This idea is heavily influenced by a Turkish food called lahmacun (or lahmajoun or lamejun). The Turkish lahmacun (I’m not sure if there is one correct spelling so I’ll just go with Wikipedia’s first entry) is much more simple than what I ended up making. Lahmacun is basically a flat bread will a some kind of meat topping. It’s often called a Turkish pizza… But that’s not exactly what I made.
I liked the idea of lahmacun, but wanted to change a few things so I could serve it as an appetizer and tie in a few more Moroccan flavors. Why Moroccan? Well, you’ll see the details of the main course on Thursday. So how did I change up the lahmacun? I made bite sized portions and classed it up with a Greek yogurt and harissa mixture. That’s another word that you may not know, “harissa”. It’s essentially a hot chili sauce common to the north of Africa. Recipes and heat levels vary, but you can buy it pre-made (I did).
This was really good though. I mixed a combination pine nuts, mint, some caramelized shallots, and coriander with ground lamb. I toasted some pita then baked some of the lamb mixture on each bit of bread. The Greek yogurt was mixed with more mint and a dollop of the harissa. To serve, I put some of the yogurt on each pita and a little more harissa with a tiny sprig on mint. They tasted even better than they looked.
20 mini pitas (cut in half to make 40 rounds) -or- pita bread cut into wedges (the rounds bake more evenly, use those if you can find them)
1/2 cup mint (cut up), plus more for garnish
1.5 tbsp caramelized shallot (made from one shallot, minced) (onion would also work)
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp pine nuts
2/3 lb ground lamb
1 cup greek yogurt
2 tsp harissa, plus more for garnish
1. Caramelize the shallots. You should be starting with 2 to 3 tbsp of minced shallot, they will reduce in volume as they cook. Set your smallest skillet over low heat and add a bit of olive oil. Cook until they become golden brown and tasty, about 10-15 minutes. If needed, add water as they cook to prevent them from drying out and burning. This can be left largely unattended and can be made ahead.
2. Preheat the oven to 425F. Brush both sides of each bit of pita bread with olive oil and bake for 8-10 minutes on a cookie sheet, until lightly toasted.
3. In a bowl, combine the egg, shallots, coriander, pine nuts, and half the mint. Mix in the lamb.
4. In another bowl, mix the Greek yogurt, rest of the mint, and the harissa.
5. Put a rounded tsp of the lamb on each toasted pita. Bake for 8 minutes.
6. Top with the yogurt mixture and a little bit of harissa. Add a tiny bit of mint for garnish if desired (it spruces them up :) ). I also sprinkled a few more pine nuts on them as well.
As I was making this for a dinner party, I wanted to be able to make this ahead and enjoy the company of my friends. You can make all of this earlier in the day and stop at the end of step 5. Just loosely cover the cookie sheet with foil and set aside. Reheat for at least 5 minutes in a 425F oven, then continue with step 6.