A quick kibbeh primer
A dish which comes in countless varieties across many countries, this Arab inspired snack is generally made up of different combinations of fine burghul (bulgur wheat), spices, and high quality minced meat. These ingredients are pounded by use of pestle and mortar until a thick paste forms, and from the paste the kibbeh are formed. Kibbeh can come in many shapes and sizes but the iconic image of this popular regional dish is in the shape of a torpedo.
Because the meat often used is lamb, I opted for tempeh as a base (meat eaters have said to me before they have found tempeh to be the best vegetarian or vegan substitute for lamb). There are a few major differences between a traditional kibbeh of this style and my own. First the bullet shaped kibbeh would traditionally be fried (or perhaps grilled) but I opted for a baked version. Second, it’s considered an art to be able to form the toredo shape and I realise this is a skill I do not yet posess. I can barely tie my shoelaces so cut me some slack. Finally, the ball shaped kibbeh is generally stuffed and mine is not. Perhaps I will move onto that concept during the next round.
Recipe notes and adjustments
While traditionally pounded by hand, I find a food processor works wonders. This amazing kitchen tool will save you hours of labour with this particular recipe.
I’m very happy with this recipe as it stands, but I used a different brand of tempeh than the brand which inspired the idea for the recipe. The tempeh I normally buy contains a great deal more moisture than that used in this kibbeh recipe, which is why I have added water as a possible ingredient depending on what tempeh you may have. Next time I would like to try the dish with my preferred tempeh brand because I think the kibbeh could do with something a little more binding (while this recipe works, the final product is a little more crumbly than I’d like). Perhaps egg or an egg substitute would be the answer, or maybe even mashed potato?
I paired this particular recipe with browned onions fried and coated with a healthy dollop of pomegranate molasses. It’s also very good on a salad with a simple lemon and olive oil dressing (try a mix of greens with mint, parsley, and onion and top with a healthy sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper).
Vegan Tempeh Kibbeh
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius (that’s about 350 F).
- First rinse the bulgur wheat and drain. In a food processor, blend the tempeh, bulgur wheat, diced onion, and tomato paste. Add water as necessary. Some brands of tempeh are dry while others are fairly gooey. You are looking for a paste that sticks together and can be kneaded.
- Add all of the spices to the mix and blend again.
- To make the kibbeh torpedo shape form a few tablespoons into an approximate golf ball shape (a tip to keep the mix from sticking is to keep a small bowl of cold water at hand and keep your palms damp). Roll into an oval shape. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to perfect the torpedo shape (they’ll still taste good).
- Oil a baking sheet and likewise coat each kibbeh with a healthy sheen of olive oil. Bake for about 30-35 minute or until the shell is crisp. It’s advisable to turn the kibbeh during cooking, but be careful when doing so (use a spatula to avoid bits sticking to the sheet).
- Remove from oven and serve either immediately or cold, with salads, or with any number of mezze dishes. Be sure to include a few wedges of freshly sliced lemon to squeeze onto each bite (really, it’s not the same without)!