Monday, February 27, 2012

Lebanon - Kibbeh

Kibbeh is a traditional food in the countries of the Levant and is particularly popular in Lebanon. It is meat and onion stuffed inside a dough made of more meat and onion. As I understand it, you then serve it up with a nice cool glass of meat and onion, while reclining in a traditional chair also made of meat and onion.

2 lbs ground beef or lamb meat
½ lbs bulgur wheat
1 large onion, finely chopped
¼ tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Vegetable oil for frying and sautéing

½ cup pine nuts  

Soak your bulgur wheat in cold water for 30 minutes and then drain it. Here's a picture of it soaking so you don't think I bought pre-soaked wheat from a pre-soaked grain mail order catalog. I could have bought this picture from an online stock image company though, so you'll never be sure.

Roast your pine nuts on medium-low heat until they're lightly browned and fragrant, which should take about 5 minutes; remove them from heat once they have this lightly browned look to them.

Take the soaked bulgur wheat from before and add half of your meat, half of your onion, and half of your salt and pepper to it. Mix it and run it through a food processor, until it has a sticky, dough-like texture, then set it aside. Several years ago in a fit of rage at my food processor, I threw it out, and I have regretted it ever since. So here I am using a handheld mixer instead.

Sauté the remaining onion in a lightly oiled frying pan. Then add the roasted pine nuts, the rest of your meat, the rest of your salt and pepper, and finally, the cumin. Mix it all up like you've never mixed before (that is, mix it very well, don't make a mess of it like you've lived in a box and have actually never mixed before), then continue to sauté until the meat is brown and cooked through. Remove from the heat and let it cool for about 10 minutes.

Take the dough mixture from before and form it into balls. Make a large impression in each ball using your finger or thumb. Then, using a teaspoon, put the stuffing inside it, and seal the ball by pinching it with your fingers.

You should end up with several finely presented balls (well, they're ovals, but I'm not the shape police) lined up with military precision.

Heat up the vegetable oil in your frying pan until it reaches 350°, which you can test by putting a small cube of bread in; at 350° the bread will brown in about a minute. I didn't do that though, I just guessed at the temperature and it worked out fine. Add your kibbehs into the pan with about an inch between them, because they're very territorial.

Turn them occasionally, because they're also very lazy.

After about 10 minutes they should have a lovely golden brown colour; you should then remove them from the pan and lay them on a paper towel to soak up any excess oil.

Place them in a bowl (or directly into your mouth, once they've cooled) and then eat them until you're stuffed like a kibbeh.

They're delicious as they are, or you can add sauces. I tried them with ketchup, barbecue sauce, and mustard; mustard was the best but it was good with all three. They seem like a very versatile sort of food which would go well with nearly any kind of sauce, as a main dish, as a snack, or as an accompaniment to anything else.

The dough had a different texture from anything I'd had before, the bulgur wheat gave it an interesting crunch and it also had a meaty texture because, after all, it was half meat. Then as your bite continues downward you reach the stuffing, where you are surprised by more meat. Dinner guests will be amazed at your boldness in stuffing meat with more meat.

This is definitely a food I will be having again.

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