touch. Cover the bowl with a moist piece of light-weight cotton cloth, or plastic wrap, and leave for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 240°C (450°F).
- Now let’s start with the filling. Mix the minced meat with the onions, chopped tomatoes, pomegranate molasses and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Place the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead with lightly floured hands, until dough is smooth and elastic – for about 10 minutes. Roll out into 24 ovals. Spoon some filling into each base, then sprinkle some pine nuts over each piece. Pinch together the two short ends of the dough to form a boat shape. Place the pizzas on a lightly greased baking tray (using olive oil). Bake for 20-30 minutes.
- Now, serve with a dab of yoghurt, and enjoy these scrumptious pizzas.
Old Illustration: Digital Compilation v.s. Mostly-Analogue Artwork
My blog is like an e-sketchbook – where I get to revisit some of the illustrations I’m not quite happy with, and give them new life, or re-do them from scratch. On 10 October 2018, I decided to post a new food illustration for this Turkish pizza recipe to reflect my ever evolving illustration style. The original illustration above was posted on 15 May 2017. Although it did capture my intention to use Turkish motifs in the illustration, I felt I out-grew the artwork and it was time for change. Instead, I went for a minimalist look with a hint of cultural motif. In terms of medium used, the illustration process was completely different in both the old and new illustrations. The old artwork is a pen-and-ink illustration that was scanned, and then analogue elements (like gouache motifs) were inserted digitally. However, in the new pieces, I used pen-and-ink on paper with watercolour in the same piece – meaning, the watercolour was not inserted digitally. Earlier this year, I decided to take more of an analogue approach to my illustrations and this is one of the first attempts.
I hope you have enjoyed today’s food illustration and recipe! And as the Turkish, the Lebanese and the Italians would say: Afiyet Olsun, Sahtein o Afyeh, and Buon Appetito!
Illustrated recipe + Turkish Pizza food illustration by illustrator and artist Yaansoon