“It is the national dish of Lebanon,” I declared proudly.
“Um, do you have Lebanese heritage?” They asked. Well, I am afraid the answer was no – I am a little Irish, a little German and very Italian by marriage. But, I read the recipe in my Gourmet cookbook and it sounded like a unique dish – why not?
I will admit to all of you that making this took a bit of courage and a VERY high probability we would be ordering take out. Apparently, Kibbeh (sometimes called Kibbe) was the dish by which a woman’s skill in the kitchen was measured in ancient Lebanon and Syria. Talk about pressure!
But, miraculously, my nerves were unwarranted as the dish turned out to be fantastic! The best thing I can equate it to is a Middle Eastern meatloaf. It is made with lamb, bulgur, pinenuts and lots of warm, cozy spices. Great for a cold winter night…
You can make it in a pie plate or cast iron skillet – not surprisingly I recommend using a cast iron skillet if you have one (and if you don’t you really should invest in one!). My skillet has yet to let me down, and it helps form the “pie” with its higher sides.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lb ground lamb (not lean)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup pine nuts plus 2 tablespoons for garnish, all toasted
For bulgur mixture:
1 cup fine bulgur (6 1/2 oz)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 lb ground lamb (not lean)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Accompaniment: plain yogurt
Cook onion in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add lamb, allspice, salt, cinnamon, and pepper and cook, stirring and breaking up lumps, until lamb is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/3 cup pine nuts.
Make bulgur mixture:
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cover bulgur by 1 inch with cold water in a bowl. When dust and chaff rise to surface, pour off water, then repeat rinsing 2 more times. Cover rinsed bulgur with cold water by 1 inch and let stand 10 minutes. Drain in a fine-mesh sieve, pressing hard on bulgur to remove excess liquid, and transfer to a large bowl.
Pulse onion in a food processor until finely chopped. Add lamb, allspice, salt, cinnamon, and pepper and pulse until onion is finely minced (meat will look smooth). Add to bulgur and mix with your hands to combine well.
Assemble and bake kibbeh:
Lightly grease pie plate with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Press half of bulgur mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of plate (up 1 inch if using skillet). Spoon filling evenly over bulgur mixture. Spoon remaining bulgur mixture over filling and spread to cover, smoothing top. Brush top with remaining olive oil and score in a crosshatch pattern with a paring knife.
Bake kibbeh in middle of oven until cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes.
Preheat broiler. Broil kibbeh 5 to 7 inches from heat until top is golden brown and crusty, 3 to 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.