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Kebbeh Nayyeh is a dish deeply ingrained in Lebanese tradition. I grew up eating it at weddings, family events and at home - it is, without a doubt, my most favorite food on Earth. I do not pick a favorite food lightly, but Kebbeh's soft texture and fresh, herby flavors are as close to nirvana as one can get. 

The concept of Kebbeh is simple: mince red meat with herbs and burgul, drench the finished product in olive oil and eat raw (nayyeh = raw) with pita. But as is the case with Lebanese tradition, things can get complicated. Every village, family and grandmother have their own herb mix, choice of meat, grind of burgul and method of preparation. You can also cook Kebbeh by stuffing it, baking it, frying it, roasting it etc. But I won't get into that here.

I love the process of making Kebbeh.  I use a recipe from my mother, who makes the best Kebbeh I've eaten. Here's my version of the recipe so you can make it too. 

The Meat  

You can make Kebbeh using lamb, beef or both. The key here is that the meat should be lean and not too tender. I make mine using cuts from the leg of the cow, like inside round or eye of round. These cuts are inexpensive and easily available.

When you're shopping for meat, pick cuts that are fresh and without sinew or a lot of fat (see picture of cut I use). You can also describe what you need to your butcher and they'll help you out.  It is difficult to find the perfect cut, so you might have to do some butchering at home to get rid of undesirable parts.

Some important things to consider: 

  • DO NOT use pre-ground or pre-diced meat. 

  • Bigger cuts are better (less chance of contamination). 

  • I strongly advise against regular steak cuts - they're too fatty, too tender and too expensive. 

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The Burgul

Yes, Bur-gul. But if you're into bastardized pronunciations, Bul-gur would do.

Burgul is crushed wheat, and will be the glue that will hold your Kebbeh together and give it texture. I recommend that you go with a finer ground - i.e. your burgul grain should be at least half the size of regular couscous. I don't know how else to describe this.  

The Herbs and Spices 

If your grandmother lives in the Lebanese mountains, then you probably have a stash of Kebbeh herbs in your freezer and you can skip this section. If not, here's what you need for approximately 0.5 kg of meat:  

Fresh Stuff

  • Lemon zest (from one lemon)

  • Mint (~10-15 leaves)

  • White onion (a half or so)

  • Walnuts (a small handful) 

    • Fun Fact: Raw lamb fat is often used to add deliciousness to Kebbeh, but walnuts make a nice substitute. 

Dried Stuff 

  • Cumin (1.5 tbsp)

  • Oregano (1 tbsp)

  • Basil (1 tbsp)

  • Marjoram (1 tbsp, not the end of the world if you don't have this)

  • Paprika (2 tbsp)

  • Cayenne (a pinch or two)

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

How To Prepare: 

Step 1: Butcher the meat to get rid of gristle and extra fat, then cut into ~1/2 inch cubes. It is important that the meat stays cold at all times - I half-freeze my meat before handling to keep it cold. 

Step 2: Grind the meat in a food processor into a paste consistency. You can add a dash of olive oil or ice water to help your food processor do its job. Fun Fact: Kebbeh meat is traditionally pounded into a paste inside a marble mortar (jurn) or on a marble slab (blata). 

Step 3: Put the now-ground meat back in the freezer. Don't worry, this will only be for a few minutes.

Step 4: Add your herbs and spices into the food processor (fresh and dried stuff) and grind until you have a smooth puree.

Step 5: Mix ~1/2 cup of burgul and the herb puree with the meat paste. You will want to use your hands here to mix everything really well. The consistency at the end should be soft like play dough. If it's too loose, add more burgul. If it's too dense, add olive oil or just a small dash of ice water. 

Step 6: Spread your Kebbeh on a large plate, or make little dimpled pieces (see picture above) and drown with extra virgin olive oil. Eat with fresh mint, green onions and pita! 

Note: Adjust the herbs and spices to your taste. The measurements I provided are only suggestions. 

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