Recipe of the week: Pumpkin Kibbeh (Rob Palmer)
Blog Words : Food & Drink | 23 March

Recipe of the week: Pumpkin Kibbeh

Serve a slice of Syria at home with this delicious recipe from Sharon Salloum, co-owner of Sydney's Almond Bar

Sadly – for both visitors and (especially, tragically) for its citizens – Syria is very much a danger zone. But this doesn't mean you shouldn’t celebrate its culture. Syrian cuisine’s variety, seasonings and homegrown ingredients set it apart; the city of Aleppo in particular is famous for its unique selection of hot peppers, pomegranates and pistachio nuts. And it has real heritage too, its roots dating back to ancient Egyptian times. “I like to think of it as food of the earth,” says Sharon Salloum, restaurateur and author of Almond Bar: 100 Delicious Syrian Recipes.

Syrian food is a melting pot of Middle Eastern fare, influenced by menus from neighbouring Turkey and Iran. It’s not to do with fancy presentation or the use of special gadgets; Syrian food is made with passion and has a natural beauty, the result of its fresh, high-quality ingredients, ideally plucked straight from the garden.

Authentic Syrian dishes are served tapas-style, including bite-size snacks such as kibbeh (similar to a falafel), kebab (not the late-night van kind) and shanklish, a cheese-based nibble. The key thing to remember is that whipping up a meal is a marathon, not a sprint: a Syrian cook might spend a week pulling their recipe and its elements together.

It’s important to gather your family and friends for a traditional Syrian dinner; it’s as much about socialising with those closest to you as it is about eating. So whether it’s a burghul (bulgur wheat) soup, stuffed aubergines or sautéed okra, celebrate what’s on your plate in the company of others.

Pumpkin Kibbeh

Makes 20

For the dough:

800g butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 onion
300g fine bulgur wheat
1 tablespoon salt flakes
1 tsp ground black pepper
180g plain flour
500ml vegetable or corn oil

For the stuffing:

75g dried split chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
¼ seedless red pepper, finely diced
½ small carrot, grated
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
50g roughly chopped walnuts
2 tsp seven-spice mix
1½ tsp ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt flakes

Method

1. For the stuffing, soak chickpeas in water overnight. Drain. Heat olive oil in large frying pan; add onion and cook until translucent. Stir in chickpeas, red pepper, carrot, parsley and walnuts. Add the spice mix and seasoning; fry for a few minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. For the dough, place squash in medium saucepan; cover with cold water. Bring to boil. Reduce and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Drain and cool.
3. Grate onion; strain. Place in large bowl with bulgur wheat; add salt, pepper, flour and squash. Bring mixture to dough-like consistency, seasoning to taste. Place in fridge for two hours to chill and rest.
4. Fill bowl with lukewarm water. Moisten hands, grab golf-ball-sized blob of dough and roll into smooth ball. Poke a hole in it while cupping it with other hand; gently move finger back and forth to form long, narrow cavity inside ball. Spoon in one teaspoon of stuffing, then close opening by patching it and creating a point. Roll the kibbeh between moist palms to make it smooth. Repeat. Cool in fridge.
5. Heat vegetable or corn oil in medium heavy-based saucepan to 170°C. Add three or four kibbeh at a time; cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain.

Top tip:

When ready, serve your kibbeh either hot or at room temperature with a mint or lemon yoghurt dip or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Recipe taken from Almond Bar: 100 Delicious Syrian Recipes by Sharon Salloum (Jacqui Small, £25; www.amazon.co.uk)

Words by Alex Gregg