Kibbeh from Sarah Choueka

Since tasting stuffed kibbeh on my first visit to Israel in 1971, I had been looking for someone to teach me to make these small, torpedo-shaped delicacies. Renowned in Syrian and Lebanese cuisine, stuffed kibbeh are made from a bulghur wheat shell, filled with a fragrant meat mixture, and deep fried. The skill of making stuffed kibbeh has been one of those legendary arts passed from mother to daughter, each with a secret method for stuffing the fragile shell, closing it properly, and frying it without breakage. Sarah Choueka, my close friend and excellent cook with Syrian Jewish origins, taught me to prepare stuffed kibbeh during a visit with her family while they were on sabbatical in New Jersey, Shavuoth (the Feast of Weeks), 1987. She also passed on her modern method of using a kibbeh shell attachment for my KitchenAid mixer, thereby making the process accessible to those of us without a long family kibbeh tradition.

Ingredients

Yield: 70 kibbeh

Brown the meat and onions in a small sauce pan, add the spices and water, and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain the meat and allow to cool while preparing the dough. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Mix dough ingredients, adding water if needed for a firm, not dry, consistency. Put dough in kibbeh machine, cut 4" lengths, close at 1 end, use a bit of water to seal. Fill with meat, and close the other end with a damp finger. Freeze well in a single layer, covered tightly, on a cookie sheet. To serve, heat oil in a deep pot, and fry kibbeh until brown and crisp.

Machine and parts: The kibbeh attachments are available at Mansura, in Brooklyn, New York, between 2nd and 3rd on King's Highway.

If you do not have a kibbeh attachment or machine, you can try your luck at the traditional method. The object is to prepare a shell as narrow and as even as possible, about the length of your forefinger. Take an egg-sized piece of the kibbeh dough in the palm of your left hand. Using your right forefinger, make a hole in the dough, and slowly mold the dough around the right forefinger with the left hand to make a torpedo-shaped hollow shell, closed at one end (where the right forefinger tip is). Use a moisentened finger to smooth any cracks. Fill with the assistance of a small, narrow spoon, and close the end of the kibbeh with a moistened finger, smoothing the entire length. Freeze and fry as above.

Serve kibbeh arranged in neatly layered rows on a large tray, accompanied by humous, tehina, and Israeli tomato/cucumber salad.

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