It's quite a fragrant memory this one... my mum spending all afternoon chopping, mixing, waiting and huddled over the oven making this recipe. The following morning she would prepare a nice cup of tea and a wrap filled with feta cheese, fresh mint and tomatoes for my dad's breakfast. He was always on the go, so breakfast usually meant it was eaten in the car... but if there's one thing he enjoyed most, it was a big cup of tea with a khubuz laham.
In case you are wondering (because I know you are) what in the world khubuz laham means... well my dear reader, it literally translates to "bread meat" but if you know any arabic at all then you would probably understand it was "meat bread". Hard to explain, but it's a similar mechanism as your eyes use, we actually see everything flipped over in our minds interestingly enough. Bottom line is, you read one thing but see another!
Somehow the first time I attempted to make this... I made the whole recipe wrong (bound to happen). I called my mother and all she said was "habibti, you're going to have to start over" (never what I want to hear). This recipe is simple, everything goes in one bowl just in layers. The first step is to make sure your minced beef is well seasoned, so all of the spices go in here... not forgetting the olive oil.
I'll lighten the load for you and explain it this way; spices and oil, herbs and onion, mix thoroughly, flour mixture, and mix some more. Now just leave for one hour to rise, see that was easy!
Here is where you might think "the bigger the better", however this is where you are wrong unless you have a very very large flat pan. I did not have a massive flat pan on hand but what would've been oh so nice is a flat griddle (oh my the time I would've saved). As you can see I made my portions quite large, but in fact I ended up splitting them in half to make them even smaller (taking the easy route here... don't judge). I found it makes it easier to spread out the dough on a smaller pan and less burn marks (yup).
Khubuz Laham: Iraqi Minced Beef and Herb Bread
3lbs coarse ground beef (80/20)
2 bunches cilantro
2 bunches parsley
2 bunches green onion
1 heaping tbsp ground cumin
1 heaping tbsp ground tumeric
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp baking powder
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups warm water (or as needed)
1. Start by adding the minced beef to a very large bowl (everything is going in here at some point). Add cumin, tumeric, salt and olive oil and mix until everything is combined really well.
2. Wash and dry cilantro, parsley and green onion, cutting off any extra stems of unwanted parts. In equal parts add all three to a food processor and chop until fine but not a paste. I did a few loads to make sure everything was uniform instead of adding it all at once.
3. Once all the herbs are chopped, add the the bowl of minced beef and combine again until uniform.
4. In a separate bowl, mix baking powder and flour together and then add to the beef and herb mixture. Before you start mixing it all together, slowly pour warm water a little at a time. Start mixing everything either with your hands (easier) or with a wooden spoon. If the mixture feels to dry, add more water and vice versa. I ended up adding all the water but felt like it needed more flour, it's not a proper dough so you have room to fix it.
5. Once all mixed, loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. Once the hour is up, section dough into equal parts and form dough balls. I sized them to be roughly the size of my inner palm. There is no right size to make them, if you prefer having larger ones they will come out just fine. I decided to make them a bit smaller, so they are easier to transport. You want to place them on a large flat tray or plate that has a bit of water on the surface to avoid the dough sticking to each other. Cover again and let sit for 1 more hour.
6. Preheat oven to 375F and line the bottom rack of your oven with heavy duty foil.
7. When you are ready to cook, heat up a large flat pan (crepe pan or a large flat breakfast pan would work great). Add a bit of olive oil and using a bit of water flatten out the dough like a pancake. Most people prefer the bread to be on the thinner side, but again completely up to you. You want to only toast the outside and not worry about cooking the inside, about 1 min on both sides. Once toasted, transport the bread to the bottom rack of the oven and let cook for about 10-12 minutes until somewhat crispy and cooked on the inside.
8. You're done! Enjoy while they're warm and freshly baked. Some of my favourite toppings are labneh with olive oil and zataar or fill it with feta cheese, fresh mint and tomatoes... or just plain Jane with a cup of tea!
- I tend to freeze most of the recipe so after you have toasted the flat breads you can leave them to cool, put them in freezer bags and freeze. When you are ready to eat them, you can just take them out and continue the process of cooking them in the oven.