In the Middle East, dishes made with bulgur always graced the Hanukkah table.
Kurdish Jews call this dish kubba, and in Egypt it is called kobeba. In the Middle East, Jewish women used to be judged on their prowess in shaping kibbeh into long, torpedo-shaped, shelled dumplings. Making the crust is much easier now that a food processor can be used to make the paste.
However, all the hard work of pounding the bulgur with the meat and shaping the crust into a thin shell to be stuffed has been alleviated by the more modern technique of layering the cooked filling in between the crust layers and baking the entire kibbeh instead of frying individual pieces.
To make the crust
- Combine the bulgur and water in a 1-quart glass bowl and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Let the bulgur soak for 10–15 minutes, then drain in a mesh sieve, pressing out most of the liquid. Set aside.
- Place the onion in a processor work bowl and pulse the machine on and off until the onion is finely chopped. Add the meat, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Turn the machine on for 10 seconds to form a paste. Add the drained bulgur and process until a smooth paste is formed. Alternatively, if you don’t have a processor, finely chop the onion and then add the meat and bulgur. Chop with a large chef’s knife until the mixture holds together.
- Spread half of the meat mixture 1/2-inch thick over the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch glass pie plate. Set aside while you prepare the filling.
To make the filling
- Heat a 10-inch sauté pan on high for 15 seconds. Add the olive oil and heat for another 15 seconds. Reduce the heat to medium high and add the chopped onions, sautéing until they’re soft and lightly golden.
- Add the pine nuts and sauté until they are lightly golden.
- Mix in the meat and the remaining ingredients. Using a fork or the back of a large spoon, break up any clumps of meat into crumbles. Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until the meat loses its pink color (don’t overcook or it will be rubbery and tough).
- Pour the cooked mixture into the center of the meat shell.
- Wet your hands with cold water and gently spread the remainder of the crust-meat mixture smoothly over the top so that it completely covers the filling.
- Spread 1–2 tablespoons of olive oil over the top of the kibbeh.
- With the tip of a sharp knife, lightly score the meat on the diagonal every 1-1/2 inches to create a diamond pattern.
- Bake for 30–35 minutes at 400°F until the kibbeh top is golden brown and slightly crisp.
- Cut in wedges and serve as a main course, or cut along the scored lines and serve little diamonds as an appetizer.
- A food processor is not necessary to make this recipe if fine bulgur is used and you chop the onion into very small pieces.
- Bulgur is wheat that has been steamed, dried, and crushed. It comes in coarse, medium, and fine grain. If you are not using a processor, make sure you use medium- or fine-grain bulgur.
- Bulgur should not be confused with cracked wheat. Cracked wheat is a product that has not been previously treated.