Kibbeh

Paste of grain, onions, and meat (usually lamb) that forms the basis of many dishes of Lebanon and Syria, Egypt (by the name kobeiba), Israel (cubbeh), Iraq and southwestern Iran (kubba), the Persian Gulf (chabâb), and southern Turkey (bulgur köftesi).

The most common grain used in the preparation of Kibbeh is Burghul (bulgur wheat), while in southern Iraq, the use of rice and fish has become commonplace. Usually the proportion of meat is higher than grain or onion.

Preparation

The traditional technique of preparing Kibbeh requires that the mixture be pounded vigorously in a large mortar (jurn) carved into a block of stone with a large pestle (mudaqqa) held vertically between the hands.

Kibbeh requires a labor-intensive process of gradual mashing to ensure a smooth mixture where no ingredient is tasted more prominently than another. During the afternoon, the sounds of older women preparing Kibbeh fills the streets of many a village. Traditional preparation of Kibbeh generally takes four to six hours. Commerical machines are now available which aid in the process of Kibbeh preparation.

Production

From the smooth, grainy paste, thick patties or torpedo-shaped balls called aqrâs kibbeh are made. Into these patties, a filling is placed: most often a mixture of fried meat, onions, nut and raisin - but at times, a simple, sumptuous lump of fat.

Maqliyya and Mashwiyya

The aqrâs kibbeh may be deep-fried (maqliyya) or grilled (mashwiyya). In grilling the patties, the cook must pay careful attention so that the thinnest possible crust is formed around the filling. The goal is to present a crust of crispy delicacy, while avoiding cracking or brittleness. In certain segments of Syrian society, a prospective bride must demonstrate mastery of this aspect of Kibbeh preparation.

Labaniyya

Alternately, aqrâs kibbeh may be cooked in a liquid: a yogurt sauce, in Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt; in Northern Iraq and Southern Turkey, a lightly salted water that is used to create a large, flat patty in Mosul (Iraqi city on the Tigris) and the Armenian Harput kuefta; or a stew consisting of meat, onions, and vegetables such as tomatoes, chickpeas, cabbage, and aubergine (pronounced: OH-ber-zsheen), with a base of lemon or orange juice.

Baking

Using a round pan generally reserved for the cooking of baklava, cooks in Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria bake Kibbeh, cutting the finished product into the shape of a lozenge like baklava, or other geometric shapes.

In the northern town of Aleppo, Syria, balls of Kibbeh are set on skewers, alongside marinated chunks of vegetables, onions, tomatoes, and especially, aubergine.

Nayyeh

To show respect and admiration for a honored guest, the finest preparation of Kibbeh is raw (kibbeh nayyeh). Nayyeh requires the use of the highest grade meat, completely free of sinews.

Being that Kibbeh is the most characteristic dish of Eastern Arabic cuisine, its absence from the historical texts of medieval cookery is confounding. The reason is that the method of preparation - a unity of grain and meat - was considered common, and thus it was judged less important for preservation in text. It is generally accepted today that Kibbeh originated in Mosul around the tenth century, AD.

Iraqi proverb of kubba: "They make a grain into a kubba," which means "to make a mountain out of a molehill."

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