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Kibbeh Kbekib
meat and bulgur spheres stuffed with lamb–pine nut filling
RECIPE BY JULIE ANN SAGEER (JULIE TABOULIE)

Photo Credit: Alexandra Grablewski

In Lebanese cuisine, any dish that combines cracked bulgur wheat and ground lamb is known as kibbeh. Kibbeh also has a number of different spellings, including kibbe and kibbee. This one is my absolute favorite; I can’t get enough of the out-of-this-world taste and texture of these little, addictive nuggets.

Bulgur wheat is blended with ground lamb and onion, and stuffed with Heshwi, the traditional kibbeh stuffing of ground lamb, chopped herbs, spices, and buttery toasted pine nuts. Baked with butter, the end result is crispy on the outside shell, with a succulent meaty filling inside. Paired with warm Khebez Arabi (Lebanese pocket bread) and a drizzle of Labneh (Lebanese strained yogurt), there’s really nothing more traditional or delicious.

 

MAKES 10 TO 12 KIBBEH, DEPENDING ON SIZE

KIBBEH BASE

1⁄2 cup #1 fine bulgur wheat

1 small yellow onion, finely grated

1 pound finely ground lean lamb

1 teaspoon sea salt

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

HESHWI (KIBBEH STUFFING)

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (6 tablespoons cold and cut in halves)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced (about 1⁄3 cup)

1⁄2 pound finely ground lamb

1 teaspoon sea salt

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice

1⁄3 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

1⁄3 cup pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Make the heshwi: In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the diced onions and cook until translucent. Add the ground lamb and sauté until it is completely browned and cooked through. Once the meat is cooked, season it with salt, pepper, and allspice. Remove from the heat, add the chopped mint and set aside to cool.

In a small sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and toss to coat completely. Toast until they are a light golden brown. Remove from the heat and mix into the meat heshwi.

 

Make the kibbeh base: Place the bulgur wheat in a large bowl and lightly rinse with cold water to slightly moisten. Do not soak the bulgur wheat in the water. Add the grated onion and thoroughly mix to combine, then begin to knead the bulgur wheat mixture by pounding it with your fists.

 

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the lamb, salt, and pepper with a couple of ice cubes and pulse to thoroughly blend together. Once finely blended, transfer the mixture to a large freezer bag, smooth out the mixture, release any air pockets, and tightly seal and secure. Place in the freezer for about 10–15 minutes until ice cold but not frozen.

 

Remove the mixture from the freezer and add to the bulgur wheat mixture and mix together so that all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Knead the mixture by pounding it together with your fists until it is soft and pliable but not mushy. If the mixture feels too stiff, gradually add small amounts of ice water to loosen.

 

Now it’s time to make the kibbeh spheres: Fill a small bowl with ice cubes and ice-cold water and set on the countertop. Then, place the heshwi next to the bowl with the kibbeh base. Coat a baking sheet with the 2 tablespoons softened butter and place it next to your work area.

From the cookbook

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Lightly dip your hands in the cold water and take about 2 tablespoons of the kibbeh base and roll it into a small oval ball in the palms of your hands. Then, place the oval ball in one hand, and, with your other hand, use your index finger to poke a small hole in one end of the oval, pointing inwards to the middle. Now, gently begin to rotate your finger into the hole in a circular motion until you have created a deeper and wider hole within the kibbeh shell. Make sure not to break through the kibbeh walls or tear the outside. If you do, simply start over or seam it back together and smooth with your fingertips (see step-by-step tutorial photos).

Now, take about 1⁄2 tablespoon of the heshwi and fill the hole by slightly pressing it down into the bottom of the kibbeh ball and working your way up to about 1⁄4 inch from the top. Be careful not to overstuff. Then, close the hole by lightly dipping your fingers in the ice-cold water and tightly squeezing the opening ends together. Seam and smooth out the top tip and place on the buttered baking sheet. Repeat this technique with the remaining base and filling; you should have between 10 and 14 kibbeh (see step-by-step tutorial photos).

 

Next, place one of the halves of cold butter onto the top of each kibbeh sphere and bake for approximately 30 minutes, turning the spheres over halfway through. They should be golden brown and crispy on the outside. Remove from the oven and lightly shake the pan back and forth to roll the kibbeh balls around with baking juices and butter.

 

Serve straight out of the oven with Labneh (Lebanese strained yogurt), drizzled with olive oil, sea salt, and chopped mint leaves and with warm Khebez Arabi (Lebanese pocket bread).

 

NOTE: You will need a food processor.

Copyright 2017 by Julie Ann Sageer in Julie Taboulie’s Lebanese Kitchen, St. Martin’s Press/St. Martin’s Griffin. All Rights Reserved.

RECIPE BY JULIE ANN SAGEER (JULIE TABOULIE)

 

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