Fried meat and bulgur croquettes
Makes about 30
Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 15mins
Kibbeh meqliyeh is a delicious little Middle eastern croquette made from a bulgur and meat shell filled with minced meat and nuts. Aleppo is famed for its kibbeh, with dozens of varieties of fillings, shapes and sauces and there is always a plate of it on our iftar table during Ramadan.
A somewhat labour-intensive dish, my mother would dedicate a day for making different kinds of kibbeh to make sure our freezer supplies were always replenished, ready to be taken out and cooked whenever needed. Wanting to help, I remember the first time I asked my grandmother to teach me how to shape the kibbeh. As I struggled to finish my first not-very-pretty kibbeh, my grandmother had already finished making ten perfectly shaped ones, teasingly assuring me that I would get better with practice. She was right, and while my kibbeh are still nowhere as perfect as hers, they are definitely better and very much worth the effort of making.
Kibbeh was traditionally made by pounding the meat and bulgur in a large mortar but nowadays most people use a meat grinder. Not everyone has either of these, so the recipe below describes how you can make the kibbeh in a food processor – just make sure to use fine bulgur. It is also important to use very lean meat to get the consistency of the kibbeh right. In Aleppo, the meat used is called Habra and has a very smooth consistency which you can recreate meat with a simple trick using a food processor and ice cubes, as described below.
For the meat and bulgur shell
500g extra lean minced beef
400g fine bulgur
1 medium-sized onion, quartered
2 tsp salt
2 tsp bhar (Aleppo spice mix) or Lebanese 7-spice mix*
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
For the meat filling
1 onion, diced
350g minced beef
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bhar (Aleppo spice mix)*
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
2 cups cold water mixed with 2 teaspoons salt for shaping the kibbeh
Vegetable oil for frying
*The Lebanese seven-spice mix is easily found in most Middle eastern stores. Otherwise, you can replace the bhar with ½ tsp allspice, ¼ tsp ground black pepper, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground nutmeg, ¼ tsp ground cardamom, ¼ tsp ground cloves
Make the filling
Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan and the diced onion. Cook on medium heat until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the minced meat, using a wooden spoon to break it apart and stir until the meat is cooked through. Add the salt and spices, adjusting to your taste as necessary. Turn off the heat and add the chopped walnuts to the meat. Mix in until well combined and set aside to cool down.
Make the meat and bulgur shell
Rinse the bulgur in a fine-meshed strainer. Place the bulgur in a bowl and add ¼ cup water. Allow the bulgur to rest for 30 minutes. Place the lean minced beef in a food processor and mix with one ice cube. As the ice cube is blended in, the meat with come together in a ball and will have a smooth, dough-like consistency. Take the meat out and place it in a bowl. Place the bulgur and quartered onion in the processor and blend until the onion is finely chopped and blended in with the bulgur. Remove and place in a bowl. Place half the meat mix with half the bulgur mix in the food processor and pulse until the two are thoroughly combined. Repeat with the remaining bulgur and meat. I do this step in two stages as my food processor is not able to process all the meat and bulgur at the same time. Knead the mix with the flour, salt and spices so that it shapes a smooth dough. If you prefer to use a meat grinder, you can process the bulgur and onion together using the fine-holed plate. Once the bulgur and onion have been processed together, run the mix through the grinder again, adding the meat, salt and spices to the mix. Knead the mix with the flour so that it comes together in a smooth dough.
To shape the kibbeh
Wet your palms with the cold salted water. Take a golf ball sized piece from the meat and bulgur mix and roll it between your hands to form a smooth ball. Using your index finger, slowly making a hole in the centre of the ball as you turn the ball around in the palm of your other hand. Keep going until you have shaped a cup shaped shell with one open end. Using a small teaspoon, place two spoons of the meat filling into the shell and carefully bring the open side together, pursing it gently between your index finger and thumb until it closes. You can now either roll the ball between your hands so that it is smooth all over, or you can point the two sides of the ball to get a more traditional oval-shaped kibbeh. Continue until you have used up all the shell and filling mixes.
Heat the vegetable oil in a sauce pan until it reaches 170C
The kibbeh needs to be deep fried so there should be enough oil to cover the kibbeh. It is also important to not overcrowd the kibbeh as putting too many at the same time will lower the temperature of the oil making the kibbeh fall apart.
Fry each kibbeh for about 3-4 minutes until lightly brown and crispy. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
The kibbeh is best enjoyed hot or at room temperature with some yogurt or a fresh salad. You can freeze the uncooked kibbeh and simply fry as above straight from the freezer.