Monday, April 30, 2012

"Kibbeh" Meatballs

I've been away for a while, I went to Japan for vacation and it was fabulous!  Once I raid my local Japanese market, I'm definitely going to try and make some of the amazing food I tried while I was there.  Real ramen! Katsu! Sushi!  Well, maybe not sushi.  From what I hear it's expensive to ride in an ambulance.

But until then, here is a dish that was almost a colossal failure until my husband suggested we turn it into meatballs. It turned out to be a great tasting meal that made enough meatballs for me to freeze some extra.  I topped it with some super easy muhammara sauce and served it with a side of tabbouleh.

The plan was to make this recipe for baked kibbeh.  I don't know if it was because I ground my own lamb (Wegman's was out), if my onions were too watery, or my food processor juiced up on steroids while I was away, but it turned my kibbeh shell mixture into a sticky, runny pile of gloop that was impossible to roll into a uniform sheet and even harder to cut into rounds with a cookie cutter.  As I sat with my lamb gloop in one bowl and my delicious smelling filing in a frying pan and attempted to figure out how exactly I was going to turn it into kibbeh, my husband had an idea.  Why not just stir the filling into the meat disaster and make meatballs?  Brilliant!

These meatballs were pretty large.  The recipe made 12 and three per person is definitely enough so I froze the rest.  I'll definitely make these again, but probably in a bigger batch so I can freeze more.  This dish required a my mixer (with meat grinder attachment), food processor and a blender (because I made the sauce), which is labor intensive enough that I wouldn't make it from scratch on a work night. They were spicy and sweet at the same time, though the muhammara made it just a tad spicier. But in a good way.  The spice mixture works really well with the lamb.  One thing that I love about Middle Eastern cooking is the use of spices like cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg with meat. 

I substituted hazelnuts for walnuts because my husband is allergic and added extra red pepper paste.  The muhammara sauce was easy, I skipped a few steps because I decided to make it at the last minute and it was fine.  I used panko instead of regular breadcrumbs.

"Kibbeh" Meatballs
Accidentally adapted from Taste of Beirut
Makes 12 - 16 meatballs

Meat Mixture
1 lb ground lamb
1 cup bulgur (I used medium)
1 medium size onion
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of paprika

2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large onion)
2 cups chopped hazelnuts
1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 Tbsp red pepper paste (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil as needed

1) Preheat your oven to 375 F.  To make the meat mixture, chop the onion in a food processor (but not too finely) or by hand.  Soak the bulgur in water for 15 seconds and then drain it, pressing out as much water as you can.  Place the bulgur, onion, and spices in the food processor and mix well.  Scrape into a bowl and set aside. Add ground lamb to the processor and mix for about a minute and a half.  Return the onion mix to the processor and mix everything together really well.

2) To make the filling, fry the onions in a little olive oil until they're golden, about 10 mins.  Then add hazelnuts and mix.  Add the red pepper paste and pomegranate molasses and mix well.  Make sure all the red pepper paste is broken up and evenly mixed.

3)  To make the meatballs, mix the meat mixture and the "filling" together in a bowl.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray (or put tin foil on it and spray that).  Wet your hands and form the meat/filling mixture into 2 inch meatballs.  This mixture was really sticky, so be careful.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Serve in shallow bowls topped with muhammara sauce.

Muhammara Sauce
Slightly adapted from Epicurious


1 7 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained
2/3 cup panko
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and very coarsely chopped (just enough to make it easy to mix them in a blender)
2 large or 4 normal garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in a blender.  Mix well.  

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