Kibbeh – Stuffed Lamb Meatballs, a Middle Eastern meatball of ground lamb and bulgur wheat, stuffed with pine nuts, baked, sautéed or fried to perfection.
Did you know that nearly every cuisine around the world has some type of meatball? Well, in Syria and Lebanon the traditional meatball is KIBBEH.
The common thread between most meatballs is that they have some sort of grain, or filler in them. What I love about Kibbeh is that the filler is actually the pure wheat itself. Bulgur Wheat. It gets soaked overnight in water until it puffs up and is ready to incorporate into a recipe.
What I love about that process is that more flavor can be enhanced into the recipe at hand, by adding flavor to the water in which the bulgur wheat is going to drink up!
Stuffed Lamb Meatballs
While just about any meat can be ground and mixed with other ingredients, then made into meatballs, lamb meatballs are what I grew up eating.
The flavor is rich and the texture is moist, simply because lamb meat has just the right amount of fat.
We grew up making stuffed lamb meatballs with sautéed pine nuts and onions, sometimes small chunks (known as minced), of lamb.
It was always a decadent dish to serve as well as prepare and is always felt like a special occasion when we made them.
Memories Of Making Kibbeh – Stuffed Lamb Meatballs
What makes cooking special in each of our families is the memories it invokes as we look back on the times our family would cook together.
Kibbeh always carries those memories for me because something special happened when we made kibbeh.
Since the making of kibbeh is time consuming, my sisters and I would often take our seat at the table with our mom and together we rolled and stuffed kibbeh.
Nothing brings a family, of multiple ages, together and enjoy simple laughter and storytelling quite like cooking a meal that is tedious to assemble.
Kibbeh: The Ancient Traditions Of Middle Eastern Kitchens
In days of old… like biblical times, lamb and goat was the dominant meat eaten. There were electric no meat grinders. Meat was finely chopped in a variety of angles causing the meat to appear minced.
Bulgur wheat would be soaked for hours until it swelled and became soft. The two are then blended together with a variety of herbs and spices. The mixture is then kneaded, just like bread, until the meat and wheat mixture becomes almost a paste.
This texture is what sets Middle Eastern meatballs apart from most other meatballs.
Making Kibbeh together was just something my sisters and I did growing up and still delight to do now that we are grown with families of our own.
Kibbeh Nayeh Or Lamb Tartare
Raw meat? Yep! Raw meat, at one time was considered a delicacy. Beef tartare out of France and Kibbeh Nayeh out of the Middle East. I grew up eating raw kibbeh and never got sick.
No way you’d catch me eating it now. I don’t know what has changed over time but it’s just not worth the risk to pick up food borne pathogens.
Kibbeh Stuffed Lamb Meatballs Are Always Served With Yogurt
Kibbeh is always served with Homemade Yogurt, actually I have always eaten a yogurt dish with meat ever since I was a kid.
Maybe the probiotics in the ‘real’ yogurt I ate growing up saved me from getting sick with raw meat. Which brings me to the frustrating issue of yogurt.
Kibbeh And Yogurt
In ancient times, there were no refrigerators. Meat could easily cause tummy troubles if it was not cooked soon after killing.
Yogurt played a big part in Middle Eastern cuisine at keeping the tummy in good shape. Why? Bacteria. The good bacteria naturally fermented into homemade yogurt was a kind of natural medicine for the tummy.
There are numerous dishes in Middle Eastern cuisine that are created around yogurt, Cilbir, poached eggs over yogurt, being among one of my favorites.
Real Yogurt vs Not Real Yogurt
Yogurt today is, I’m sorry, A Joke! About ten years ago I decided to do an experiment with every name brand, store bought yogurt out there. Why?
Because in order to made homemade yogurt, you must first have at least half a cup of live culture yogurt from a previous batch.
With each brand name yogurt I tried to make my yogurt from, none of them would ‘set’ and become firm.
The reason was that the yogurt in the store had stopped making their yogurt the old fashioned way. They are able to add additives of bacteria, and call it real. It isn’t real.
How To Make Kibbeh – Stuffed Lamb Meatballs
There are two steps to prepare the kibbeh and two steps to cook the stuffed lamb meatballs:
- The stuffing is sautéed in olive oil and set aside to cool
- Kibbeh meatballs are assembled and then kneaded, much like bread dough before stuffing the meatballs and shaping them
- On a hot pan, the meatballs are quick seared to seal in the juices
- After a quick sear the meatballs go into the oven to finish roasting until cooked
Making Kibbeh For National Television
What was I thinking? As tedious as it is to make kibbeh, which is why most families make a large batch and freeze them, what made me think I could make them on TV?
Well, I did, and I nearly ruined them! On The Great American Recipe, with PBS, Season 1 Episode 5 I made a family style spread of kibbeh with tzatziki (cucumber and yogurt sauce), to serve with it.
If that wasn’t enough, I also made Rosemary bread, all in 90-minutes! What was I thinking?
- Ground lamb
- Bulgur wheat
- Lemon juice
- Pine nuts
- Large baking pan
- Large mixing bowl
- Medium mixing bowl
- Wooden spoon
- Citrus zester
- Garlic press
- Saute pan
- Cutting board
- Chopping knife
- Small spoon – for filling
Kibbeh – Stuffed Lamb MeatballsCourse: MeatCuisine: Mediterranean
Ground lamb and bulgur wheat meatballs stuffed with pine nuts, onions, sometimes chunks of lamb then either baked, sautéed or fried to perfection.
Ground lamb – 2 lbs.
Bulgur wheat – 1 1/2 cups (also called cracked wheat)
Cinnamon – 2 teaspoons
Salt – 1 teaspoon, for meat
Marjoram – 1 teaspoon
Lemon juice – 1 tablespoon
Garlic – 2 cloves, crushed
Salt – 1 1/2 teaspoons (for wheat)
Water – enough to cover the wheat
Onion – 1 large onion, minced
Pine nuts – 8 oz.
Cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
Salt – 1/2 teaspoon
Butter – 4 oz.
- Place the wheat, lemon juice, crushed garlic, and 11/2 teaspoons salt into a bowl and cover with water. Cover and let set overnight.
- Place the lamb into a bowl, and break up the meat. Squeeze all the liquid out of the wheat and add to the meat. Slowly begin to squeeze and knead the meat and wheat together, adding a little of the spices as you go, until all the spices are incorporated and you can barely see the difference between the wheat and the meat. Squeeze and knead, and squeeze and knead. Roll into little footballs. Press your thumb down the center to make room for the stuffing.
- Melt butter. Add onions and cook on medium covered until soft. Add pine nuts and spices. Stir and cook open until the nuts begin to take a little bit of color. Turn off and let cool.
- Place a small spoon (1/2 teaspoon size) into each cavity of lamb balls. Squeeze the open hole closed.
- Place in a baking pan/dish, in a preheated 350 degrees oven, and bake for 25 to 40 minutes, depending on how large you made the kibbeh balls. You want the outer color to begin to brown but not over cooked.