If you ask a traditional, die-hard Beiruti, one whose family has been residing for generations in West Beirut (called Ras Beirut, the oldest and original part of the city), what their favorite dish is,kibbeh arnabieh would be in the top three.
This dish is one of the great classics of Lebanese cuisine. It is usually made in the winter season.Why? Because this is when Seville oranges (called Bousfeir oranges in Lebanese, or Bigarade in French) are in season. We would be invited to my aunt Wadad‘s to have this meal, as it was a very special meal, an event. I found Seville oranges at my neighborhood middle-eastern store. (fyi: the blossoms of these oranges are the ones used to make the orange blossom water). In this dish, Seville oranges can be replaced by lemons.
This dish is a lengthy affair.One question: Do you hear the French apologizing when their classics take forever to make? I don’t know why I feel bad! However, there is a quicker method to make it and I will point it out; so figure on at least 2 days and making it in stages.
Kibbeh Arnabieh is made up of :
- Kibbeh balls, hollow, poached or baked first and then simmered in the sauce.
- A sauce combining Seville orange juice (or lemon juice) and tahini and lamb bouillon and pureed onion.
- A rice pilaf as a side dish.
- The traditional recipe only uses these Seville oranges or lemons; in modern recipes you will find other citrus being used and this is what I decided to do. So this kibbeh arnabieh is including Seville oranges, mandarin oranges, Navel oranges and a bit of lemon juice.If you are a purist, stick to the Seville oranges! or use lemon juice instead. Seville oranges are bitter-tasting, just like lemons. I would use orange or mandarin juice and some lemon juice so that it is not too bitter.
- Slight variations exist of this dish based on the community that one belonged to in Beirut. Instead of using only kibbeh balls, some people add lamb shanks and garbanzo beans.
- The citrus sauce in this recipe is also used to cook fish fillets, foregoing the lamb stock altogether and the kibbeh balls.
- Kibbeh arnabieh can be prepared two days ahead and reheated gently when served.
- Each of the lamb stock, kibbeh balls and juices can be prepared ahead and frozen.
- FOR A QUICKER VERSION: Use only the lamb shanks, add a can of garbanzo beans rinsed and drained the last half hour of cooking the sauce. For the sauce, make it with a mixture of orange (3 parts)and lemon juice (1 part).
MAKING THE LAMB STOCK: (Enough for 2 separate meals)
- 2 Large lamb shanks
- Seasonings consisting of: a bay leaf, whole pepper, a few cloves, a large onion quartered, a sprig of parsley, two cloves of garlic, a small carrot.
- Brown the lamb shanks in a large pot. Add 8 cups of water and the seasonings and partially cover the pot.
- Simmer gently for at least one hour until the shanks are done. Remove them from the pot.
- Reduce the stock to about 2 cups or more. Cool and set aside. You are going to need 1 cup of stock for this recipe. You can freeze the remaining stock and use later.
- Either use the lamb shanks in this recipe or reserve for another dish.
MAKING THE KIBBEH BALLS: (Enough for 2 or more separate meals)
- 1 pound of extra-lean meat (beef, veal, lamb), minced
- 1 onion (about 5 ounces)
- 1 1/3 cup of fine bulgur #1
- Spices: 2 teaspoons of allspice, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, salt to taste.
- Puree the onion in a food processor. Place the bulgur in a strainer and run tap water over it or soak it in water for 3 minutes then drain it and squeeze all the moisture out with a spatula. Add to the onion.
- Place the meat in a food processor and run the machine for a few minutes until the meat texture changes and becomes smoother. Add the bulgur and onion. Add the seasonings and run the machine a few more minutes, until the mass is cohesive and smooth.
- Cover and place in the fridge for a while or overnight. Prepare a work surface.
- Get a small bowl of water with ice cubes and a dash of salt ready. Prepare a cookie sheet to place the kibbé balls in once they are done. Get a cookie scoop or large spoon ready and start scooping out the meat dough in even portions, about the size of a small egg or a large walnut.
- Dab your fingers in the ice water and taking one ball at a time, roll it between your palms until it is even and smooth. Start carving a hole in the ball with your index finger, turning the kibbeh balls continuously, to get some thin and hollow balls with thin “walls”, the thinner the better.
- When the kibbeh has been hollowed out, start pinching the hole little by little to close it up. When it is closed up, pinch it on both sides to make the ends looks fine and dainty.
- Set the balls one by one on the cookie sheet. For this recipe, you will need about 20. Freeze the remainder in a freezer bag to use at a moment’s notice.
- Bake the balls in a 350F oven for about 12 minutes till cooked. Set aside.
MAKING THE SAUCE: Quantity will yield 6 servings
- 1 large onion (250 g)
- a few tablespoons of oil to fry the onion
- 1 cup of tahini
- CITRUS JUICES: 3/4 cup of Seville orange juice, 1 cup of mandarin juice, 1 cup of orange juice, 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
- 1 cup of lamb stock
- 1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses (optional, but recommended)
- Salt and white pepper to taste.
- Heat the oil in a pot and fry the onion for at least 40 minutes very gently until it becomes a deep caramel-brown color. Puree the onion in a mini-processor or in a mortar until it is pasty and somewhat smooth. Set aside.
- Place in the pot the tahini, orange, mandarin and lemon juices. Stir with a wooden spoon on a regular basis until the mixture becomes smooth and starts steaming. Reduce the heat to low, add the lamb stock and the pureed onion and spices. Simmer very gently for a few more minutes, adding the pomegranate molasses.
- Add to the sauce the kibbe balls and let them swim in the sauce for at least 10 minutes on low heat. If necessary, add a few ladles of hot water to the sauce.
- Fry the pine nuts on low heat in a bit of butter until browned but not burned, about 3 minutes. Set aside. The pine nuts will be used to garnish the dish.
MAKING THE RICE PILAF:
- 1 cup of fideos (vermicelli noodles)
- 1/4 cup of oil or butter
- 1 1/2 cup of long-grain rice
- Fry the fideos in butter till they are browned. Be careful, they burn quickly!
- Add the rice and stir a minute to coat the rice in butter.
- Add 3 cups of water and a dash of salt. Cover and let the rice cook over medium to low heat for about 20 minutes.
- Toss the rice and fideos. Serve.
I have used the guidance of Mrs. Marlene Mattar for this recipe Maeedat Marlene, mina Al-shark wal-gharb.
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