I don’t usually specify that a recipe is vegetarian or vegan in the title, but because these Middle Eastern-style pizzas are traditionally topped with spiced lamb, this one deserves the extra descriptor. Lately I’ve been experimenting with vegetarian ground “meat” and this recipe seemed like the perfect way to use it.
I’m not vegetarian in the strict sense of the word but aim to eat fewer meat products and more plant-based foods in general. When it comes to building meatless meals, I’ll typically reach for tofu or legumes rather than faux meat products, but every once in a while it’s nice to branch out and try something new. Now is the perfect time too because so many comforting winter recipes feature ground meat – think pasta bolognese, chili, lasagna, sloppy Joes. It’s just nice to have a meatless alternative.
The idea for these pizzas came from a family recipe that my Grandma Margaret used to make. She was Hungarian, but she had borrowed a recipe for Armenian pizzas from a friend many years ago and would make them for us as kids. She’d even send batches of them, along with homemade canned peaches and pears, to us up in Timmins by bus (a 12-hour ride for those delicious treats!). We loved them so much that my mom still makes them for us today, usually at Christmas.
My ground beef substitute of choice is Yves Original Veggie Ground Round. (This post isn’t sponsored, by the way; I just really like their products!) It has a nice subtle taste and pleasant texture. You can find pre-seasoned versions like Mexican and Italian, but for this recipe a mixture of tomato paste and warming spices adds just the right amount of Middle Eastern flavour.
I used store-bought mini naan as the base for these pizzas simply because we had some in the freezer, but pitas would work perfectly too (they’re also more authentic to Middle Eastern cuisine than Indian naan). To keep with the regional theme, serve these with tabbouleh on the side (try this red quinoa tabbouleh).
What’s your experience with meat substitutes – yay or nay?
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1/2 small onion, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 6 mini naan or pitas
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 340-g package veggie ground round (a soy-based ground meat substitute)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Tahini thinned with lemon juice for serving (optional)
- Pre-heat broiler. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and tomato paste and cook until the aromatics have softened and the tomato paste has darkened, about 5 minutes. Add the veggie ground round and the spices and cook, stirring, to combine evenly. Add a splash or two of water at this point to prevent the mixture from becoming too dry and the spices from burning. Season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange the naan on a baking sheet and use a spoon to spread each with a thin layer of the veggie mixture. Broil for a few minutes to crisp up the pizzas slightly. To serve, drizzle with tahini and top with fresh cilantro or thinly sliced green onions if desired.