No one does lahm b’ajin like an Armenian bakery. A good one must be a paper-thin flatbread, topped with a moist and spicy meat mixture. Traditional preparation involves a procession that starts at the greengrocer, to buy the needed tomato, parsley, onion, garlic, and hot pepper. Then it’s off to the butcher, to mince it all together with the meat (you will need a meat grinder for this step). Then finally on to the lahm b’ajin bakery, where the baker will transform all of that into delicious, thin lahm b’ajin, to eat hot from the oven, with some drops of lemon juice and more hot pepper! In a pure Armenian tradition, large eggplants are cooked in the oven too, and pieces of the soft and melting eggplants are layered on the lahm b’ajin and rolled like a sandwich.
For the dough:
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 5 1/2 cups (700 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the topping:
- 2 1/4 pounds (1 kg) ground beef
- 2 1/4 pounds (1 kg) tomatoes
- 1 1/2 pounds (700 g) onions
- 7 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 or 2 fresh green chile peppers (optional)
- 1 tablespoon (16 g) tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon (16 g) hot chile paste
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the garnish:
- Lemon juice
- Kamal Mouzawak
To make the dough, dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1/2 cup (120 ml) lukewarm water, and let it proof for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the flour with the vegetable oil, and knead well (by hand or machine), adding little by little 1 cup (235 ml) of water. Add the yeast mixture and the salt, and continue kneading, adding more water if necessary (the water quantity will depends on the flour variety), until you obtain a good bread dough. Transfer to a bowl and let it rest for an hour or two, until it doubles in volume.
Preheat the oven to 500°F (250°C, or gas mark 10).
All of the topping ingredients must go through a meat grinder fitted with a coarse blade. Mix all the topping ingredients together and pass through the grinder so as to obtain a paste. A meat grinder should be used, and not an electric mixer or a food processor, which will result in an unsuitable mushy paste.
Cut the dough into walnut-size balls. Sprinkle with flour and roll into very thin disks. Spread the lahm b’ajin mixture over it, and bake for 10 minutes, until the border turns golden. Serve hot, with few drops of lemon juice and a sprinkle of paprika.