A kibbeh is a characteristic dish across the Middle East. Every Middle East country has its unique version, one they are proud of and love. Kibbeh is absolutely intertwined with the culture and can be considered to be the national dish across the region. These delicious dumplings are amazing, move over the tardy and boring English cutlets And French croquettes. A kibbeh is essentially a shell of cracked wheat, or bulgur, with either meat or potatoes to hold it together. They are usually torpedo-shaped and can come with fillings or not. They are generally deep-fried, crisp and brown on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside, think falafels. Every variation I have tried I have loved, crunchy, flavorful and perfect as a snack that turns into a meal. These kibbehs are no exception. The shell is soft potatoes and bulgur and the filling of spinach and mozzarella oozes out in gooey goodness. I chose to pan-fry the kibbeh to a crisp outside and served it with a side of Tzatziki sauce. Greg and Lucy Malouf have travelled across the Middle East extensively, publishing a number of specialized cookbooks along their journey. This cookbook is one of my favourites, a thick volume filled with amazing recipes, like this one, and photographs. This cookbook will make you want to get out to the closest Mediterranean store (or on Amazon) and order a pantry full of new ingredients for this cuisine. I have cooked a few, definitely not enough, recipes from this book and each is spectacular. I need to complete the collection of their cookbooks, oh I wish I had a larger cookbook budget. This book is for those who are looking for spectacular Middle Eastern cuisine.
For more delicious recipes from this cookbook click here.
For the kibbeh shell:
1/2 lb potatoes, washed but not peeled
1/2 cup fine white burghul, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes
1 1/2 tablespoons plain flour
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the filling
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 large bunch of spinach leaves, stalks removed, blanched and chopped
4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
salt and pepper
1 cup mozzarella, grated
To make the kibbeh shell, begin by bringing a large pan of salted water to a boil. Cook the potatoes for 15–20 minutes, until they are tender. Remove from the heat and when they are cool enough to handle, peel and mash them by hand or through a potato river. I found it easier to mash the potatoes at this stage as once they got mixed with the bulgur, it was a chore finding the little bits and getting them smooth.
Next, drain the burghul and, using your hands, squeeze out as much water as you can. Then tip into a tea towel and twist to extract even more. Tip the burghul into a large mixing bowl and add the potatoes. Mash the two together to form a smooth purée. I found it hard to get a smooth paste with the potatoes if they were mixed in with the bulgur. I would recommend putting the potatoes through a river or massing them and then mixing them with the bulghur.
Add the flour, spices, salt and pepper and knead with your hands until the mixture is thoroughly blended. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, which will make the paste easier to work with.
While the shell mixture is chilling in the fridge, prepare the filling. Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until it is soft. Add the chopped spinach, pine nuts and allspice and stir over the heat for a few more minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave it to cool, then season with salt and pepper and stir in the grated cheese.
To make the kibbeh, put a small lump of potato paste into the palm of your left hand and roll it into a smooth, oval-shaped ball. Using the forefinger of your right hand, make an indentation in the ball and start to shape it into a hollow shell. Try to make it as thin and even as you can. Fill the shell with about a teaspoon of the filling, wet the edges of the opening with cold water and pinch it closed. You are aiming for a small torpedo-shaped dumpling, with slightly tapered ends. Leave the stuffed kibbeh on a tray in the refrigerator, covered, until you are ready to cook them.
When it comes to cooking the kibbeh, you have the choice of either baking them in a 190°C oven for about 20 minutes or deep or shallow-frying them in 150 ml medium-hot vegetable oil, turning them to ensure that they’re a deep golden brown all over. Drain them on kitchen paper and serve piping hot with a dollop of yoghurt, or Tzatziki sauce.