A simple flavoursome light meal or snack
PREP TIME: 10 mins for lamb topping and 1 hour for proving dough for base
COOKING TIME: 5 – 10 mins
IDEAL FOR: midweek meals, snack
I was walking up Commercial Street, London, the other day, through my old hood where I used to work.
It’s changed a lot.
When we first moved into our office on Fashion Street from Whitechapel Road, it was a bit dodgy.
Those were the days when ‘working ladies’ could be found almost on every 2nd corner.
Spitalfield Market still looked like a proper old school market with plastic covered stalls, empty boxes piled up for collelction on the road etc
And the local pubs still had good old fashioned sticky red carpet to peel your shows off every time you went to the bar.
Art before gentrification
You know a good neighbourhood before it becomes popular… you look for artists.
Turns out that below our floor were some quite well-known artists…
Tracey Emin and The Chapman Brothers
We couldn’t have been from further worlds apart – Art world meets ambitious-(&-somewhat-clueless)-young-twenty-somethings building their careers.
We were crawling out post-Dot.com-crash so maybe we did have more in common with what their art was saying…??
Their art projects were top secret though so we left them to it.
But a highlight was often bumping into one of their lovely dogs at the door; a little black staffie called Kylie.
Time is a changin’
We didn’t have trendy high street retailers, cocktail bars, sushi bars or cycling shops back then.
It was Brick Lane curries, sticky red-carpet pubs, Petticoat Lane and your bike being nicked.
And there was a firm line between us and The City.
A bit grungy on our side.
But it was cool.
Nowadays, the City line is blurred.
And shiny apartments, restaurants and shops are everywhere.
Sadly, though, there is one place (amongst many), that hasn’t stood the test of time… and gentrification.
It’s a restaurant called Zengi
It was a little Lebanese restaurant, heading (‘the wrong way’) down Commercial Street.
My colleague and friend, Carlos, LOVED that place.
So anytime we decided to splash out, Zengi would be the no. 1 place.
The food was amazing; the spices, fresh hummus…
The service pretty decent as well.
Although for a small place, it often took forever to get the food
But that was part of the charm and when it came… it was worth it.
The sweet spot
Sadly, it’s now gone.
Succumb to a trendy restaurant which is now located in the (now) cool part of Commercial Street.
Who knew the hipsters would spread further than Shoreditch?
To be honest, I’m actually a fan of change.
But it has to be said, there is a ‘sweet spot’ in an ever-evolving city.
It’s the special moment in time when you’ve arrived before everyone else and you get to experience the change.
You’re there supporting the little independent coffee shops and cafe’s, that have taken a risk and decided to take a punt.
Often, you’d see them disappear as well but the odd one makes it and slowly the change begins.
And then gentrification
Suddenly, years later, in creeps a Marks and Sparks or a Sainsbury’s Local.
And you might as well pack your bags.
This is the sign that it’s all about to turn really ‘convenient’… and really beige.
That’s my little opinionated mumble.
But hey, sometimes, you can grumble, reminisce and make out it was ‘better back then’.
It was passing (former) Zengi’s restaurant the other day that inspired me to try making a Lebanese flatbread.
I used to always order it as a cheap and tasty lunch.
The spices and flavours were perfect.
A bit of history
In ancient times, there was great trade and the discovery of spices, fruits, and vegetables.
But Lebanon’s history contains a lot of ruling from foreign powers.
Some include, the Ottoman Empire (400 years) and France.
But with this has come some food influences including olive oil, fresh bread, baklava, laban (homemade yogurt), stuffed vegetables, nuts and as well as lamb.
The French left their food mark with the flan, caramel custard dessert and buttery croissants.
They use a lot of fresh herbs and spices such as Baharat, sumac, cumin, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, parsley, and mint.
Then there’s accompaniments like natural yogurt and organic chickpeas
It’s lovely and fresh and full of warm flavours.
And this easy Lebanese flatbread sums up a lot of that.
If you give this a go but making the flatbread is putting you off, then here’s a shoetcut.
Buy some pocketless pita breads and et voila!
Just make the lamb mixture and you’re away.
Lebanese Lamb Flatbread
For the dough
- 400 g 00 flour (and some to dust)
- 100 g fine semolina flour
- 1 1/2 tsp caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 7 g fast action yeast
- 325 ml warm water
For the lamb topping
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 shallot, chopped finely
- 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp baharat if you can't find it, below in TIPS is how you can make it yourself
- 500 g lamb mince locally sourced or sustainably farmed
- 300 ml chicken stock
- 250 ml natural yoghurt
- 2 green chillies, finely chopped or use chilli flakes if you can't get any
- 4 fresh mint
- 16 coriander
For the dough
- In a bowl, stir in the flours, salt and sugarIn a jug, add the yeast with a little of the water and mix to form a paste. Then add the rest of the water to the jug so the yeast dissolves. Now, make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the yeasted water, and slowly mix to form a soft dough. Finally, tip out and knead on a lightly floured work surface. You want it to be smooth and elastic.
- Split into 4 even pieces and roll into balls.Place on a tray, cover and leave for an hour or until they double in size.
For the lamb topping
- Pre-heat your oven to it's maximum – think wood oven pizza cooking – and inside place a large baking tray (or you could upturn a baking tray) or a pizza stone.
- In a pan, add the oil and cook the shallot, garlic and spices for around 2 minutes.Add the lamb mince and on a high heat, cook until browned by breaking the mince up.
- Next, add the sultana's and chicken stock, bring to the boil, then reduce and simmer for 20 minutes or until the mince is soft and the stock has nearly gone.
- Have a taste and season.Leave to cool.
The Lebanese flatbread assemble
- Once your dough has risen, roll out each piece on a lightly dusted surface into an oval shape (around 20cm x 15cm and around 5mm thick).Place onto your pizza stone or baking tray and cover with the lamb mixture.Spoon some yoghurt in places and sprinkle your chillies over it.Now, place in the hot oven and bake for 5 – 10 minutes or until golden and crisp.(*you will probably do in batches)Serve with fresh coriander scatter over and enjoy.You can also serve with some chilli oil and extra yoghurt.
If you have any great Lebanese or Middle Eastern recipes you’d like to share, drop me a line or a comment…
I’m linking this to CookBlogShare