The cucumber tzatziki-type sauce complements the kibbeh perfectly

The cucumber tzatziki-type sauce complements the kibbeh perfectly

Kibbeh is eaten everywhere in the Lebanon, it’s almost the national dish. Traditionally it required hours of pounding to death (death by exhaustion of the pounder) in a pestle and mortar, but regular readers of this blog will know that I am firmly of the Life Is Too Short school of thought so we won’t be doing any of that in this recipe.

It’s easier to make this kibbeh in large quantities but it freezes well.

It goes very well with a nutty lambs’ lettuce and tomato salad (you might want to add a few crûtons to make it into a sort of westernised fattoush) or with a palm hearts and orange salad.

Makes about four cakes for six people each, freeze two. The yoghurt sauce is just enough for twelve, make this fresh.

 

  • 3 large onions
  • 1½ kg/3 lbs 6 oz minced lamb (ideally from the leg), divided into three equal portions
  • 350g/12 oz fine bulghur
  • 3 tbsp/30g pine nuts
  • 5 tbsp of allspice
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp smoked salt plus an additional tsp
  • Indonesian long black pepper
  • Olive oil to fry and to drizzle over

For the yoghurt sauce:

  • 25g/1 oz chopped mint
  • 500 ml/ just under 2 cups thick Greek yoghurt
  • 60 ml/¼ cup of water
  • 1 cucumber, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with a tsp of smoked salt

 

  1. Get the bulghur soaking as soon as you can. It needs an hour.
  2. Then look for four round baking dishes about 20cm/8 inches diameter
  3. Preheat the oven to 180ºC
  4. Make the yoghurt sauce by mixing everything together except for a couple of tablespoons of chopped mint which you’ll need for garnish.
  5. Peel and chop two of the onions and fry them in about a tbsp. olive oil.
  6. Add the pine nuts and cook for a couple more minutes
  7. Add one of the portions of minced lamb and cook until brown
  8. Add 1 tbsp of allspice, 1 tsp salt and a few grinds of Indonesian long black pepper
  9. Now comes the alternative to death by exhaustion method. Cut the remaining onion into quarters and puree in a blender, or in a bowl with a non-stick bottom surface with a stick blender – it will be easier for this volume
  10. Divide the remaining mince into quarters and add, one quarter at a time, to the onion, blending as you add each bundle of mince.
  11. Then add the drained bulghur, one cup at a time
  12. Add the rest of the allspice, the cinnamon, nutmeg and salt
  13. Whizz again – the mixture should be smooth
  14. Divide into eight, put one into each baking dish and pat down
  15. Cover each dish with a quarter of the mixture in the frying pan
  16. Cover this with the remaining four portions of the bulghur mix
  17. Make a hole in the centre with a skewer and drizzle over the surface with olive oil
  18. Bake 45 minutes
  19. Leave two of the cakes to cool, then wrap in foil and freeze
  20. Serve the other two garnished with the remaining chopped mint, together with the yoghurt sauce and whatever salad you choose.

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