In Arabic, lahm means “meat,” and ajin means dough or pastry. Many cultures pair meat with pastry, and while I like just about every iteration of that theme, this Lebanese version is one of my favorites. This recipe is slightly easier and quicker to make than some traditional versions because it uses a pita-bread base instead of one requiring home-made dough. These Lahm bi Ajin are pretty hearty, and go quite nicely with Tabouli or other salads.
1 lb. ground lamb
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. chilli flakes
1/3 c. tomato paste
1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses, or juice of 1/2 a small lemon
1/4 c. yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. pine nuts (optional)
extra 2 tbsp. olive oil
4 medium-sized pitas, unopened
1 tbsp ea. fresh mint and parsley, or 1/2 tsp. dried mint and dried parsley
1. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and cook the lamb until it is no longer pink, breaking it up as finely as possible. Remove the lamb from the pan, drain in a colander, and set aside.
2. Wipe the skillet, add the 3 tbsp. of olive oil, and when hot, add the onion and cook until translucent and slightly golden.
3. Add the garlic and spices, and cook for a few more minutes. Return the lamb to the pan along with the tomato paste and the pomegranate molasses/lemon juice; mix well to combine. Cook the lamb mixture for 5 minutes over low heat, mashing periodically with the back of a wooden spoon.
4. Turn off the heat, and add the yogurt to the lamb mixture in two batches, incorporating well after each batch. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the lamb mixture aside.
5. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Take out one large (or two medium) rimmed baking sheets–to accommodate the four pitas.
6. Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet until they start to turn golden; remove from skillet.
7. To assemble: pour the extra 2 tbsp. olive oil into a very small bowl; brush the top of each unopened pita with the olive oil. Place the pitas on the baking sheet(s).
8. Divide the lamb mixture among the four pitas, patting it down and spreading it to the edge of each pita. Sprinkle each pita with the mint, parsley, and pine nuts, pressing the pine nuts into the lamb mixture. Drizzle the pitas with any remaining olive oil from the small bowl.
9. Bake in the oven until the edges of the pitas start to get crisp and the lamb topping begins to brown, about 15 minutes.
10. Eat immediately.