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You can make Kibbeh, yes you can
Kibbeh (kubbah) or friend “football shaped” burghul stuffed with diced lamb and browned sliced almonds is a popular side dish delicacy of the Mediterranean diet and a staple of most Arab meals. It’s tricky but you can do it
By Ray Hanania
One of my absolute favorite Middle East foods is fried Kibbeh (kubbah) stuffed with lamb.
Making the kibbeh dough that you shape into “footballs” and then stuff with diced lamb and browned almond slices (or with browned pine nuts) can seem tough but you can get the hang of it.
First, make the outer shell.
The shell is made of fine burghul, a cereal food ingredient made from the groats of several different wheat species, most often from durum wheat. Bulgur is a kind of dried cracked wheat and is often used in diced salads like Tabouli.
Here’s what you need to make the outer shell:
- One onion finely diced
- 1 teaspoon of Cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon of Cumin spice
- 1 tablespoon of ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon of finely ground garlic
- 4 cups of fine burghul, which you can purchase at most ethnic grocery stores and some major retailers like Jewel, Marianos, Walmart and CostCo. A popular brand is made by Ziyad Brothers Importing
Mix the burghul in cold water with a quarter of the diced onions and half of the spices. Let the mixture soak for 30 minutes. Drain the excess water and squeeze the now dough-like burghul of water.
You can also add 1 pound of finely diced lamb meat to the mixture, mixing thoroughly.
The inside stuffing:
- 4 pounds of diced lamb
- Pine nuts or almond slices
Fry the diced lamb and diced onions together in a medium frying pan with 1 tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Brown the pine nuts or almond slices and add the remaining spices. Don’t over cook. Once the lamb appears browned and succulent, set aside off the fire.
Take the burghul dough and grab a small handful the size of two golf balls and roll in your hand, shaping it like a small football. Push in the center to create a cavity and fill it with the fried lamb and almond/pine nut mixture.
Close the end of the burghul dough so it forms a closed football with the stuffing completely covered.
Do this repeatedly until all of the burghul is formed and stuffed.
Now, in a separate deep frying or sauce pan, add 2 cups of Olive oil and heat to at least 175 degrees. Fry the kibbeh footballs until they are golden brown. Lift out and set aside on a paper towel to cool and absorb excess oil.
The difficult part will be the make the burghul dough and to form the footballs, pushing out the cavity space with your fingers or thumb. It will take several efforts to get it right. The burghul dough, if done right, will not break up and will have a solid consistency that stays together like bread dough.
Alternative recipe for Baked Kibbeh (Kubbah):
Instead of creating individual “footballs” of fried burghul dough, you can create a kubbah (kibbeh) cake.
Take half of the burghul dough and cover the bottom of a large baking pan (10 inches wide by 12 inches long) about 1/2 inch deep. Add a layer of the diced lamb and browned almond slices or browned pine nuts mixture, as if you were making a lasagna.
Once the mixture is added to about 1/2 inch depth, now cover with another layer of the remaining burghul dough.
The difference between burghul and cracked wheat:
Cracked Wheat is commonly found in Arab and Middle Eastern cuisine. It is similar to Bulghur (Bulgar, Bulgur, Bulghar) which is a wheat kernel steamed, dried, and crushed. Cracked Wheat is simply a wheat kernel broken into fragments without being cooked, but the two are often confused and used interchangeably.
Bulghur is slightly chewy but still tender. It’s excellent in salads or stews, and serves as one of the main ingredients in the Middle Eastern salad Cracked Wheat Similar, but different. Both come in various grinds (Fine, medium, coarse and whole). Bulghuar is often confused with cracked wheat.
The only difference is that Bulghur is whole wheat kernels that have been pre-boiled, dried, and ground to various sizes. Cracked Wheat is often uncooked. This is used in many recipes, including Tabouli salad. You soak the Cracked Wheat to soften it for the salad. Bulghur is often used as an alternative to rice, noodles or as a cous cous variety. Bulgar is high in dietary fibers and carbohydrates, low in fat, rich in natural Vitamins such as B, Iron, Phosphorus and Manganese. Cracked wheat comes in fine, medium and course sizes.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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