Posted on | March 28, 2007 | 16 Comments |
The best Lebanese food I’ve ever had was in Ireland of all the places! I was in Dublin on a business trip and my Irish colleagues took us to their favorite Lebanese restaurant for dinner – may be because there were people from four different continents in our group - and the food was amazing! Next day I was out shopping , I wasn’t looking for it, but it so happened that there was a tiny pocket sized Lebanese cookbook next to the check-out counter and I had to buy it. This was two years ago, then I promptly forgot about the book until I saw Meeta’s Monthly Mingle theme – Arabian cuisine. I’ve never made any middle eastern food at home, even though I love the cuisine! Thanks to Meeta, I dug out my cookbook and decided to make the national dish of Lebanon – Kibbeh.
Situated between the Middle East and Mediterranean, Lebanon is a cultural crossroad between east and west. Lebanese cuisine is very unique in the sense that it combines the subtleties of European cuisine with the exotic eastern ingredients. Like the other Mediterranean cuisines, Lebanese cuisine is considered very healthy.
One of the main ingredients widely used in most of the Lebanese dishes is bulgur (also known as burghul or bulghur) , it is made by parboiling wheat, then drying and coarsely grinding it. The outer bran layers are removed and the grain is cracked, and then steamed or boiled to make the nutty tasting bulgur.
Kibbeh, the national dish of Lebanon in its simplest form is oval shaped nuggets made with a mix of ground lamb and bulgur, and can be made grilled, boiled or fried. I love everything fried, and my book had the recipe for Fried Kibbeh balls, so here it is.
I didn’t alter the recipe much, other than adding some black pepper and salt, since the original recipe didn’t call for much heat, and I think they forgot to mention salt.
- 1/2 cup bulgur
- 1/2 lb lamb
- 1 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice (pimento)
- 1/2 tsp ground oregano
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- salt for taste
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- vegetable oil for shallow frying
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup ground lamb
- 1/4 cup chopped onions
- 1/2 tbsp pine nuts
- 1/2 tbsp silvered almonds
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves
- 1/2 tbsp pepper
- salt for taste
Place bulgur in a bowl and pour cold water to cover. Keep for about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water, and squeeze well to remove the moisture.
Make the Filling: – Heat oil in a small frying pan, add the onions and cook till soft, add the pine nuts and almonds and cook till they start to brown. Add the spice powders, salt and ground lamb and cook till the meat is cooked through. Remove from the stove and stir in the mint leaves and keep aside.
Add the bulgur, ground lamb, chopped onions, olive oil and the spices to a large bowl and mix well to combine. Add a little water if necessary.
Shape the mixture into equal sized balls, this will make about 8 balls. Insert your thumb to make a hollow space in the ball, place the filling in the hollow and flatten out the balls and shape into ovals so that the filling is completely covered.
Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan and shallow fry the Kibbeh balls till all the sides are browned and the meat is cooked through.
Recipe adapted from Australian Women’s Weekly Lebanese Cooking.
I made a a dipping sauce by mixing 1/4 cup creme fraiche with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp of chopped mint leaves to go with the Kibbeh.
The Kibbeh turned out pretty good for a first trial. I loved the texture of the bulgur-lamb combo and the nutty filling inside was a surprising pleasure to bite into. Next time I would spice it up a little more.
This is my contribution for Monthly Mingle #9 Arabian Nights hosted by lovely Meeta. Thanks Meeta for the wonderful theme.
Note: Coincidentally I just learned about allspice from Asha today. I had allspice in my spice rack, but I always thought it was a mix of spices like Garam Masala as in All + Spice. My cookbook says it is called Lebanese Pepper in Lebanon, Wikipedia calls it Jamaican Pepper. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allspice
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