Sfiha, or Lahm Bi’ajeen

There are heaps of different spellings for lahm bi’ajeen, it seems, and also lots of different names depending on the ethnicity of the version you’re referencing. I know it better as lahmacun, for which there is also many spellings, or just Lebanese pizza. Lahm bi’ajeen is the spelling in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, which we used the other night.

The ingredients are as follows (from the Ottolenghi site):
230g strong white flour
1½ tbsp milk powder
½ tbsp salt
1½ tsp fast-action dried yeast
½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
125ml sunflower oil
1 medium free-range egg
110ml lukewarm water
olive oil, for brushing

… and I ended up spending a fair bit of time being embarrassed that I’d made a mistake, and searching the internet for other versions of the dough recipe, because look at that amount of oil. When it had sat for the requisite hour, there was very little rising in evidence… but there was a little puddle of oil that had seeped out. It had felt incredibly oily to make. And when I made it into the little rounds, it still felt incredibly oily. I certainly hadn’t bothered to brush it with more oil. And even after the next two sets of quarter-hour resting: basically no rising. I know it’s meant to be a flat bread, but the instructions do say to expect some rising. It’s fair to say I was pretty unhappy with the situation.

My darling made the topping:

250g minced lamb
1 large onion, finely chopped (180g in total)
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (250g in total)
3 tbsp light tahini paste
1¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
tsp cayenne pepper
25g flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp sumac
25g pine nuts

I was surprised by the tahini but wow was it fantastic. He double-minced the lamb, which made it incredibly fine – the place we go to for Leb pizza makes their meat pizza with basically a paste, and that’s what he managed too. While I was all ready to throw it all away and go to bed hungry (because I’m dramatic when I’m starving), he put them onto the pizza stones (on baking paper because of all that oil), and kept an eye on them. And… all the oil meant an incredibly crispy base, and of course the topping was brilliant. So they were indeed delicious and made me feel a bit silly.

Not silly enough, though, to think that I’ll be making this again with the exact same recipe. I think next time I’ll halve the oil and see how that goes.

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