26 January 2011

Potato Kibbeh

I'm trying to up my kibbeh quotient on this site, and given that there are a myriad types of kibbeh that shouldn't be so hard to do. (For a review on kibbeh 101, check out this post.) Though the dumpling-shape type of kibbeh is the most famous, I thought it would be good to share one of the types of kibbeh made in a tray (kibbeh b'il sayniayah). Kibbeh in a tray can be made with meat or in several vegetarian variations including pumpkin, lentil, and potato. Today we're making the potato version, which I've heard referred to as the Middle Eastern equivalent of shepherd's pie, a comparison not undeserved.


Potato kibbeh is basically a mashed potato casserole stuffed with caramelized onions and pine nuts. Meat can be added, but I often leave it out because I like to use the potato kibbeh as a side dish, especially for roast meats. The potatoes are made unique by the addition of traditional kibbeh spices and the use of bulgur, which gives the potatoes a slight nubby texture. It is very important to use the finest grade bulgur (it looks almost as fine as couscous or semolina), you may need to visit a Middle Eastern grocery for that. Potato kibbeh is a remarkably comforting dish, and unlike many kibbeh dishes that can seem delicate, fussy, or heavy with meat, it's one that you want on your table often, especially in these cold dark winter months.


Potato Kibbeh
For some extra luxury, top the dish with pats of butter before baking. Many stores sell a kibbeh spice mix but you can mix your own spices per the instructions below.

1 cup of fine grade bulgur
boiling water
4 medium size potatoes (should equal 3 to 3 1/2 cups cooked mashed potato)
2 tablespoons butter
a splash of milk, cream, or ashta if available
1 teaspoon kibbeh spices or baharat

2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 lb ground beef or lamb (optional)

For filling:
1. Heat some olive oil in a saute pan, add the onions and a pinch of salt and saute over medium-low heat. Cook they onions until they are well caramelized, this could take as long as 45 minutes. Add the sugar towards the end to enhance the onions' sweetness. Set aside.
2. If using, saute the ground meat in the pan until well-browned, add to the onions.
3. Saute the pine nuts in the butter until golden brown (watch them carefully). Add the pine nuts to the onion mixture.

For outer shell:
1. Peel and cube potatoes and set to boil in salted water until tender. Meanwhile, pour boiling water over blgur until it is just saturated (you don't want the bulgur to be drowning). Let bulgur sit for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork, if it still feels dry you can add a bit more boiling water.
2. Drain the potatoes well and put them back in the pot. Add the butter, salt and spices and mash until roughly mashed. Add the bulgur (drained of any excess liquid) and mix together. Gradually add the milk/cream until the texture is like that of firm mashed potatoes.

1. Preheat oven the 350 F. Spread half the potato mixture evenly in an 8x8 inch baking dish. Spread the onion mixture evenly over top. Spread the remaining potato mixture over top. Use a wet spatula to press out the potato mixture evenly. If desired, use a sharp damp knife the score a decorative cross watch pattern on the surface. Place the dish in the oven and bake until warmed through and just a tiny bit golden on the top, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.


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Anonymous said...

Very nice.
I like it when you post Middle Eastern recipes far better than other foods.


Anonymous said...

Iraqi Jews have a traditional dish called Kiba Pateta, which is often made during passover. It is made in dumpling shape, with the shell made of mashed potatoes and the filling minced meat with herbs, raisins and almond slivers, all with kiba spices, and then it is fried to crust the potatoes.

It is an extremely finicky dish to make well but very delicious.

Mercedes said...

Hi Anonymous- I've heard of this Iraqi dish (though I've heard of it also called Batata Charp). I actually did try to make it once and the potato crust is quite difficult! Maybe I'll have to try again one day. Thanks for the comment.

For those interested in this variation, check out this recipe:

Nick and Darcie said...

Hi Mercedes,

I recently discovered your blog and love it, have made the pumpkin hummus and of course the tahini sauce and I just wanted to say keep it up.



Cursuri Franceza said...

I never tried potato kibbeh before, but I heard it is delicious. Plus, your photo is great so I guess now I have the opportunity to try this recipe.

Ena said...

14 cups of pine nuts must be a mistake. Don't you mean 1/4 cup?

Food Jihadist said...

Wonderful post. Hope you are safe wherever you are. It's quite an important time for the Middle East. Would love to know your thoughts as a foodie and ex-pat who fell in love with the region like me.

féenoménale said...

mmhh with onion and peanuts, it seems very delicious

Anonymous said...

Mercedes - The crust is indeed tricky. I will ask my mother for the secrets and post a message. The few times I tried to make this dish were frustrating.