Kibbeh is a popular Middle Eastern finger food made from ground meat, cracked bulgur wheat, and aromatic spices. Its outer crust is a mixture of meat, bulgur and spices and then filled with more meat to give a nice surprise when you take a bite. Traditionally it is deep fried and served as a side with garlic sauce, hummus or yogurt. Growing up in Michigan, one of my favorite things to look forward to was going to Dearborn (Arab Town) and ordering kibbeh for dinner with my family.
With Fall in the air and it being squash season, I figured why not bring my two favorite things to Florida; Autumn and Kibbeh. Clearly I'm not going to see the leaves change color, nor am I going to get Dearborn kibbeh anytime soon. So here's my take on an autumn inspired kibbeh with roasted pumpkin, warm cinnamon and baked to perfection.
I start by making homemade pumpkin puree. You can always use canned pumpkin puree and skip this step but I LOVE homemade puree and use it in smoothies, desserts, and even for my little one who eats it with a spoon. If you have a little one at home mix the puree with apple sauce and a little cinnamon and nutmeg...they will gobble it up in a minute.
Back to the puree. You want to use a small sugar pumpkin to make your puree. The big pumpkins don’t have much flavor and don’t give that delicious sweet taste that small sugar pumpkins give. Start by removing the stem and all the fiber and seeds (save the seeds and roast them for a snack later). Then you want to cut it in half and roast it in the oven on 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes on a parchment lined baking sheet.
When a knife goes through the pumpkin easily that means it’s ready. Let it cool then remove the skin, which will come off easily. Then just puree it until it’s a fine consistency. I only pureed half the pumpkin because you only need 1/4 cup for this recipe, the rest of the puree I mixed with apple sauce for my son and the other half I chopped in cubes for dinner another day.
**The roasted pumpkin/puree can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge for upto a week.
For the outer crust of the kibbeh you will need about 3/4 lb. of lean ground meat, 1/4 of a large onion (chopped), Arab 7 spice, cinnamon, ground ginger, salt/pepper and red Thai chili paste. You will also need cracked or whole bulgur wheat, 2 tbsp olive oil, half a lemon juiced, and 1/4 of your reserved pumpkin puree.
I used whole bulgur wheat because that’s what I had on hand but you can use cracked if you have and avoid the step of grinding. You want to take about a cup of your wheat and let it soak in water for at least a half hour. You will notice it become bigger in size. After about a half hour you want to strain it and grind it in your food processor until it becomes fine. Then add it to your meat, pumpkin and spice mixture and mix everything until well combined, then set it aside.
Now let’s move onto the filling. Take 1/4 lb. of ground meat, 1/4 of a large onion (chopped), 2 cloves of garlic (chopped), 1/4 cup frozen spinach, salt/pepper, date molasses or maple syrup, half a lemon juice and the following spices: sumac, cayenne pepper, turmeric, cumin, and coriander, all ground.
Sauté the onion and garlic in a tbsp of oil until translucent then add the rest of the ingredients. Brown the meat until it’s cooked through and dry. If you have excess oil or liquid drain it off because you want a dry filling so you’re not left with a wet, broken kibbeh.
Now this step is optional but I like to add a crunch surprise to my filling, pinenuts, chopped walnuts, and pomegranates. If you have picky eaters like me or nut allergies, just skip this step. Now you’re ready to assemble...your outer crust should be mixed and look like this, and your filling should be ready to stuff.
Traditional Kibbeh is a football shape and the easiest way to assemble them is by using a mini ice cream scoop. I use 2 scoops of the outer crust, then flatten it and I add about a tsp of the filling. Then I fold it over and roll it into an oval shape. Last, I place it on a parchment lined baking sheet and pinch the ends to give them the football points.
At this point you have a couple options, you can cover and freeze them, pull them out as needed, or you can deep fry/bake them.
On a crunch and don’t have time to make the traditional football shape? or have to feed a large crowd? Just grease a baking dish and add half the outer crust to the bottom of the dish, then the filling, then the other half of the outer filling.
Score it with a knife and sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional).
Whether you’re making the meatloaf version of kibbeh or the football shape, spray or brush them liberally with oil and bake them on 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, then broil for an additional 5 minutes or until the crust is crispy and brown and the kibbeh is cooked through.
And voila! Baked to perfection Pumpkin Kibbeh. It only makes it feel more like Fall in sunny Florida when you serve it my favorite way...with some cranberry chutney! Who's coming over?
Be sure to print the Recipe Printable to have your own season of Fall on a plate!