You might not know this: I’m an avid food lover.
Before I start my day, you’ll find me in the kitchen. After I finish work, you’ll find me in the kitchen. And if you don’t find me there, I’ll be watching cooking shows, or…I’ll be on my way to the kitchen.
Well, in case you’re wondering, my dad is a cook. So when you folks were reading a book or taking a walk in your 20s, I was training with my dad in the…wait for it…kitchen!
It wasn’t like I spent all my 20s there, but my dad made sure I was familiarized with washing the dishes, buying vegetables, and learning the secrets of salads and Mediterranean food.
To be honest, I didn’t really like it. But he always expressed how sad he was that there was no one to learn his tricks; he simply wanted his recipes to stay alive. I respected that, and I would never want my father to feel this way.
So I started going in the kitchen with him and bought a small notebook where I saved all his recipes and remarks.
Over the years, I started to really, like really, love making food. I no longer went in the kitchen with him for him—I went in the kitchen because I f*cking loved it.
Although my dad is an avid meat eater, I’ve been a vegetarian (and a vegan because I keep oscillating between the two) for the past 10 years. But our love for food (and each other) has helped us find a middle ground. He has taught me all his recipes as they are, and with time, I’ve created my own vegetarian/vegan versions.
Frankly, I failed many times and went through a lot of trial and error, but folks, I make delicious vegan food now.
In Lebanon, meat and chicken are ingrained in our culture. Ten years ago, when I told grandma I was stopping meat, she thought I was going to die in less than a week. (Ha, I’m still alive!)
That said, when I was younger, I loved Lebanese food. But, of course, when I took the road less traveled, I forgot how my favorite meals tasted. Well, I did miss the taste, until I started exploring in the kitchen and eventually realized that herbs and spices play a major role in food. So I started imitating all my favorite meat-packed meals without killing another sentient being.
One of the best, mouthwatering Lebanese recipes that I’ve been able to modify without losing the original taste is “Lahm bi Ajeen.” In Turkey, they call it “Lahmacun.” In my kitchen, it’s called heaven.
Okay, so what is lahm bi ajeen? I’ll break it down for you. “Lahm” in Arabic means “meat,” “bi” means “in,” and “ajeen” means “dough.” Yes, you got it right. It’s actually a meat pie! Now let’s explore together the vegan version.
If you choose to try this, I promise you won’t regret it. Let’s go to the kitchen!
How to make your dough:
(I’m assuming if you have already clicked on this article that you know how to make a dough. *wink* But if you don’t, I’m going to be nice and tell you how we can make it. Yay!)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1 ½ tsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
¾ cup warm water (not too hot or it will kill your poor yeast)
1. Combine the flour, instant yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl (I have a dough kneading machine, so I combine those directly in its bowl), and mix them together.
2. Add olive oil.
3. Add your warm water gradually (you might end up needing more water or more flour depending on your dough’s texture).
4. Knead the dough until it’s slightly sticky and completely detached from the sides of the bowl.
5. Cover it and let it rest for an hour in a warm place. When you come back to check on it, your dough should double in size. If it does, it means you did something right.
How to make the lahm bi ajeen mixture:
Cooked lentils (optional)
2 small onions
¼ green pepper
½ bunch of fresh parsley
½ bunch of fresh mint
1 clove garlic
1 tsp tomato paste
A drizzle of olive oil
A pinch of paprika
A pinch of salt
A pinch of black pepper
A pinch of chili pepper (optional)
A super small pinch of cumin
(Do you have a food processor? Great! You just made me happy.)
1. If you want your lahm bi ajeen to be protein-packed, consider adding a small portion of cooked lentils. I tried with and without lentils, and to be honest, I liked the one without. But if you choose to cook yours with lentils, make sure to keep it to the minimum so their flavor won’t kill all the other awesome flavors you have in there (we don’t want anything killed in here, right? Another *wink*).
2. Use your food processor (which you thought you were going to use every single day when you bought it) to blitz all the ingredients together. Don’t overdo it, though. Your mixture should look like this:
(Hint: you should be smelling the parsley. If you don’t, add another pinch.)
How to make lahm bi ajeen:
1. Once your dough has risen (hallelujah) and you are extremely hungry, roll the dough to your liking. I was inspired by the Turkish culture and rolled my dough into a rectangle. (You can also make mini pies and serve them as an appetizer.)
2. Add the mixture on top of the dough.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200˚C) and bake for about 10-15 minutes.
4. Your lahm bi ajeen pie is ready when the crust on the edges turns to golden.
(Tip: squeeze fresh lemon juice on top of the warm pie and thank me with all your heart.)