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Saints Above! Open Kibbeh

I’m going to marry Yotam Ottolenghi.  Sure, he may be playing for the other team and doesn’t even know I exist but I am having a love affair with him anyway.  Oh, OK, with his food.  My books arrived from Amazon the other day and I’m enjoying every moment of leafing through, poring over recipes and pictures.  This recipe though, is in neither of the books, being torn out of The Guardian Weekend, earlier this year.  Unlike recipes from his ‘New Vegetarian’ column, this one’s a modern twist on traditional Ki

bbeh.  Kibbeh comes in all forms and most typically, you will find the mix of lamb, bulgur (cracked wheat) and herbs squashed together in a type of elongated, deep fried meatball.  Like most Middle Eastern cuisine though, there are a myriad of regional differences, family secrets and local specialties.

I have been wanting to make this since the day I ripped the page out but there has always been something conspiring against me: no lamb mince at the butcher, too many social engagements, unbelievably Woolies don’t stock bulgur anymore.  Come one Woolworths – don’t you know that grains are the next big food wave?  Finally, the stars aligned so here’s a recipe from St Otto to tide you over until I start working my way through the books.  Lots of ingredients but simple to make!

Open Kibbeh

  • 125g fine bulgur wheat
  • 90ml olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped (optional)
  • 350g lamb mince
  • 1tsp ground allspice
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • 2tbsp roughly chopped coriander
  • 3tbsp roughly chopped parsley
  • 60g pine nuts
  • 2tbsp self raising flour
  • 50g tahini
  • 2tp lemon juice
  • 1tsp sumac
  • Salt & pepper to season


  1. Preheat oven to 180c. Grease a loose bottom (spring form) cake tin and line with baking paper
  2. Place bulgur in a bowl, add 200ml tap water and set aside to soak for 30 minutes
  3. Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan, saute onion, chilli and garlic on a medium heat until soft.
  4. Remove onion mix from pan, return pan to heat and add the lamb.  Cook for 5 minutes until brown.
  5. Return onion mix to lamb along with spices (not sumac), chopped coriander and parsley, salt and pepper and most of the pine nuts (save some for a garnish).
  6. Cook for a few minutes, remove from heat and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  7. Check that bulgur has absorbed most of the water and strain off any that has not been absorbed.  Leave bulgur in strainer for 5 minutes, giving a press occasionally to force out any excess water.
  8. Add flour, 1 tablespoon of oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a grind of pepper to bulgur and mix.  It will form a grainy paste that just holds together.
  9. Put bulgur and flour mix into bottom of cake tin, pushing firmly to spread out as a base.  Spread lamb mix evenly over the top.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes or until meat is very brown and very hot.
  11. Whisk tahini, lemon juice, 50ml water and a pinch of salt to form a thick but pourable sauce (you may need a little extra water).  Remove kibbeh from oven, spread sauce on top, sprinkle with reserved pine nuts and a little extra chopped parsley.
  12. Cook for a further 10 minutes until the pine nuts are golden.
  13. Allow to cool slightly, sprinkle with sumac and then cut into wedges.
  14. Serve with Pearl Barley Tabouleh – published on TIFFIN a few weeks ago.
Open Kibbeh...tastes better than my photo suggests!

Open Kibbeh…tastes better than my photo suggests!

1 comment… add one
  • Anonymous November 17, 2011, 9:03 am

    I have to disagree that your photo wouldn't do this justice – just looking at it is making me drool rather inelegantly. This dish is one of my all time favourite things to eat, and it looks like you created a very authentic version. And how is it that Woolies don't stock bulgar any more? That's redonkulous.


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