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Renee’s Lebanese Kitchen: Baked Kibbeh or Kibbeh in a Tray

Kibbeh is Lebanon’s national dish: a combination of lean mince meat, cracked wheat, and spices. Traditionally you could hear the sound of the the Lebanese village cook pulverising the meat in a mortar and pestle all day long. Today, the meat grinder or food processor does a pretty good job.

Served with a tossed salad or, better still, tabouli, kibbeh is a real treat - piping hot or cold out of the fridge. It can be served as a ‘football’ but this recipe is kibbeh baked in a tray.

Kibbeh Base

1 1/4 cup fine cracked wheat (also known as burghul - for the gluten intolerant, use corn couscous)
350 grams very lean lamb, finely ground
3 Tablespoons diced onions
2 Tablespoons chopped mint leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 teaspoons allspice

Wash cracked wheat and set aside for 45 minutes to drain thoroughly.

The lamb meat must be finely ground until its pulverised. Either do so in your own machine or obtain from a Middle East butcher (in a pinch, you can use extra lean lamb or beef from the supermarket). Add the mint and onions to the mince. Place in the mixing bowl.

In the sink, knead the kibbeh in the bowl. Add part of the softened, fully-drained cracked wheat and knead into the kibbeh. Keep your hands moist while you continue to add the wheat. Add the salt, pepper, and allspice. Knead the two ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed together.

Refrigerate if not using immediately.

Kibbeh Filling

350 grams minced lamb or beef.
1 large onion chopped finely
1 Tablespoon butter
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon sumac (if available - a purple spice found in Middle Eastern stores and some supermarkets)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice

(Renee likes to add a teaspoon of chilli powder for an extra kick but this is totally optional)

Brown the lamb in a frying pan without any oil. Break up clumps of meat with the wooden spoon. Add the onion, sumac, salt, pepper, and allspice to the browned mixture.

While the meat is cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add pine nuts and cook until lightly tanned. Be careful not to let this butter mixture or pine nuts burn. Add to the mince mixture.

Turn on low and cook for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally and do not let it burn. Once cooked, place into a bowl to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200 C.

Your baked kibbeh will resemble a pie, with crust and filling, except it will be in a cake pan or tray, not a pie tin.

Divide the kibbeh base into two. Grease the baking tray (a round or square cake pan will do) with olive oil. Take half of the kibbeh base and spread on the bottom and sides of the tray (like a pie crust). Place kibbeh filling inside the tray. Use the other half of the kibbeh base to cover the filling. One suggestion is to turn the remaining kibbeh into patties, spread on the top of the filling, and use your moist fingers to smooth over the gaps until it is one solid crust.

Take a sharp knife and cut the kibbeh diagonally into diamond shapes as well as the sides of the pan. Pour about 4 tablespoons of olive oil or melted butter on top of the kibbeh. Cover with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes. In the last 10 minutes, remove the foil. Make sure the kibbeh does not dry out.

Serve with buttery rice, yogurt, salad (tabouli).

NOTE: If you don’t want to go through effort of baked kibbeh then take the kibbeh base, form into patties, and fry like a hamburger. However, the baked version is sensational and worth the effort.


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