July 13, 2013

The Makings of a Great "Kibbeh Party"

There are TWO essential recipes for any food-making party to be successful. 

Grab a few great friends
Add a beautiful setting, in our case, our friends’ gorgeous house
Sprinkle on a good amount of sunshine
Finish with the consummate labor-of-love meal, in this case Kibbeh Lebanese Meatballs
Pair that with a beautiful bottle of wine

Sarah (pictured) and Pat graciously hosted the party

I’m lucky to have all these elements in my life here in San Francisco.  A couple of weeks ago, we decided it was time for another Kibbeh party.  It was our most successful one yet! 

The luscious combination of freshly-ground lamb from our favorite butcher in North Beach (San Francisco’s Italian neighborhood), imported pine nuts from Lebanon, Bulgur cracked wheat, a staple in Mid-Eastern cuisine and a stovetop onion and spice mix kept the kitchen smelling sweet for days.

The fixins: pine nuts, stuffing and shell mixture
So, grab a few of your friends (and other key ingredients) and throw yourself a fabulous Kibbeh party that you will soon not forget!

Kibbeh – Lebanese Meatballs. 

For the outer shell:
2.2 lbs. (1Kg) ground red meat, I prefer Lamb
2.0 lbs. (just under 1 Kg) fine bulgur wheat, #1 grade
2 medium onions, grated
3 Tbsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. Lebanese or Middle-Eastern spice mix, also called Bhar
1 Tbsp.  cumin

For the stuffing:
1.1 lbs. (1/2 Kg) ground meat: If you have lamb for the shell, use lamb for stuffing
2 onions, chopped very finely
2 Tbsp. Labneh, Lebanese or Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
Generous pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup of pine nuts, toasted stovetop with a Tbsp. olive oil
Peanut or corn oil for frying

Outer shell:
Cover and soak the bulgur in cold water for 30 minutes.  Drain, squeezing the water out with your hands.  Add to a very large bowl.  Grate the onions and remove the excess liquid.  Add to bowl.  Add meat, cinnamon, spices, and a very generous pinch of salt.  Knead by hand in the bowl for about 10 minutes until all ingredients are well incorporated and the mixture comes together like bread dough.  Set shell mix aside.

Sauté the meat in a large pan until all the liquid evaporates.  Add onions and sauté until pale.  Add the labneh, salt, spices, cinnamon and nutmeg and cook for 2 minutes, incorporating well.

When ready to stuff, it’s good to remember to have a finger bowl handy to keep your fingers wet; it will be easier to shape the balls this way.  Grab a portion of the shell mixture the size of a Ping-Pong ball, roll it in your hands to form an evenly shaped ball. 

Holding the ball in the palm of one hand, puncture a hole in the middle of the ball with your other hand’s index finger.  Turn the ball in a circular motion in the palm of your hand.  As you turn, continue to gently push with your finger to form a larger hole for the stuffing, almost but not all the way through.

Stuff the now-hollow shells with a heaping teaspoon of the stuffing.  I like to add 3-4 pine nuts into each shell along with the stuffing.  Close the top of the shell with your hands to form a conical shape.  This takes a bit of practice, but with some patience, you will easily master this step.

Set the formed shells on a baking sheet for frying, or freeze the shells until hard, then pack into freezer bags. They can keep for up to 5 months in the freezer.  Frozen shells can then be fried without thawing, as per below until they turn golden-brown, about 10 minutes. 

Forming the meatballs with friends is a fun labor of love
Frying: set the oil temperature to 350F (about 175C) and fry the freshly made shells for 6 minutes or until deeply golden brown.  Make sure you have enough oil to cover the shells for deep frying.  When done, drain on a plate covered with paper towels.  Serve with a fresh salad or your favorite Labneh or Greek yogurt.

Note: for a healthy alternative to frying, use the fresh or frozen meatballs in your favorite soup or broth.  I like to serve the meatballs with chicken soup.  Just cook them in the soup until done.

Makes about 60 meatballs.

Tabbouleh salad pairs beautifully with Kibbeh, so does good wine and sunshine!


  1. This is a true delicacy. We are all so lucky for your dedication of bringing amazing food to us. Thanks again.

  2. YUM! We love Kibbeh--can't wait to try your recipe!