Jews hailing from Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, and surrounding countries took the lead from their neighbours and fell in love with these small flatbreads topped with ground lamb or beef. The dough is rolled quite thin and crisps around the edges while baking. The topping, meanwhile, is enriched with fragrant spices and pine nuts that add subtle flavour and crunch. Drizzle the lahmajun with good-quality tahini and shower it with fresh parsley and lemon juice, then slice into wedges and serve as a decadent party or dinner appetiser.
- To make the dough: Stir together the yeast, sugar, and warm water in a medium bowl. Let sit until foaming, 5 to 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Stir in 1 Tbsp of the olive oil into the yeast mixture, then pour into the flour. Stir until the dough starts to come together, then turn knead on a lightly floured surface adding a little more flour, if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic but not sticky, 7 to 8 minutes. (You can also knead the dough in a food mixer fitted with the dough hook on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes.)
- Pour the remaining 1 tsp of oil into a large bowl, add the dough, and turn to coat. Cover and leave in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.
- Gently deflate the dough with the palm of your hand and turn onto a lightly floured surface.
- Cut the dough into four equal portions and roll each into a ball. Transfer the dough balls to a floured baking sheet. Cover and let rest in a warm place until soft and pliable, 30 to 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the filling: Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, tomato, and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Remove from the heat. Mix the lamb, onion, paprika, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, cumin, za’atar, 1 tsp salt, tomato paste, pine nuts and cooled tomatoes in a large bowlwith your hands until well combined.
- Preheat the oven to 230°C, and line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Lay another piece of parchment on a flat surface. Working with one ball of dough at a time, place the ball on top of the parchment. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 20-cm circle.
- Lay the dough on the prepared baking sheet, top with one quarter of the topping (the meat should still be raw), and use your fingers to press it evenly to the edges.
- Sprinkle with a little salt. Repeat with remaining dough and topping.
- Bake until the dough is golden brown and topping is cooked through, 15 to 18 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Slice into wedges and sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with tahini. Serve warm, with lemon wedges on the side for squeezing.
Recipe adapted from The Little Book of Jewish Appetisers, Chronicle Books, £13.99