Thursday, April 30, 2015

Baked Kibbeh - A Terrific Levantine Arabic Dish

Kibbeh is considered a Levantine Arabic dish, but it is popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It comes in many cooked variations and shapes, and at least one raw version. The main ingredients are lean ground meat (normally lamb, but alternatively made with beef, goat, or camel), bulghur wheat (burghul in Arabic), onion, and spices. For a thorough introduction to Kibbeh, see the Wikipedia article at

My mother used to make at least three versions, including the raw version. I loved them all. I decided to try the baked version. It turned out to be fantastic, and much easier than I anticipated.

For a dinner menu with Kibbeh as the main dish, I recommend the following accompaniments - tabouleh salad, hummus and pita bread, laban (Arab yoghurt), and baklava for dessert. Laban can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores. Buy pita bread at a Middle Eastern grocery if possible, not a supermarket. There's a world of difference. Another nice accompaniment would be Armenian or Syrian string cheese. It is mild, delicious, and pulls apart in string-like pieces.

Although I had several recipes in Middle Eastern cookbooks at home, I decided to try a YouTube search to see if I could find a chef making Kibbeh. I found several, but one in particular was terrific. I strongly recommend viewing it at The chef - Kamal - is terrific. His home page is He has written a Lebanese cookbook called Classic Lebanese Cuisine.

Baked Kibbeh is known in Arabic as Kibbeh be Saniyeh or Kibbeh bi Sinniyeh, which means, "Kibbeh in a pan."

Below is the recipe Chef Kamal and others use for Baked Kibbeh. The version below has a few changes I made - I used ½ pound of lamb in the filling instead of ¼ pound. I used almonds instead of pine nuts. Pine nuts are traditional, but I don't care for them.

As indicated above, it can be made with some meat other than lamb. Chef Kamal also mentions chicken.

Chef Kamal mentions that both cooked and uncooked Kibbeh can be kept in the freezer. Consequently, you can prepare it in advance.

The recipe below can serve 8. I think I could devour half.

Baked Kibbeh has three layers - a layer of dough, covered by a layer of filling, covered by a top layer of dough.

Dough Ingredients
1&1/4 cups bulghur fine - soak overnight with 1 cup water, (Bulghur wheat comes in different levels of fineness. Use level 1, which is the finest. If you can't find it at a local store, it is available on
1 & ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ tsp allspice
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ lb lean ground lamb - ground very fine (Do not use a meat processor. I do not have a meat grinder, so I used two different approaches, both successfully - 1. Ask your butcher to grind this portion of lamb as fine as possible. The butcher at Publix was happy to do this. 2. The second time I made the Kibbeh, I bought a package of Australian minced lamb. It worked perfectly.)
¾ cup coarsely chopped yellow onion
1/3 cup olive oil

Filling Ingredients
1 & 1/2 tbsp toasted pine nuts / almonds
1 tbsp olive oil in frying pan
½ lb coarsely ground lamb
¾ cup diced yellow onion in 1/4 " pieces
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
¼ tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Dough directions
Put spices in large bowl
Grind onions very fine in food processor (be careful not to purée)
Mix onions with lamb - massage them together with the spices
Put kibbeh in bowl and aggressively massage ingredients together
Divide dough in half - one half for bottom and one half for top

Filling directions
Put olive oil in skillet
Preheat skillet over medium high heat
Put lamb in skillet
As lamb is cooking, break it into very small pieces with wooden spoon until lamb is no longer pink
Add spices & onion and mix with lamb
Turn heat to low and sauté until onions are translucent

Directions for combining dough and filling
Place one half of dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and roll flat into circle with rolling pin. Roll from the center to the outside.
Take off and keep top sheet of plastic wrap (for rolling of second half of dough)
Pick up the dough with the remaining sheet of plastic wrap in flip into bottom of 9" pan
Place a small bowl of cool water next to the pan
Put a little water onto the bottom dough and pat it down and up against the sides of the pan
Spread filling on top of bottom dough, being careful not to let filling touch the sides of the pan (to keep from burning filling during cooking).
Sprinkle nuts across filling.
Roll second half of filling in the same way as the first, making sure it's large enough to cover the top, and even a bit larger.
Use water to press down top.
Using a knife, separate the kibbeh from the sides of the pan
Cut kibbeh into quarters
Score top of kibbeh into squares or diamond shape
Pour olive oil over the top. Tilt pan so entire surface is covered with olive oil.
Baked at 400 for 35-40 minutes

Recut the ¼ pieces. Then recut into smaller pieces.