One of my absolute favorite Middle Eastern meals without a doubt is kibbe.
If you’re not familiar, traditional kibbe is a kind of Middle Eastern meatball made with a cracked wheat (bulghur) and minced beef shell and stuffed with a slow cooked minced meat filling.
I’ve lived in a few North American cities dominated by Arab communities and was exposed to this delectable Levantine dish a while back. Let me tell you, kibbe made in its traditional football shape is insanely difficult to form and is a work of art. I’ve been in a number of households with women gathered around the kitchen table constructing these savory goodies at lightening speed and it’s fascinating how they’re made. Quickly forming shells with the most perfect hand motion, shoving the stuffing in and closing them up within seconds, then on to the next. At the same time this white girl sits there in the kitchen working on her first kibbe ball for a few minutes and fails miserably. Oh-Em-Gee. Guys, not once have I been able produce an edible kibbe. Holy fail.
Then came along Waleed’s aunt’s simple kibbe recipe. The bulghur “shell” is basically flattened out into a pan, layered with the minced meat filling and then topped with more bulghur mix. It’s got all the YUM without the headache! Shout out to auntie for making my life infinitely easier and for cooking up one of my favorite meals. Praaaaaise.
One thing about Middle Eastern cuisine which can be considered a positive or a negative is that there are usually only a few simple spices mixed with fresh ingredients. The question then becomes, where does the flavor come from? It’s all in the process.
It’s not a quick one but the time and love in this classic dish is so worth it. A huge flavor trigger is in the caramelized onions mixed slowly simmered with minced beef and allspice. What you’re left with in the end is truly a complete meal in and of itself.
So, did I mention most importantly that this dish is BOMB?! Because it’s bomb.I like to top my flattened kibbe with more caramelized onion strings and a little gravy. Add a side of lemony yogurt and you have one of the best traditional Middle Eastern meals out there.
If you are looking to break into this cuisine and aren’t sure how or where to start, this dish is a great jumping off point. It’s traditional, it’s flavorful, it pleases even the pickiest of mouths and fills the family. Kibbe fills my heart with incredible joy every time it’s roasting in my oven. I put all my love into this recipe because it represents keeping family, culture and traditions alive. From my family to yours, happy cooking y’all!
- 2 large white onions, chopped
- 3 lbs. minced beef
- 2 tbsp. pepper
- 1 tbsp. salt + 1 tsp.
- 2 tbsp. allspice
- 1/2 beef bouillon cube
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 3/4 cup fine bulghur (cracked wheat)
- 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup hot water
- Add the bulgur to a medium sized bowl and add hot water to the bowl. Allow the bulgur to soften and absorb the water (30 minutes - 1 hour).
- Add the vegetable oil to a large pan and caramelize 1 onion on medium-low heat. Add 1 1/2 lbs. of beef, 1 tbsp. allspice, chili powder, 1 tbsp pepper, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 beef bouillon cube. Mix and cook on low.
- While the beef is cooking, make the outer beef layers. Put the remaining beef, bulgur, 1 tbsp. pepper, 1 tsp. salt and 1 tbsp. allspice. Using your hands, mix until fully incorporated. Don't over-mix because beef will get tough.
- Oil the inside of a 9 inch. glass pan with 1-2 tbsp. olive oil. Scoop a small handful of the bulgur meat in your hand, flatten and lay in the glass pan (should be about 1 inch thick). Repeat until there is a full layer in the bottom of the pan. Layer the cooked beef on top. Repeat the bottom layer of bulgur meat on top.
- Poke a hole in the middle of the dish. Slice criss-cross, vertical and horizontal lines through the top layer of the dish. Add remaining olive oil on top.
- Bake at 375F for 30-40 minutes or until browned.