Unfortunately for this creation, the word 'lahmacun' comes from the Arabic for meat with dough. Whilst inspired by its Turkish meat-topped cousins, this recipe is actually made of aubergines with dough, making it difficult to name, especially for someone like me who does not enjoy imprecise language.
I love Turkish cooking, and I used to live in Stoke Newington where there are Turkish restaurants and bakeries everywhere. Most of them make lahmacun: simple, thin flatbreads topped with spiced lamb or beef and cooked quickly in what looks like a pizza oven. They're usually served wrapped with salad and tahini sauce tucked inside. Yeah, they're fast food but so light, so fresh, I could eat them all day without sliding into a food coma.
Given that it's January in London, my appetite for comfort food is frankly inexhaustible. Forgoing the usual meat topping (as Veganuary continues), I still wanted something substantial that would carry the spices and flavourings of a lahmacun, but without introducing anything incongruous like soya or mushrooms. A few weeks ago I conjured up (the very lovely <3) Felicity Cloake's perfect vegetarian lasagne which features baked aubergine to flesh out the tomato sauce, so I ingeniously did a mental copy/paste which worked with pleasing results.
The flatbread I used was slightly different from what you'd usually find, but so good for it. It's made with khorasan, an 'ancient grain' flour with a texture between flour and semolina, and the smell of atta. More coarse than wheat bread flour, it gives a crisp chewiness which works well for the pizza-meets-wrap way that you eat a lahmacun. If you can't get khorasan go ahead and make a pizza dough with strong bread flour and roll it out thinly, it'll still be top notch.
Assuming you don't have a pizza oven or a tandoor (if you do I have no clue how to use them but I'm jealous), you'll need to get creative with the cooking process. Essentially, what you need is intense heat from above and below. I use a tava on a high flame stove to crisp the bottom, then finish the top under a fierce grill. You could use a robust frying pan instead of the tava, just make sure it can withstand the heat...
These quantities make six flatbreads. You'll probably want two per person, but then again I don't have a particularly delicate appetite so maybe you'll only need one.
For the bread
250g khorasan flour
23g (1/2 sachet) fast action dried yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
For the sauce
2 large aubergines
2 red peppers
Finely chopped stalks from a large bunch of parsely
1/2 a red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can of chopped tomatoes (ripe fresh ones if they're in season)
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp soumac
1 tsp red chilli flakes
1 tsp cumin powder
Salt to taste
For the topping
3 tbps tahina
Juice of one small lemon
Salad leaves of your preference (I use rocket and spinach)
Coarsely chopped leaves from a large bunch of parsley
Chopped green chillis (if you can handle it)
1. Prick the aubergines and peppers and put onto a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake at 200 degrees celsius for around half an hour, until soft and cooked through. Remove from the oven and leave to cool wrapped in the foil.
2. Whilst your vegetables cook you can make the dough. Mix the salt through the flour, make a well and add the yeast, oil, sugar and a little water. Slowly incorporate all of the flour until you have a fairly wet dough by adding the water a little at a time. Knead for around 8 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, and a little drier. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to grow.
3. Peel and de-seed the peppers and chop finely. Peel the aubergines (the skin should just pull off) and chop finely also.
4. Add some oil to a large saucepan and fry the onions with the parsley stalks until soft. Add the garlic and tomato puree, then the spices, followed by the peppers and aubergines. Fry for a few minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes. Cover and leave to simmer.
5. Once the dough has rested an hour check that it has risen and springs back to the touch. Cut into six pieces and roll out on a floured surface. It should be as thin as you can get it, like a chapati.
6. Uncover the sauce and reduce until thick and spreadable. Pre-heat the grill to its highest setting and warm your dry tava or frying pan on the stove. Make the tahina sauce by combining the tahina with lemon juice and mixing until firm. Then loosen with plain water until it pours off a spoon.
7. When you're ready to cook, place one of the breads onto the hot tava and spread on a coating of sauce. Cook until it starts to look firm (you can lift it a bit with a palette knife to take a peek). When ready, transfer it under the grill for another couple of minutes until the edges start to brown.
8. Serve immediately with the salad and tahina sauce on top. Eat wrapped up with your hands, it's much better like that and no one wants to see you try to piece that thin bread with a fork.