Kibbeh, the national dish of Lebanon, is an emulsification of the freshest minced lamb and burghul (cracked wheat), with essential "seven spices" (baharat). In the old days, Lebanese women would pound the meat and burghul in a mortar and pestle, then knead in the spices, a process which can be excruciatingly exhausting. Kibbeh can be eaten raw (kibbeh naye). It’s similar to steak tartare and popular in Lebanon. Another common form is kibbeh qrass, whereby the kibbeh mixture is molded into small, hollowed balls, stuffed with filling and then fried. This recipe is kibbeh bil sayneeye, or baked kibbeh.
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 1 kg minced lamb (see Note)
- 350 g very fine burghul, soaked in water for 1 hour, drained
- ¼ cup baharat or allspice (see Note)
- 2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp salt
- olive oil, for drizzling
- fattoush salad, to serve
- 1 tbsp ghee or olive oil
- 2 large onions, cut into rings
- 80 g pine nuts
- 500 g minced lamb (see note)
- 1 tbsp baharat or allspice (see Note)
- salt and pepper, to season
- 500 g Greek-style yoghurt
- 60 ml (¼ cup) water
- 2 garlic cloves, pounded to a paste
- 1 large cucumber, thinly sliced
- 20 mint leaves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- salt, to season
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Soaking time 1 hour
To make the yoghurt dressing, combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
To make the filling, place a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and onions and cook for 2–3 minutes or until soft. Add the pine nuts and cook for another 2–3 minutes or until almost golden. Now add the minced lamb and cook for 7–8 minutes or until browned. Stir in the spice and season with salt and pepper.
To make the kibbeh paste, place the quartered onions in a food processor and process until almost pureed. Add the minced lamb, one-quarter at a time, and combine well. Now add the drained burghul, 1 cup at a time, and process until well combined. Add the spices and salt, and give it a final whiz, about 2-3 minutes. The result should be a smooth emulsified paste.
Preheat the oven 180˚C. Divide the kibbeh paste into 8 even portions. Lightly grease 4 x 21 cm round baking dishes and evenly spread 1 portion of the kibbeh paste over the base of each dish. Evenly spread the meat filling on top. Now cover with 1 portion of the remaining kibbeh paste, creating a final layer. Using a knife, cut diagonal lines into the top layer, creating diamond shapes, then divide into 6 even slices. Create a small hole in the centre and drizzle all over with the olive oil (this gives it a nice golden brown colour as well as adding a bit of flavour).
Pop in the oven and cook for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Alternatively, pop it under the grill for the last 6–8 minutes for an extra-crispy top layer.
Pour the yoghurt dressing over each slice and serve with fattoush salad.
• Ask your butcher for lamb mince made from the leg of lamb.
• Baharat (also known as seven spices) is a Lebanese spice mixture available from Middle Eastern food shops. Or use even proportions of ground black pepper, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom and cumin.
Recipe from Dirty Kitchen Secrets by Bethany Kehdy, with photographs by Sarka Babicka.