Meat croquettes—a classic of Lebanese cooking
Making the little torpedo-shaped patties is a slow process to begin with, but becomes rather therapeutic. The crunchy texture of their bulgur and minced meat shells is perfection with some creamy labneh, Greek yoghurt or hummus.
Bulgur wheat is available in different grades of coarseness—you want fine bulgur wheat for this one.
For the shell:
175g fine bulgur wheat
1 small onion, quartered
10 mint leaves
1 heaped tsp dried cumin
A pinch of allspice
400g fairly lean minced lamb
For the filling:
1 tbsp olive oil
50g pine kernels
200g fairly lean minced lamb
1 small onion, diced
¼ tsp allspice
A pinch of cinnamon
1 tbsp barberries (or dried sour cherries, chopped)
Vegetable or sunflower oil, for frying
Begin by soaking the bulgur wheat for the shell in plenty of cool water for about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, you can make the filling. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the pine kernels gently, until they begin to colour. Remove the pan from the heat, lifting out the pine nuts with a slotted spoon and setting to one side.
Fry the lamb mince in the same oil for about 5 mins on a high heat and then add the diced onion. Continue to fry until the lamb begins to brown and the onion has collapsed and begun to caramelise.
Add the spices, barberries, pine nuts and season well with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
Now for the bulgur and meat shell. Put the soaked bulgur into a muslin cloth or clean tea towel and squeeze out the excess water.
Blitz the onion, mint leaves and spices in a blender until you have a smooth purée and then add the lamb in a couple of batches and whizz until fairly smooth. Last to go in is the bulgur wheat, which needs a good pulse to bring the mixture to an almost homogenous dough-type texture.
Now to shape your torpedoes. Get yourself organised for the production line—you require a bowl of ice cold water for dipping your hands so that the meat mixture does not stick to them, a tray lined with greaseproof paper to lay out the shaped kibbeh, the shell mixture and the filling mix, with a teaspoon at the ready.
Place a ping pong-sized ball of shell mixture in your left hand and flatten it down in your palm to an oval about 7 x 8cm. Place 1 tsp of the filling in the centre of the disc and pinch the meat dough around it—think torpedo/rugby ball, whatever helps. Dip your hands into the cold water after each kibbeh to stop the dough from sticking. Refrigerate the kibbeh for at least 1 hour to firm up.
Fry the kibbeh in a deep fat fryer, or a few at a time in a small, deep saucepan (only half filled with fat). The oil needs to be about 170C—it should sizzle around the kibbeh as they fry for about 4-5 mins, until crisp and golden. If in doubt, do chop open a tester to gauge your cooking time for the remaining torpedoes.
Devour while still hot with hummus, yoghurt and a green salad (pomegranate seeds make a nice addition).
Recipe and image: Jenny Chandler