Kibbeh is one of those traditional Middle Eastern delicacies that many of us want to eat, but don’t want to take the time to create. The spices of baharat and cinnamon create a mouth-watering aroma in your kitchen. While the ingredients are fairly basic, it’s very time-consuming to prepare.
Kibbeh has a meat shell and a meat filling, and the ingredients for both are similar. This recipe offers the taste without the stress of the preparation.
You can make kibbeh as a main course or serve it as an appetizer. We often eat this for Shabbat lunch because it’s easy to reheat and serve. I prefer to use ground lamb, but you can use ground beef or a combination of the two.
Spice baked kibbeh
For the filling:
¾ pound ground lamb or ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons baharat spice, also known as Syrian or Lebanese 7 Spice
½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
⅓ cup pine nuts
In a food processor, shred the onion, or if you prefer, chop it by hand. Place a skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and sauté about ¾ of a pound of ground beef or lamb. When it is about half cooked, add the onion and spices and sauté until the onion is soft and the meat is fully cooked. Remove from heat and stir in the pine nuts. Set aside.
For the shell:
1 cup fine bulgur wheat, or coarse bulgur if fine is unavailable
2 cups boiling water
1 ¼ pound ground lamb or beef (do not use lean meat)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts for garnish
Chopped parsley for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 F, and place the wire rack into the middle of the oven.
Boil 2 cups of water in a kettle.
Pour boiling over the bulgur in a bowl, covering it, then place a plate over the bowl to help keep the steam in. Allow the bulgur to sit at least 20 minutes. You can rinse it with cool water if it’s still warm when it’s time to mix it.
Scoop the bulgur into a mesh sieve to drain. Using your hands, push out any excess water from the bulgur and set aside. I finish this step before starting on the filling.
Combine all of the ingredients for the shell and mix well, with a food processor or by hand. If you have a small food processor, you may need to do this in 2-3 batches; if you mix by hand, use a large bowl and mix it really well so the ingredients combine and the consistency of the meat mixture becomes smooth.
Lightly grease a 9×13 Pyrex or rectangular baking dish.
Take a little more than half of the shell mixture and press it across the bottom of the dish and about halfway up the sides.
If your hands feel sticky, run them under water as needed and continue to work the mixture.
Spread the loose meat and pine nut filling mixture evenly over the bottom layer, then form the top layer with the remaining shell mixture. I make several patties as if I were forming hamburger patties, and I lay them across the top. Then I take a fork to evenly distribute the meat and to make sure there are no holes on the top layer; all of the “patties” you formed will combine across the top.
Take a silicone spatula to fold the meat on the side of the dish in toward the middle to create a sealed edge all the way around the kibbeh, making a large rectangular meat pocket.
Smooth out the top layer with the spatula before inserting a knife slightly into the top layer, creating the cutting lines for the pieces. This is to create a guide for when the kibbeh is finished baking — don’t cut down far into the dish, just lightly score the top.
Make 4 evenly spaced vertical cuts, then 2 horizontal cuts, to create 12 evenly sized squares.
Score each square on the diagonal so there are 24 diamonds.
Brush the top with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil before pressing one pine nut into the middle of each diamond.
Bake for 40 minutes.
Let cool for a few minutes before serving.
This recipe serves beautifully with pita, mezze and salatim. Enjoy! PJC
Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.