one sefardi mezze dish (appetizer) that is often served by those who have origins in places like lebanon, syria, egypt, iran, israel and iraq, is kibbeh or kubbeh. these torpedo shaped filled appetizers made from bulgur wheat or a mixture of meat and bulgur (or even ground rice) can be eaten hot or at room temperature. i personally do not like the ones made from meat and bulgur. rather, i much prefer those which are vegetarian and use just softened bulgur wheat and flour for the casing.
making these appetizers is a pretty straightforward procedure and fairly easy: make the filling, make the casing, put it all together and fry. as a note, they can be baked but it's not really the same end result. you'd have to try one baked and one fried to see which you prefer. they can be partially fried and then cooled and frozen for later use. you just have to refry them (or bake at 400F) until they are browned.
the casing can be made one of two ways: you can knead the softened bulgur wheat by hand, which is what i have done here, or add it to the food processor. the latter method is really the easiest and probably the best route if you've never made them before.
give them a try, at least once. they really are worth the effort.
vegetarian style kibbeh
stuffed bulgur wheat appetizers
enough for six servings (2 kibbeh/person)
recipe adapted from a. helou
1 small onion*
1 c FINE bulgur wheat**
1/2 c wholewheat or all purpose flour
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground allspice, heaped
1/4 tsp cinnamon, heaped
1/8 tsp ground black pepper, heaped
*make sure to use the correct size. do NOT use a larger one as there will be too much moisture.
**to make these successfully, you need fine granulation bulgur wheat and not medium coarseness.
1/4 c mild olive oil or (parve) margarine
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 medium onion
1/3 c COARSELY*** chopped walnuts, (not finely chopped - see pict. below!!)
1/2 tsp ground allspice, slightly heaped
1/4 tsp cinnamon, slightly heaped
1/8 tsp ground black pepper, slightly heaped
1 tsp pomegranate syrup (dibs al-rumman)****
1 - 2 tbsp chopped dried apricot or golden raisins or dates, optional
***if you're using whole walnuts, just snap them into small pieces or chop with a knife; you want texture.
****1 tsp of pomegranate syrup goes a long way so try not to be tempted to add more than this. don't omit it as it gives the correct flavouring to the stuffing. if you can't get the syrup, you can try to boil down 1/3 c pomegranate juice until it is syrupy. be careful not to burn it as it reduces however. taste before adding it — if it tastes burnt, discard it and use lemon juice instead [mixed with a little molasses].
for the casing:
you need a very fine sieve to strain the bulgur wheat or place a clean cotton tea towel in a larger hole strainer. if you don't, you will see your bulgur go down the drain, literally!
place the cup of bulgur wheat in a large bowl and add warm water to it, to cover by 2 inches, and 1 tsp salt. stir it and let sit for 1/2 to 1 hour (you can make the filling at this point while waiting). you may want to rinse the burgul once before soaking.
either in a food processor or blender, process the small (peeled) onion until it is very very finely ground (almost liquid). if using a blender, you may need a tsp or two of water. add the spices and blend again.
drain the bulgur wheat and squeeze out as much water as you can. this is very important to do. if using the tea towel, bring the sides up and twist it to extract as much water as you can.
now, if you are doing things by hand, place the drained bulgur wheat in a large bowl and knead it for about 3 or 4 minutes. add the onion mixture, flour and salt and knead again for another several minutes until you have a ball of dough. you may need to wet your hands under the tap every once in a while but it should be ok. check for salt and if needed add some more.
if doing this the food processor way, add the bulgur to the onions and blend it by pulsing for 2 minutes or so. remove it to a bowl and add the flour and knead until you have a ball of dough which is smooth.
set the dough aside, covered.
finely chop the medium onion and set it aside. measure out all the ingredients needed. make sure that the walnuts are not finely chopped as you want texture to the filling. if using whole walnuts, just snap them into smaller pieces (no smaller than at least 1/4").
add the oil or margarine to a heated fry pan and place the pine nuts in it. carefully fry the pine nuts until they are golden brown (not darkened). remove them to a paper towel and keep the oil in the pan. do the same with the walnuts.
add the finely chopped onion to the oil and fry it over medium heat until it has started to become golden brown.
add the walnuts and stir. add the spices and the pomegranate syrup.
add the pine nuts and dried fruit if using & mix everything and set it aside for later.
putting things together:
take the ball of kibbeh dough and separate it into 12 equal portions. set aside.
on a plate divide the filling into 12 equal portions.
take one of the kibbeh balls and place it in your hand.
make out a hole with your thumb on your free hand and start to turn the dough, making a thin wall all around. you want the shape of a hollowed out pumpkin! don't, however, make the walls too thin.
place 1 portion of the filling in the hole and close it up.
take the closed ball and start to shape it by rolling it in your hands, slowly but carefully, into a torpedo shape, pointed on each end. note that you make need to wet your hands. just have them moistened rather than dripping wet.
place the kibbeh down and form all of them this way. make sure there are not openings in the walls of the kibbeh or they will fall apart or fill with oil when frying.
cooking the kibbeh:
important: just like cooking falafel, if you're heat is not at the proper temperature, what you are frying here risks falling apart. most likely, it won't so don't be apprehensive.
place about 3 to 4 cups of oil in a pan and bring it to medium heat. you can take a small piece of bread and put it in to see if it starts to bubble and fry. if the heat is too high, take the pan off the heat and let it cool slightly; lower the temperature before proceding.
place the kibbeh about 4 at a time in the oil and cook them until they are browned, turning if necessary.
i cook them for about 6 to 8 minutes.
if you are freezing these, cook them half way and place on paper towel until cooled. freeze until you want them. see the intro for how to cook them after being frozen.