I love this kibbeh, which hails from Aleppo but is also very popular in Iraq. It distinguishes itself by its rice shell, which gets crunchy after frying, but soft inside. It is a traditional dish; I veered away from tradition slightly by sprinkling the kibbeh with toasted sesame seeds, and playing around with the stuffing by adding raisins.
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Passive Time: 24 hour
30 kibbeh balls
2 1/2 cups starchy rice (sushi, or Italian or Egyptian or "broken rice")
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (can use gluten-free) or fine semolina
2 tsp turmeric (or pinch of saffron bloomed in a bit of hot water)
1 tsp white pepper
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
4 cups water
3/4 pound ground meat
1/2 cup almond slivered or pine nuts or pistachios or a mix
1/2 cup raisins
1 Tbsp red pepper paste or chili sauce (optional)
1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbsp ghee or oil or clarified butter
Spices: 1 Tbsp seven-spice, 1 tsp cardamom, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp black pepper, salt to taste
1. The day before: Cook the rice until it forms pockets and dries-up. Add the turmeric and spices and mix, tasting to adjust seasonings. Transfer the rice to a greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle the semolina or breadcrumbs and mix a bit. Spread it out flat and let it cool in the fridge covered overnight.
2. Prepare the stuffing: In a skillet, stir-fry the nuts in a couple tablespoons of ghee or oil, then remove and set aside when golden, then add the chopped onions. Fry till soft then add the meat, pressing it with a couple wooden spoons to break it up into small pieces. Add the spices and raisins and cook until the meat is browned. Add the nuts, mix, and taste to adjust if needed; set aside covered in the fridge until the rice is ready.
3. Prepare your work area: Place a bowl with ice water nearby, the rice and the stuffing. Score the rice into 30 squares or so. Start lifting each square, knead it a few seconds, shape it into a ball and insert a finger in the middle. Thin it out using ice water to minimize the stickiness and fill the hole with a generous teaspoon of stuffing. Close it up by pinching gently and keep shaping the ball by rolling it back and forth between the palms of your hands. Set each ball on a cookie sheet.
4. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer. Cover loosely or if not using that day, you can simply place them when solid in a tight container to use within the next couple of weeks.
5. Fry the balls in hot oil (360F) when they are thoroughly frozen. I sprinkled them with toasted sesame seeds after shaping them but this is not traditional.
6. Serve hot and crispy with a side of plain yogurt.
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