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Archive for the ‘meat’ Tag


Middle Eastern Dumplings

Two weeks ago my immune system decided, all on its own (bless its heart), to wage war against pollen. Me against a militia of relentless yellow, practically invisible, warriors on a mission to spread and procreate. It was like a cheesy action movie. The kind where the one good guy goes up against hundreds of bad guys and kicks all their butts, blindfolded and with one hand tied behind his back; except my butt was handed to me. I was a miserable mess — puffy eyes, congested, endless sneezing, light headed, the works.

While I was out with allergies, this post took a back seat. It shouldn’t have, because this dish is pretty fantastic, healthy and delicious. It’s a post dedicated to Middle Eastern dumplings called Kbeibat (pronounced: k’beh-baat — كبيبات). This was the first time I made them without my grandmother, but she was there the entire time, over the phone, walking me through every step.

mise en place
mise en place

The dough for the dumplings is fairly basic: bulgur wheat, semolina and water. My first attempt at making the dough, however, was a complete disaster. Not only did my camera run out of batteries mid-shoot, but the dough was a nightmare as far as doughs go: a big sticky mess. According to my grandmother, I over-soaked the bulgur and added more water when I clearly didn’t need to. What was I thinking? I blame the allergies.

the dough starts with bulgur wheat
bulgur wheat

As long as you don’t over-soak your bulger, you’ll be fine. You want the water to cover the bulger wheat by about an inch. After about 15-20 minutes, discard any remaining water from the bulgur and mix with the semolina flour to make the dough. Usually, there will be little, if no water left to drain. My mistake was I kept adding more and more water, which is what ended up saturating the bulgur wheat in the first place.

meat filling
filling for dumplings

If you remember when I blogged about kefta kabobs, the filling for these dumplings is the same: ground beef, onions, parsley, ground allspice and salt. Since we’re not adding any extra fat and we’re boiling these dumplings, you’ll want to make sure to buy a fairly fatty selection of ground beef. 85% works great for this dish.

dumpling workflow
dumpling workflow

Things to do while forming dumplings: watch a movie, listen to a podcast/audiobook, or invite friends who enjoy cooking and have them help. It makes the entire process go by a lot quicker.

step by step
step by step

Tip: Use ice-cold water to help keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

cook in simmering water
cook in simmering water

Dumplings cook in 4-6 minutes. Enjoy!

Kbeibat (كبيبات)
Kbeibat

Kbeibat

yields approx 36 dumplings

Components

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat, #1 grind (fine)
  • 2 cups fine semolina flour
  • water, for dough
  • 1 lb ground beef, 85%
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp allspice, ground
  • salt, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Soak the bulgur wheat in enough water to cover the surface by a couple of centimeters to an inch, no more.
  2. Let bulgur wheat sit for at least 15-20 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, prepare the meat mixture by mixing together the grated onion, parsley, allspice and salt* with the ground beef.
  4. Mix the bulgur wheat with the semolina and start to add 1-2 tablespoons of water at a time until the dough comes together. The consistency should be a little sticky and moist, but neither wet nor dry.
  5. Season the dough with salt.
  6. Cover dough in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  7. Fill a bowl with ice-cold water before you start making the dumplings*.
  8. Rub a little water on your palm where you plan to form the dumpling.
  9. Press an even disk of dough, about 2 inches wide, on your palm.
  10. Carefully transfer the disk onto the cup of your hand, fill with meat, and crimp along the edges.
  11. Keep the formed dumplings separate on a large sheet tray lined with parchment paper (or lightly coated with oil) to prevent them from sticking.
  12. Bring a medium sized pot of water to a simmer and sprinkle with salt (as you would when you’re making pasta).
  13. Boil the dumplings for 4-6 minutes in batches.

Notes: You can check the raw meat for seasoning by searing a tiny piece on a skillet. By keeping your hands moist while working with the dumplings it will help keep the dough from sticking to your fingers.

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صحة و هنا — Bon Appétit
bon appetit

My Big Fat Greek Post

During the month of January, A Taste of the Mediterranean was all about the ubiquitous French tart. Crispy, buttery, but not always sweet; the challenge was to create your spin, either sweet or savory, on this classic French pastry. The winner for January is Maggie from Dog Hill Kitchen with her Vegan Orange Cream Tarts with Almond Crusts! Congrats Maggie! You could check out her entry and all the other tart entries here.

This month we’re hopping from France over to the Greek islands with Peter from Kalofagas. For those (very few) who don’t know who Peter is, well, he’s a gifted Greek blogger who lives in Canada and who, I’m convinced, knows everything there is to know about Greek food. He’s the host this month for the A Taste of the Mediterranean contest and he’s calling on bloggers to make their own twists on the classic Greek pastitsio. To kick off the contest I decided to make my variation of this Greek lasagna using as many flavors from around the Mediterranean as I could.

mise en place

The classic recipe for pastitsio calls for meat sauce and bechamel spread between layers pasta. For my variation I incorporated Fontina cheese from Italy, red wine from France and harissa paste from Northern Africa, mainly because I had those ingredients laying around, but also because I enjoy mixing complimentary flavors from different regions of the Mediterranean.

this is where the flavor starts

The first thing I did was get my meat sauce going. It’s extremely easy, but takes time for the flavors to develop and turn into a proper meat sauce. The sauce starts with the classic mirapoux (i.e. the trinity) of carrots, celery and onions. The key is to cook them over medium heat so that they become soft, but it is important they don’t caramelize.

food therapy

I decided to go into full-on Greek mode for this recipe. This means I took no short cuts and made sure to multiply the recipe by three. I then stored two pans of the pastitsio in the freezer ready to go for those days when the bachelor in me wants food to magically appear on the table without chopping an onion or stirring a pot.

a 30s dunk is all it needs

Once you’re done rolling out the dough, all the pasta needs is a quick bath in boiling water. You don’t want to cook it all the way though… this is just to give it a head start. Once the pasta boils for 1-2 minutes, shock it in an ice bath to immediately stop the cooking process. The pasta will then finish cooking with the rest of the ingredients in the oven.

my idea of being healthy: meat+greens

Once the meat sauce is done cooking, you’ll be happy. Your entire kitchen will acquire the aroma of the meat sauce and you’ll find yourself in the tasting stage, wondering if there is anything missing. Perhaps a little more salt and pepper might be good? Sometimes that helps, but often the addition of anything fresh and green will strike a balance with the rich flavors of the sauce. I used frozen petite peas for this because they’re green, but also because they have a creamy bite to them that I enjoy.

flavor development at its peak

The layering is up to you and mostly depends on the ingredients you use and your own personal preferences. I always start with a thin layer of bechamel on a buttered pan because that helps prevent sticking. From there I start by layering pasta, more bechamel, meat, cheese, ham, even more bechamel and then pasta again. I do this until I reach the very top, which I finish off with a little more bechamel, a sprinkling of fontina cheese and a thin layer of parmigiano reggianno on the very top to develop a nice crust in the oven.

dinner

This was my humble recreation of Greek pastitsio done alla Mediterranean. It was my dinner last night, tonight and it will probably be my dinner for a few more nights this week. I can’t wait to see other variations of this dish for A Taste of the Mediterranean! Remember that the winning pastitsio post will win a $50 gift certificate to iGourmet!

Pastitsio

yields one 9×13 pan

Components

  • 4 cups bechamel
  • 1 1/3 lbs ragú
  • 1/2 lbs of sliced ham
  • 1 1/2 cups fontina cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup parmesan for top layer
  • lasagna sheets, fresh or dry

Putting them all together

  1. Prepare all the components to the pastitsio and set aside for assembly.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and butter a 9×13 baking pan.
  3. Begin by adding a thin layer of bechamel to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Follow with a layer of pasta, a layer of bechamel, a layer of meat mixture, a layer of ham, and a sprinkling of fontina.
  5. Repeat until you reach the top of the pan (usually 2-3 layers of meat).
  6. Top the final layer of pasta with a final thin layer of bechamel, a thin layer of fontina and finish off with parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for the last 15 (broil for a couple minutes at the end if you want an extra crispy crust).

note: You can make your own pasta dough or use the dry lasagna sheets available at your local supermarket.

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Middle Eastern Yogurt Soup

It’s almost February, it’s cold and it’s the perfect time for soup, if there ever was one. Keeping true to my kibbeh promise from my last post, I made kibbeh b’laban (كبة بلبن او كبة لبنية), which literally translated means kibbeh cooked in yogurt. Not only was it my first try at making this on my blog, but it was my first attempt ever. In order to get everything right, I called my sito (grandmother in Arabic) and stayed on the phone with her until I got every last detail of this dish right. It also took a long time since I had to convert her measurements of “handfuls, half-handfuls and pinches” into more relative quantities. All in all, it was lots of fun and in retrospect, a major success. 

mise en place

If you want to go for the absolute traditional method, you’ll want to use goat milk yogurt instead of cow’s milk. Although either works fine for this dish. The other main ingredient I want to talk about is the habra, which is basically ground inside round (with absolutely no fat) and then processed in the food processor with some salt, a little ice water and a tiny amount of baking soda. This makes the traditional meat paste used in every kibbeh recipe. I’ll usually prepare kilos of habra at a time and keep 500g portions stored in the freezer for whenever I want to make kibbeh.

forming the kibbeh

The meat itself has absolutely no fat, and is mixed with the soaked bulgur wheat to form the outside of the kibbeh balls. For moisture, the kibbeh is stuffed with grated onions and a tiny dab of cold butter. As the kibbeh balls cook in the yogurt, the butter will melt and combine with the grated onions to make for a sweet surprise in each bite.

rice helps stabilize the yogurt

The yogurt is the foundation of the dish and requires some cleverness to avoid it from curdling over the heat. The first step is to cook about a quarter cup of rice in 3/4 to 1 cup of water (way more than you usually need) until it turns into complete mush. Once it cools a bit you’ll want to blend the mushy rice with the yogurt, egg and a teaspoon of cornstarch. The egg, cornstarch and rice all act as stabilizers for the yogurt. A final precaution would be to cook the sauce over low heat and stirring only in one direction (either clockwise or counterclockwise). Don’t ask me why, but it works… if anyone knows a more scientific reason to this, I’d love to know it.

kibbeh bil-laban (كبة باللبن)

Once the yogurt begins to simmer, cook the kibbeh balls in the yogurt at a low simmer for about 7-10 minutes (depending on the size of your kibbeh) and you’ve got a fantastic Middle Eastern soup. Sprinkle with some dried mint and enjoy. 

Kibbeh B’Laban

4-6 servings

Components

  • 500 g. habra
  • 300 g. bulgur wheat (finely ground)
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 1/2 stick of butter, cut into tiny cubes
  • 2 liters of goat or cow yogurt
  • 1/4 cup rice
  • 1 tsp of cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • dried mint, for garnish
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • ice cold water, as necessary*

Putting them all together

  1. Soak the bulgur wheat in water for 10-15 minutes (use enough water to cover the bulgur entirely by about 1/4 inch).
  2. Mix habra, allspice and soaked bulgur together and set aside.
  3. Cook the rice in 3/4 cup of water until mushy. 
  4. Blend the rice with some of the yogurt, the egg and the cornstarch. Mix this mixture with the rest of yogurt and place over low heat. 
  5. Stir occasionally and once it comes to a small simmer, add kibbeh balls and cook for another 5-10 minutes (depending on the size of the kibbeh).
  6. Garnish with dried mint.

note: use the ice water to form the kibbeh balls. This will help make them smooth. For more specific step-by-step instructions read the blog post.

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dried mint + paprika are optional garnishes