Kibbeh are delicious Lebanese dishes made of ground meat (usually beef or lamb), bulgur wheat, onion and spices. Very simple, very delicious. Sometimes kibbeh comes as a baked casserole, like a meatloaf, and sometimes it’s a deep-fried croquette, shaped in balls. Sometimes, it’s eaten raw, like steak tartare.
I genuinely like fried kibbeh best, but it’s pretty similar to falafel in looks, and you might be tired of fried food, so y’know what, we’ll try the baked variety. I think you’ll like it, and maybe your arteries will too!
A couple of things: If you can’t get the meat for the kibbeh layer ground finely from the butcher, you’ll need to grind it super-fine yourself, but if you’re like me, you don’t have a meat grinder lying around. So what to do? You may have to use a food processor to grind it down. Not great, but it’ll do.
Second, the meat will stick to your hands. Having ice cold water on hand to moisten your hands and keep them free from stickiness will help a lot. Just make sure not to get too much water into the meat.
For bulgur mixture (kibbeh)
- 1 cups fine bulgur (#1)
- 1 pounds ground beef or lamb, VERY lean
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 medium sweet onion, pureed
- 1 cup ice water
- 1 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more to coat the pan
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 pound ground beef from chuck
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 2 tablespoons cold butter
- Rinse the bulgur in cold water, drain, and cover to 1⁄2 inch with cold water. Soak for 1⁄2 hour, or until the bulgur is softened.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- First step is the outer layer, the kibbeh. In a large bowl, knead the ground meat with the pureed onion and about half of the bulgur. If there is any visible water left in the bulgur from soaking, squeeze it out of the wheat before adding it to the kibbeh.
- Dip hands in ice cold water as you knead, adding about 1⁄4 cup of the water in total; be careful not to add too much water to the kibbeh or it will become mushy rather than just soft. Add the bulgur 1⁄4 cup at a time until it’s fully incorporated. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne and cinnamon, tasting and adjusting the seasoning.
- Now for the middle layer, the filling: in a large frying pan, heat the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onions and about a half teaspoon of salt and sauté until soft. Add the ground beef and season with cinnamon, another half teaspoon of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until browned, breaking up the meat with a metal spoon into small bits as it cooks. Squeeze the lemon juice over the meat, taste, and adjust seasoning if needed. Stir in the pine nuts and set aside to cool.
- Coat a 9x13x2 inch baking dish with oil. Set up another small bowl of ice water where you are working and use the water to coat your hands as you flatten and shape the kibbeh. Use half of the kibbeh to form thin, a flat layer covering the bottom of the baking dish. Smooth the layer with cold water.
- Spread the filling evenly over the flat kibbeh layer. Using the remaining kibbeh meat, form another thin, flat layer over the stuffing and smooth with cold water.
- With a knife, score the top in squares (or the traditional diamond pattern) into the kibbeh, cutting through to the center layer but not all the way to the bottom of the dish.
- Place a dab of butter on each square—this adds a wonderful savory flavor and moisture to the kibbeh.
- Bake in the center of the oven for about 50 minutes, or until the kibbeh is deep golden brown on top; finish the kibbeh under the broiler, if needed, to get that deep color.
- Serve with Labneh (Lebanese yogurt); plain Greek yogurt will do in a pinch. Warmed pita bread works too. And don’t forget the mezze in advance like hummus or tabouleh)
Recipe adapted from Maureen Abood’s Rose Water and Orange Blossoms (https://www.maureenabood.com/baked-kibbeh-you-say-meatloaf-i-say-meatlove)
Photo from sbs.com.au