Cumin is one of my favourite spices, and all the more so since I’ve lived in Malta. One of the Maltese Islands has a name derived from cumin – Comino. Given the millennia of to-ing and fro-ing of trade through Malta as it lies nearly midway in the Mediterranean and on ancient spices routes, I like to think that this pizza’s creation is inspired by Malta’s historical ties to the eastern Mediterranean. The first identifiable people to inhabit the Maltese archipelago were the Phoenicians, who came from the area that would straddle present-day Lebanon and Syria. Hence my naming this ‘Pizza Lebanon’.
I have to admit that it is perhaps less a ‘simple’ supper in that it does take longer to prepare than others in my summer supper series. It’s Friday though, and our traditional pizza night in and as we don’t have our weekday 0615 start tomorrow, I can allow myself longer to prep today. While it takes longer, no one step in putting this together is difficult. If you don’t wish to make your own pizza dough, a ready-made base will do. But you’ll miss out on adding the ground cumin to the dough; something that gives this pizza even more heady warmth of spice.
Dare I call it pizza at all, I wonder? This is a giant flat bread that I almost made into pitta pockets with a lamb kebab. However, even though it forgoes mozzarella and tomato sauce on the base, I’ll call it ‘pizza’. The pizzaioli who we’ll meet in a couple of weeks when we stay in Naples would not doubt decry this as a pizza imposter! The potatoes and chickpea topping help to absorb the Ras el-Hanout and cumin, while the minty yoghurt dressing adds a certain freshness to balance the spice. A large chilled beer with it and it was perfect, or would have been if we’d not been watching Italy lose to Costa Rica!
All images © Liz Ayling 2014
Pizza ‘Lebanon’ of Spicy Lamb & Chickpeas
Serves 3-4 with this dough quantity. For the pizza dough, click here, but add 2 teaspoons ground cumin to the flour before you add other ingredients.
- 400g lamb fillet
- 400ml thick plain yoghurt
- 4 tbsps cumin seed, most ground but leave some seeds whole
- 1 tbsp Ras el-Hanout mixed eastern Mediterranean spice
- two good handfuls of fresh mint
- two good handfuls of fresh parsley
- 150ml extra virgin olive oil
- fresh milled sea salt and black pepper
- 1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
- 3 medium potatoes, scrubbed and sliced very thinly
- Make up the pizza dough (find recipe quantities and method here in my ‘Friday Night is Pizza night’ post) but add 2 heaped tsps ground cumin seed to the flour before mixing up the dough. While it’s resting in a warm place to rise for 1 – 1.5 hrs, til it’s doubled in size, continue making the topping.
- Pat the lamb dry with kitchen paper to remove any excess juices. Chop into 1.5″ cubes and place in a bowl. Make the yoghurt-spice marinade: whisk up with a fork 1 tbsp ground cumin seed, 400ml of the yoghurt, and around 2 tbsps olive oil in a bowl. Using half the marinade, add the meat and toss well to combine. Cover and chill til required. Leave ideally 1 hr while the dough rises.
- Meanwhile, place ⅔rd of the chickpeas in a food processor along with most of the parsley and mint (wash the herbs first, drying them in a salad spinner) and around 1 tbsp ground cumin. Reserve some mint to garnish the pizza. Chop the herbs and chickpeas roughly, then drizzle in the olive oil through the top of the processor while it’s on a medium speed. Once it reaches thick pesto consistency, stop and set aside.
- Scrub the potatoes, or peel them if you like, and slice very thinly. Lay them on a flat baking sheet or similar, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with 1 tbsps of ground cumin. Set aside for now.
- Remove the lamb from the yoghurt marinade and sear on a hot, cast-iron griddle pan, or similar, in batches for around 3 minutes each side. Leave it a bit pink inside as it will finish cooking on the pizza later.
- When the dough has risen, knock back and cut into 3-4 balls and shape each roughly for a pizza base.
- Take a good couple of tbsps of the herb pesto and spread over each pizza base. Then, place the sliced potatoes on top, followed by seared lamb. Add the remaining whole chickpeas and sprinkle over some Ras el-Hanout.
- Bake the pizzas ideally on pizza stones or some sort of non-stick mesh in a pre-heated oven (200°C fan). They take around 10-12 minutes to cook and should be light golden round the edges and ‘hollow’ to a tap underneath.
- Serve immediately they come from the oven. Drizzle over some more extra virgin olive oil when serving, along with fresh ripped mint leaves and a few dollops of minty yoghurt.