Kebbeh, the national dish of Lebanon, is an emulsification of the freshest minced lamb and burghul with essential 7-spices. In the old days, Lebanese women would pound the meat and the burghul in a mortar and pestle then knead in the spices, a process which can be excruciatingly exhausting. Oh hail, thou food processor!
Kebbeh can be eaten raw (kebbeh naye) which is similar to steak tartare and is one of the popular methods of enjoying it in Lebanon along with a glass of arak. The method used in this recipe is Kebbeh bil Sayneeye, or baked kebbeh. Another common method is Kebbeh Qrass, whereby the kebbeh mixture is molded into small, hollowed balls and then stuffed with the typical filling (listed below) before being fried.
I also wrote about kebbeh making with some stories related to my family for Food52. You can check it out here.
Even with the advent of the food processor, kebbeh making can still be a bit time consuming. It usually takes about 1 hour prep time and in this case about 45 minutes of baking. Nevertheless, it’s well worth it. I always make loads and freeze it for later consumption. If you are going to freeze the kebbeh, follow all the directions provided below, except for baking. On the day of consumption pull it out of the freezer, leave it out to barely thaw for about 30 minutes, and then bake for 1 hour. The below recipe can feed about 12 people as part of a meal and makes 4 flans. It’s entertainment quantities.
- 1 kg minced lamb- from the leg (ask your butcher)
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 3 tablespoon of allspice (the spice) or 7-spices (even proportions of black pepper, clove, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, cumin)
- 2 teaspoons of nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
- 350g of very fine burghul, soaked 1hour and well drained
- Salt to taste (I put in about 2 tbsp
- 4 recyclable flan cases 215 mm DIA x 24 mm deep
- Olive oil for drizzling
- 2 large onions, cut into rings or thin strands (see picture)
- 500g of minced lamb
- 1 tablespoon 7 spices/allspice
- 80 grams pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil (healthier option obviously)
- Yogurt Dressing:
- 500g natural Greek style yogurt
- ¼ cup water
- 2 garlic cloves, pureed in a mortar
- 1 large cucumber, finely sliced
- 20 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- salt to taste
- Mix all ingredients together and let sit in fridge.
- Lets begin by making the filling:
- Place a skillet or sautee pan over medium heat, drizzle the olive oil and sautee the onions till soft, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the pine nuts and sautee for another 2-3 minutes until almost golden. Now add the minced meat and cook till browned. Mix the spices in and add salt and pepper to taste.
- In a food processor, mix the quartered onions on high, till almost pureed in consistency. Add the meat a quarter at a time. Mix well.
- Now add the strained burghul, a cup at a time.
- Mix on high. Add the spices and salt and give it a final whizzzz... About 2-3 minutes on turbo. The result should be a smooth emulsified paste. Pre-heat oven to 4G/350F/180c. Divide the Kibbeh paste into 8 even portions. Lightly grease your baking dish, in this case dishes, and spread 1 portion of the kibbeh for each dish, creating an even layer.
- Evenly spread the meat filling across all the baking dishes
- Now cover each dish with 1 portion of the remaining Kibbeh, creating a final layer. Using a knife, gently slice into the top layer, diagonally creating diamond shapes; then divide into six even slices. Create a small hole in the center and drizzle all over with olive oil. This gives it a nice golden brown color as well as adding a bit of flavor. I don't recommend that you skip this step, but rather just go the lighter way.
- Pop into the oven for about 45 minutes or till golden brown. I usually grill it the last 6-8 minutes because I like when the top layer gets extra crispy.
- Pour the yoghurt dressing over each slice and serve with Fattoush salad!