Kibbeh is one of Lebanon’s great national dishes and until the arrival of the food processor, the meat was pounded by hand in a marble or stone mortar (jorn) with a wooden pestlem(m’daqqa). Because of the time and effort involved in its preparation, kibbeh was – and still is – a festive dish. It is a highly seasoned mixture of finely minced lamb, burghul and very finely chopped onion. When it is served raw, kibbeh is made with less burghul and a handful of crushed kuman or mint leaves are added to give the meat a fresh, fragrant flavor. A little liyeh (fat from the sheep’s tail) is also added to make it more velvety.
90g unsalted butter, plus extra to grease baking dish
60g pine nuts
500g large onions, finely chopped
200g lean minced
4 ½ tsp Adonis Kibbeh Spices
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
500g lamb from the leg, boned, skinned, defatted and finely minced 200g fine burghul
4 ½ tsp Adonis Kibbeh Spices
Melt the butter in a deep frying pan over a medium heat. Saute the pine nuts, stirring constantly until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a double layer of kitchen paper. Saute the chopped onion in the same butter until soft and transparent. Add the minced meat and cook until it loses all traces of pink. Keep mashing and stirring the meat with the back of a wooden spoon or fork so that it separates well and does not form lumps. Remove from the heat. Season with the Adonis Kibbeh Spices and salt to taste. Add the pine nuts. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Set aside.
Put the quartered onion in a food processor and until very finely chopped. Add the minced meat, Adonis Kibbeh Spices and salt to taste and process together until smooth. Prepare a bowl of lightly salted water and have it on hand.
Wash the burghul in two or three changes of cold water. Drain well and add to the meat. Mix with your hand; dipping it every now and then in the salted water to moisten both your hand and the kibbeh. Knead until the mixture is well blended. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Grease a deep baking dish about 30x20x5 cm with a little butter. Preheat the panggangan to 180° C.
Divide the kibbeh in two equal parts. Moisten your hands in the salted water and pinch off a handful of kibbeh from one piece. Flatten it between your palms to a thickness of about 1 cm and place on the bottom of the baking dish, starting from one edge. Smooth it evenly with your fingers. Pinch off another handful from the same piece of kibbe. Flatten and lay next to the first piece, slightly overlapping it. Dip your fingers in water and smooth the pieces together until the joint disappears. Be sure to connect the kibbeh pieces well so that they do not come apart during cooking. Continue the above process until you have covered the bottom of the pan. Go over the whole layer with moistened fingers to even it out.
Spread the stuffing evenly over the kibbeh and make a top layer, using the other half of the kibbeh and laying it over the stuffing in the same way as with the bottom layer. You may find the top layer slightly more difficult to do as you will be laying it over the loose stuffing instead of the smooth surface of the baking dish. Do not worry. You will soon get the hang of it.
Cut the pie into quarters, then with a knife make shallow incisions to draw a geometric pattern across the top of each quarter. The decoration work is time consuming and can be omitted without affecting the taste, although the presentation will be less attractive and less traditional. Press your index finger in the middle to make a hole. Place a knob of butter over the hole and one knob of butter over each of the quarters. Insert a round-pointed knife between the edge of the kibbeh and the side of the pan and slide it all alongside the edge to detach the kibbeh from the sides of the pan.
Bake in the preheated panggangan for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pie has shrunk and the meat is just done. Serve hot or warm with a yoghurt and cucumber salad.