Recipe: Kibbeh is the king of Syrian cuisine

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Habeeb Salloum

It is usually made with lamb or beef and mixed with burghul and sometimes rice. It is a traditional dish served all year.

A close runner-up in the meat kibbehs is the vegetarian version made with potatoes. With its subtle taste of good spices, it is best served with plain yogurt. When mixing the ingredients, make sure to incorporate all the ingredients working them together to produce a smooth mixture.

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To make the stuffing, melt the butter in a frying pan; then add the remaining stuffing ingredients and sauté over medium heat until onion is limp. Set aside.

To make the kibbeh, soak burghul for 10 minutes in warm water; then drain by pressing out water through a strainer.

In a mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the burghul with all the remaining ingredients except the oil, then divide into two even portions.

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

Spread 1 portion of the kibbeh evenly in a 9 x 13-inch well-greased baking pan. Spread the stuffing evenly over top. Spread the remaining portion of the kibbeh evenly over top and pat smooth.

Cut into 2-inch squares then sprinkle with the oil.

Bake for 40 minutes or until edges turn golden brown. (For a darker topping, place under the broiler for a few minutes.) Serve hot or cold. Serves 6 to 8

Stuffing ingredients

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Kibbeh ingredients

1 cup fine burghul

3 cups mashed potatoes

(about 4 large potatoes, boiled,

peeled, and mashed)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

3 tablespoons white flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried mint

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

4 tablespoons olive oil

Habeeb Salloum is a Canadian author who grew up in Saskatchewan, joined the RCAF in World War II, and worked for the National Revenue Agency for 36 years. Since his retirement he has been a full-time author and freelance writer specializing in food, history, and travel. Besides 15 books, his articles have appeared in many journals and newspapers across Canada.

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