I was invited to a (fancy, classy) wedding and lo and behold I see this lady sitting in the buffet line, making kibbeh the traditional way, in the jurn. That is what this huge stone mortar is called. She was pounding away to produce the silky smooth kibbeh that is eaten raw with fresh onions rings and mint leaves in a piece of flatbread called markouk.
Now my friend Alain was taunting me:” Joumana, you are Lebanese, yes or no?”; “OK, then open your mouth!”. In went a morsel with fresh mint leaves and some onion. I had to admit: “Yeah, this is really good. “Only kibbeh made this way is good”, Alain was saying: ”Forget about your moulinex and other food processors! They don’t do the kibbeh justice!”.
That, and freshly slaughtered meat, preferably goat. Not lamb, not beef (unless it is veal). Goat is the best meat for kibbeh nayyeh, because it is extra lean.
We did have one of these in our small kitchen growing up; nowadays the only homes that have them are in rural areas. Everybody uses a food processor to pound the kibbeh, and all the experts unanimously agree that it does not do the job properly; here is why. When meat is pounded by hand it will eventually release some white nerve or ligaments that are removed as they appear; this ensures that the meat is perfectly smooth and lean. A machine cannot do that.
INGREDIENTS: 6 servings
- 1 pound of goat meat (freshly slaughtered and raised on pastures)
- 1/2 pound of fine unbleached bulgur (#1)
- 2 large onion, one chopped and the other sliced into rings
- 4 ice cubes, as needed
- a few pieces of basil or marjoram or a good pinch of white pepper to taste
- salt, to taste
- 1 bunch of fresh mint
- several markouk breads (can substitute lavash bread, except needs to be whole-wheat)
- Chop one of the onions into a bowl; rinse the bulgur, drain and add to the onion in the bowl and mix lightly for the bulgur to absorb some of the onion’s water; sprinkle salt on the mixture, toss and set aside.
- Now either pound the kibbeh in the jurn or in a food processor for several minutes; after the meat has become pasty, remove it from the machine and smooth it out to manually remove any ligaments, veins or pieces of fat; place in back in the food processor and process it again, adding finally the onion and bulgur and herbs and one or more ice cube as needed to tenderize the meat and make is smooth and shiny. The kibbeh should be smooth as silk, moist and tender. Transfer to a plate, form indentions with the back of a spoon and drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil on the kibbeh; place fresh mint leaves and onion slices next to the kibbeh and provide pieces of bread to scoop the kibbeh with ; a bottle of arak is a classic drink to serve with kibbeh nayyeh.