Popular in Israel and Lebanon, kibbeh are crisp, torpedo-shaped croquettes made of bulgur wheat, minced beef and spices. They are a bit of a fiddle to make but very much worth it. They also freeze well in their shaped but unfried state, so make sure you save some for when you don’t have the time to make them.
Place the bulgur wheat in a heatproof bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover by 5mm. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside for 20 minutes to allow the bulgur wheat to absorb the water.
Meanwhile, add the pinenuts to a large frying pan and set over a medium heat. Toast for a minute or two until golden, making sure they don’t burn. Tip into a small bowl and set aside. Lower the heat and add the olive oil and half the onion to the frying pan, frying gently for 10 minutes until the onion is just starting to soften. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the allspice and cumin seeds, stirring well to mix. Add 300g of the mince, season generously with salt and pepper and fry for a good 10 minutes, stirring regularly to break up the meat. Turn off the heat, stir through the pinenuts and allow to cool.
Add the soaked bulgur wheat, a handful at a time, to a food processor, whizzing it well between additions. You need to grind the bulgur so it’s almost dough-like, and this is achieved more easily by not overloading the machine. Once all the bulgur is ground, add the rest of the raw mince and the remaining chopped onion. Season generously with salt and pepper and continue to process to a dough-like consistency. It needs to be pliable enough to shape and fill, so if it’s a little dry add a splash of ice-cold water and process again.
To shape the kibbeh , take a tablespoon of the bulgur mixture and roll it into an egg shape. Use your thumb to press a deep hollow down the centre of the ‘egg’, then fill the hollow with a couple of teaspoons of cold filling. Squeeze the sides and top together to re-form the kibbeh into an egg shape, with the filling completely enclosed. Set aside on a tray. Repeat with the remaining bulgur and filling mixtures; washing your hands regularly and keeping them damp while you shape the kibbeh will reduce the stickiness. If you wish to freeze a batch, place them on a baking tray to freeze initially, then pack into a bag or tub and leave in the freezer until ready to cook.
Make the lemon tahini sauce by placing all the ingredients in a deep jug with 150ml cold water and whizz to a smooth, creamy sauce using a stick blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer to 180°C/350°F. Fry the kibbeh in batches for about 6 minutes until a deep golden brown. Drain briefly over kitchen paper. If cooking from frozen, add a couple of minutes to the cooking time, and check that they are piping hot all the way through before serving.
To serve, spread a couple of tablespoons of lemon tahini sauce on to a plate and sprinkle with a little parsley and smoked paprika. Top with 2–3 hot kibbeh , add a wedge of lemon and serve immediately with a drizzle of olive oil.