Pizza is a takeaway failsafe across the globe. Fresh and crispy or deep and hearty, this Italian favourite can be, well, whatever you want it to be. Pizza's popularity runs so deep – can anything beat it?
We thought not. That is, until we discovered lahmacun at Öz Urfali in Cologne. Like pizza's spicy Middle Eastern sibling, this Turkish dish offers a completely new take on baked flatbread. And with its doughy base and flavoursome toppings, it's a step away from the norm that won't feel too unfamiliar.
A true Turkish classic
Literally translating to 'meat dough', lahmacun has all of the best bits of pizza. The thin hand-stretched crust, the circular shape and the tantalising toppings. But that's where the similarities end.
Traced back to the beginnings of the Ottoman Empire, the lahmacun is much spicier than traditional Italian pizza, with more complex flavours. In place of the usual tomato sauce base is a tangy mixture of minced meat, peppers, onions and tomatoes. But it's not the fresh flavours of these basic ingredients that give lahmacun its appeal. It's the spice.
With a tongue-tingling mixture of cayenne pepper, cinnamon, paprika and cumin – to name but a few – the lahmacun's symphony of flavours takes our love of topped dough to a whole new level.
The principles of cooking the lahmacun are no different to those of pizza. A hot stone or wood-burning oven, a round tray and a spare 15 minutes should be all you need to cook up a crispy lahmacun.
And unlike its Italian sister, there's no need to top the lahmacun with cheese before cooking. Although it might seem sacrilegious, the minced meat and vegetable mixture bubbles and crisps in the oven, leaving a crunchy crust that you'll be dying to sink your teeth into.
Time to eat up
Just when you thought you couldn't pack in any more flavour, it's time to fill and roll your lahmacun. Traditionally, the base isn't sliced and shared like its Mediterranean counterpart. Instead, it's delicately rolled around crisp salad and topped with pickles and herbs – but it can also be served flat, heaped high with salad.
Both tastier and easier to eat, this Middle-Eastern classic can easily knock the socks off your beloved pizza pie.