Kibbeh is considered by many to be one of the masterpieces of Middle Eastern cuisine. The are hundreds of variations, most including a “shell” with bulgur, stuffed with different fillings highlighting the many fresh meats, vegetables and spices of the region. They can come baked, fried, broiled or steamed.
Stretching expensive meat with grains, vegetables, and herbs is a technique common to all cuisines. The approach of Middle Eastern cooks is unique in its use of bulgur wheat, both as a filler and a shell.
Kibbeh Balls – Nut-filled Lamb “Meatballs” with Bulgur Shells
- Food Processor or blender
- 2 Large Baking Pans, 1 with rack
- Skillet with high sides
- 1 cup Bulgur wheat (fine or medium grain), rinsed
- 1 cup Water
- 8 oz Ground lamb
- ½ small Onion, roughly chopped
- ½ tsp Ground cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp Cayenne
- ¼ tsp Ground pepper
- ½ tsp Salt
- Butter or olive oil spray
- 2 cups Vegetable oil (if frying)
- 1 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup Onion, chopped fine
- 8 oz Ground lamb
- ¼ cup Pine nuts
- ¼ cup Shelled pistachio nuts
- ¼ tsp Ground cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp Ground allspice
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ⅓ cup Parsley leaves, chopped
- 2 Tbsp Drained yogurt (from 4 tbsp pre-drained)
- 1 tbsp Pomegranate molasses (or replace with 1 more tbsp drained yogurt)
- Place 1 cup bulgur in a bowl with 1 cup water. Let soften, 30-40 minutes. Process onion in food processor until liquid-y. Drain softened bulgur and add to onion. Add lamb, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper. Process to a smooth paste, around 1 minute. Put mixture back into bowl, cover, and refrigerate about 30 minutes.
- Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Once wisps of smoke appear, add remaining lamb, salt, and pepper. Break-up lamb into small bits while cooking, around 5 minutes. Pour in ½ cup water and cook over low heat, uncovered for 15 minutes. Once the water has evaporated and meat begins to brown, stir in nuts, cinnamon, allspice, parsley, salt and pepper. Cook for another 2 minutes and remove from heat. Cool slightly, then fold in yogurt and pomegranate molasses. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
- Line 1 baking pan with parchment paper and lightly grease. Fill a wide shallow bowl with 1 cup water and 1 tbsp cornstarch. Dip left hand in water bowl and pinch off and roll into 16, 2-inch round balls. Taking 1 ball at a time, stretch shell dough to form a cup with ¼-inch thick sides. Spoon 1 tbsp filling into cup and gently pack filing and close sides over. Form sealed kibbeh into the shape of a 3-inch by 1½-inch football. Transfer to the baking sheet with greased parchment. Repeat 15 more times. When done, refrigerate at least 1 hour and up-to 24.
- Preheat oven to 200°F (95°C). Line second baking pan with several paper towel layers and place a wire cooling rack on top. Heat 2 cups oil to 375°F (190°C) in a clean 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. At temperature, fry 8 kibbeh balls until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. With a slotted spoon, remove to the baking pan with wire rack and place in oven to keep warm. Bring oil back to temperature and fry remaining kibbeh balls. Remove baking pan from oven and transfer remaining kibbeh to wire rack to drain. Plate and serve.
- When frying kibbeh, be careful not to dry them out by overcooking.
- These kibbeh can also be broiled or grilled. Spray them first with butter or oil-flavored spray.