armenian sini kufteh

This is one of bob's favorite dishes frequently appearing at Isgouhi's table, plated with a generous helping of plain yogurt to contrast the flavors and enhance the sensory impact. It is a pan layered baked version of the football shaped meat-filled bulgur balls (dumplings?) called kibbeh in Arabic, common throughout the Middle East. Isghouhi serves the latter in her yogurt-mint soup, also a favorite and frequent dish in her kitchen, but it is more labor efficient to create this bulgur sensation in layers rather than individually crafted and filled and closed kibbeh balls, and more easily reproduced by amateurs like us in our own kitchen one day when we quit being lazy waiting for Isgouhi to serve us. Trying to coax the bulgur outer layer into a nearly closed shape, filling it with the bulgur meat mixture, and then finishing the closing up sculpting operation is really challenging, bob gave it the old college try once.

The dish is baked in a large round pan with a traditional diamond-shaped pattern inscribed on the surface, making it easy to cut along triangular lines. And it has to be one of the top reasons we would have trouble giving up meat for the good of the planet. Surprisingly it has taken many years to formalize this recipe here, but part of the reason is that Isgouhi pretty much follows the version found in a cookbook we gifted to many many people last century: Secrets of Cooking Armenian / Lebanese / Persian by Linda Chiridian, with some variations that are annotated on little yellow Post-Its in our copy. Look for "Ground Meat with Bulgur (Kibbeh)" joined to "Layered Meat with Bulgur (Kibbeh bil Sineya)" on pages 94-95. We still have to run through this together with our master chef in our own kitchen so that we can own this recipe. Watching but not doing does not cut it.

ingredients

ground meat with bulgur (Kibbeh)
 1 1/2 to 2 c bulgur
1 medium onion, quartered
2 lbs lean lamb or beef (Isgouhi says lamb is too heavy), cut into 1 in cubes
2 t salt or to taste
1 t freshly ground pepper or to taste
1/2 t allspice
2 level t sweet red pepper paste for color (Isgouhi  modification)
1/4 c small ice chips (optional: we disregard this).
 
meat filling (Hashwe)
2 T safflower oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb lean ground lamb or beef
1/4 c pine nuts
2 t allspice
1/4 t cinnamon or nutmeg (Isgouhi says cinnamon)
1 t cumin (optional)
1/4 t paprika (optional) (Isgouhi says Middle Eastern red pepper, if available, she adds pepper paste)
2 T corn or safflower oil
2 T butter or vegetable shortening (Isgouhi says...)

instructions

  1. Wash the bulgur in a bowl, drain, and cover it with water. Set aside.
  2. Isgouhi says finely chop the onion rather than pureeing it with the meat.
  3. Two lbs meat is too much for usual food processors so do this in two steps.
  4. in progress

notes

  1. Armenian sini kufteh (kufta, kufte, kofta) search.
  2. Illustrations available.
sinikufteh.htm: 16-apr-2015 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]