I arrived at this recipe after a week of experimenting with lahmacun, or ‘Turkish pizza’. Lahmacun (pronounced lah-ma-jun) is a thin, flat disk of dough smeared with minced lamb (or beef), spices and aleppo pepper, cooked and then finished with a sprinkle of lemon juice and fresh herbs. I’ve made a few variations over the past 7 days and they’ve all been delish, particularly when scattered with chopped pickled cucumbers. As time went by though I found the recipe evolving into something a little more locally influenced.
As you all know, Persepolis is one of my favourite local food shops and I nip in at every opportunity. The shopkeeper, Sally has a recipe for ‘Persian Pizza’ in her cookbook, which bears many similarities to lahmacun but does away with dough faffing and uses ready bought bread instead. Feeling fatigued, I was having me some of that. I would just cook the lamb mixture before spreading it on the bread and cut about 2 hours off the prep time.
I ditched the aleppo pepper too for a jar of ‘gongura red chilli pickle’; a highly addictive paste of sour gongura leaves, fierce hot chillies, garlic, tamarind and spices. For post-cooking pimpage, it had to be finely chopped Iranian cucumbers, which have a curious mix of musty/sharp/sweet flavours and are justifiably world famous. To finish, a swirl of cooling yoghurt and the essential fresh herbs.
The way to eat this is to roll it up, grasp it and show it who’s boss. My boyfriend was in raptures over it and I have to say I’m very pleased with the recipe; the bread works better than the dough ever did and the pickle adds an exotic tangy and hot flavour. Crisp bread, spiced meat, chopped pickles, cool yoghurt, fragrant herbs = contrast-tastic. It’s packed with flavours of the Middle East and is therefore oh so very Peckham.
4 naan breads
500g minced lamb
2 tablespoons gongura chilli pickle (or you could substitute chopped pickled chillies)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 pickled cucumbers, finely chopped
Fresh herbs (I used parsley and coriander)
Soften the onion in a little oil then add the minced lamb. Stir it, breaking it up until it is all browned. Meanwhile, skin the tomatoes by covering them with boiling water and leaving a for a few minutes. Drain them then cover with cold water for a further minute. Rub the skins off, quarter them and remove the seeds. Blend to a paste in a blender or chop finely.
When the meat is browned, add the spices and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or so. Add the chilli pickle and tomatoes and let cook for around 10 minutes on a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Spread the topping over each naan, making sure to really press it down and spread it right out to the edges. Cook for around 5 minutes, until the edges of the naan are nice and crisp. I find the best results come from cooking the pizza directly on the oven rack (i.e without a baking tray).
Artfully dollop on some yoghurt, scatter with fresh herbs and serve with wedges of lemon.