Beetroot ‘kibbeh’ with minty seed cream

 

Kibbeh is a levantine dish, traditionally made of bulgar wheat, onions, minced lamb and spices. This is typically served fried as a dumpling (bulgar shell, meat stuffing). I would go to the Old City in Jerusalem with my Tata and walk down the windy streets until we arrived at an inconspicuous and unmarked door. Poking a head inside, we would see a few people briskly making large trays of freshly fried kibbeh. People would come steadily to collect the kibbeh and take it home.

My Tata would always let us have one there and then when they were at their best; when the casing was hot and crisp…very much like chips. A good kibbeh casing is hard to achieve. It must be thin and light. It is fiddly, although of course watching these guys in the city they made the process look effortless and elegant.

The other very popular kibbeh is a kind of Middle Eastern ‘tartare’ with raw lamb finely minced and combined with bulgar and spices and served with sumac onions, a drizzle of olive oil, chopped mint and a squeeze of lemon.

This mezze is inspired by the traditional kibbeh dishes that I grew up eating. The seed cream is flavoured with mint and lemon, the beetroot is lightly cooked, marinated and then combined with bulgar, onion, all spice and cinnamon. Serve with a side of onions marinated with red vinegar and sumac. It has a lovely combination of earthy and fresh, sweet and sour flavours.

The beetroot tastes better the longer it marinates; this is a good mezze to make earlier in the day and then assemble later. Keep everything refrigerated if you are doing this.

The seeds need to be soaked for a minimum of 2 hours before cooking or ideally overnight. You also need a reasonably good blender for the seed cream, otherwise it will be lumpy.

Cooking time – 1 1/2 hours

Serves 4 as a mezze starter or 2 as a lunch

Ingredients

  • 1 large raw beetroot
  • 20g of fine bulgar wheat
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sumac

Marinade

  • 1/2 tsp ground all spice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tsp of date syrup or honey
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 3 tbsp of fruity olive oil

Mint seed cream

  • 1 cup (as in a glass or mug) of raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup water (preferably filtered)
  • handful fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 shallot
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 tsp salt

To serve; optional crushed pistachio nuts (bash them in a pestle and mortar or cover with a piece of kitchen paper and bash with a rolling pin).

Method

Cover the seeds with water and soak for a minimum of 2 hours or ideally overnight

Boil two beetroot with the skin on in water with a tbsp of salt in a lidded pan for 45 minutes. Set aside and when cool enough remove the skin (should come off very easily) and finely chop.

Whilst the beetroot cooks, make the marinade by whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl. Finely dice half a shallot, rinse the shallot and rinse the bulgar wheat in a sieve with cold water. Combine the shallots and bulgar and add the marinade. set aside.

Finely slice 1 1/2 shallots and marinate in 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar and 1 tsp of sumac and set aside.

Once the beetroot is ready and chopped add to the marinade and leave to soak for at least 30 minutes. It tastes better the longer it marinates so if you have time a few hours is ideal. I like to marinate it for a few hours in the fridge so that the beetroot is nicely chilled and has soaked up the dressing.

To make the seed cream, strain the seeds, add all the ingredients to a blender (make sure to add the liquids first, it helps with the blending. If the blender is struggling carefully add a little more water. 1/2 tbsp at a time.

Serve the mint cream at the bottom of the bowl, followed by the beetroot, with a sprinkle of pistachio nuts, a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt and the sumac onions sprinkled over or on the side.

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