كبة بَالصنِية – Kibbeh Bisseniye : Burghul and Mince Baked Layers with Spiced Mince and Nut Filling

This is a traditional Lebanese recipe that is delicious, healthy and full of flavour.

Traditionally Kibbeh comes in many forms; some are football shaped filled with mince and nuts, then deep fried as an apetizer. This version contains the same ingredients but is baked instead of fried, hence saving on time and calories.

Dare I say, however, it is equally as delicous!

To make (makes enough for a family + leftovers for lunch):

For the outside (kibbeh) layers

1/2 kg fine burghul- soaked in enough water for about 1 hour – Drain later before using

250 gms lean beef of lamb mince

One medium onion – chopped

Handful of fresh mint, or a few tablespoons dry ground mint

Orange or lemon zest to taste ( I dont use it because my husband isnt a big fan of lemon flavours in food)

2 tablespoons ground corriander

Ground black pepper

Salt to taste

  • Blitz all ingredients in the food processor until a paste forms. It should be a bit grainy but not too rough.

For the filling:

250- 300 gms lamb mince

One or two large onions (according to preference)

Handful of chopped toasted slivered almonds or pine nuts

2 teaspoons ground corriander

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 Tablespoon sumak

alternatively you can use middle-eastern Baharat Spice mix

To make:

Brown mince in some oil in a hot pan, add onion and cook well. Add spices and fry off until dry. Do not burn. Season well and add the nuts. Set aside for stuffing

To assemble:

Add half the kibbeh mix to a greased/lined baking tin (I used a rectangular 20X 30 cm pan, but you can use any shape). Flatten out to fom an even later. You might need to wet your hands to make this easier.

Add the mince mixture and spread evenly.

Now the tricky part! Make medium sized patties and place ontop of the mince. Do not press hard. Repeat the process as if you are making a quilt, then press the seams together to make an even layer.

Wet your hands and gently run you fingers over the top to form an even and smooth surface

Cut out to desired shape and drizzle generously with olive oil and or butter/ghee. Garnish with raw almonds

Bake in a medium heat oven until cooked and springy to touch. Place under grill for extra colouration/crispy top.

Serve with rice and yogurt salad.

Delicious!

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Creamy Tomato Pasta

I am always wondering what to pack my husband for lunch:

 

Sandwiches become soggy

Curries are too smelly

Creamy pasta too often

 

So last week I ventured the pasta sauce isle for inspiration. I pick up a jar of creamy tomato pasta sauce and ready the back for ingredients. ”I can make that” I think to myself.. and it was a winner with my husband! A sure staple on our lunch menu.

For about 4 serves (500 gms pasta)

one can diced tomato ( I used one with olives because I bought it by mistake, but works great)

one medium onion – finely diced

two garlic cloves minced

oregano- 2 tablespoons (or any of your favourite herbs)

salt and a pinch of sugar to taste (sugar is used if the tomatoes arent very sweet)

1/2 cup cream

250 gm pasta

olives/sundried tomatoes (chopped- optional)

To make:

Saute onions of medium heat in some olive oil util soft. Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients (except for cream) and cook on a low heat until completely cooked and softened. Add enough water to cook, but reduce when almost done as you do not want a soup!

The longer you let it cook (about 20-30 mins) the better the flavour. You know it is ready when the oil separates from the sauce.

Add desired amount of cream at the end, and olives/sundried tomatoes if you want to. Heat through and mix with your favourite pasta.

This sauce freezes well!

 

Freekah, Capsicum, Corn and Lamb Spiced Porridge.

Last week while out with my son, I found myself stuck without any food for him ( I was out longer than planned) and couldnt spot any supermarkets in my near vicinity.

I found a small lebanese foodshop so I bought some labneh (basically strained yogurt with some salt) and fed it to him with some bread.

I felt a bit dissapointed.. because I didnt think I would use it myself later. I dreaded it just sitting there in the fridge and I expected it to be laden with fat, so a no go food for me in my weight management efforts.

Having a look at the back it was surprisingly only 7% fat, yet lusciously creamy and delicious. Remincant of philly cream cheese.

So I’ve been using it with my smoked salmon sandwiches .. and I found that it works exceptionally well with this recipe I made for last weekend’s dinner.

This is a must try!

You will need:

3-4 pieces of lamb on the bone ( I used half neck and shanks)

1 cup freekah (green wheat available at Arab shops)

Half a medium red capsicum and half a green capscicum – diced

Corn off half a cob

One large onion- finely diced

5 cloves of garlic – minced

3 tablespoons paprika

1-3 tablespoons freshly ground cumin (to taste)

1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)

One medium ripe tomato (pureed)

salt and pepper to taste

chilli powder (to taste) – optional

To make:

Fry off onions and capsicum in some oil (I used half sunflower half olive oil) until fragrant. Add lamb bones and fry off until they pick up some colour. Add remaining  ingredients with suffient water and allow to cook until lamb is tender.

If you want the freekah to be more chewy, only add when the lamb is 75% cooked.

This is delicious served with Toasted Turkish bread, a generous dollop of Labneh (or sour cream) and some drops of chilli sauce!

 

Creamy Mushroom and Chicken Risotto

I’ve been busy.. really busy

My son has always been a terrible sleeper and it started to take it’s toll on me. Anyone else know of 8 month olds who only sleep for 45 mins and declare war on anyone trying to put them down for a nap?

Last week a friend recommended I read a baby sleep help book: The no cry sleep solution (by Elizabeth Paintley). So I made a trip to the local library but couldnt resist gravitating towards the cookbook section after picking up the book.. In the very limited time I have every few days, I sit and study.. so stay tuned for some awesome recipes, tips and techniques!

Now for a recipe. Mushrooms are great in the cooler weather, and this recipe is easy to whip in no time

You will need;

1.5- 2 cups arborio rice

1 chicken breast or thigh: diced or sliced

4 button mushrooms: sliced or chopped

one medium onion: finely diced

one stalk of celery: finely diced

3 cloves of garlic: minced

one tablespoon dry oregano (or any other herb of your choice)

salt and pepper to taste

Chicken stock (i make my own while prepping the food: I use scrap bits of chicken, celery, onion and carrots. By the time I am done prepping the food the stock is hot and ready to use) – You can use water instead.

Parmesan cheese to serve

To make:

Saute onion and celery on medium heat in some olive oil until it is soft and picks up some golden colour

Add chicken and cook through. (if using chicken breast and you want it moist, remove after this step)

Add rice and stir in well for a minute.

Add stock, one ladel-full at a time, stirring until absorbed.Scrape any dry bits off the bottom and mix through. Maintain a medium heat.

Repeat until rice is cooked through and creamy. Halfway add the mushrooms, garlic and seasonings.

Enjoy with ha generous shaving of sharp parmesan cheese.

 

Tips:

You can make this without chicken

You can add some cream- but I like mine without.

The risotto flavour is based on how well you cook the onion/celery/chicken at the start. so take your time!

Creamy Pesto and Spinach Pasta

I always try to find some positive to an otherwise negative situation..

Yesterday my son was quite sick, so we spent a good portion of the day at the Children’s Hospital.

Long story short, we were told the wait to see a doc was 3 hours, so my husband and I went to the cafetria to have something to eat. I love looking at cafe displays and menus, so took the opportunity to learn something new.

My husband bought pesto and spinach pasta. I could see that it was incredibly rich, so I only tasted it.. It was really lovely and knew it would become a regular on our home menu. I am glad that I came across something new as I feel like I always packing my husband stirfry noodles or omlette for lunch 😀

Today I made some for my husband’s lunch for the week…

It was so tasty (and lighter than the one yesterday) that I couldn’t help but have a little myself.

You will need: enough for 1 kg of penne pasta

Approx 2 heaped tablespoons plain flour

Approx 2 tablespoons butter

Approx 1 L fullcream milk

half a cup of frozen chopped spinach

half a cup fresh basil (optional)

250 gms penne pasta

To make:

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir over medium heat until lightly golden but not deepn in colour. You know you are ready to add the milk when the flour smells like biscuits 🙂

Add milk (preferably warm) one cup at a time. Whisking really well. Lower heat and add more milk , little by little until desired consistency is achieved. You might not use all the milk, or you might need more.

Season well with salt. Add spinach and cook through.

Add basil (you can whiz up with some olive oil for a richer dish). Add to sauce.

Cook penne pasta and stir through the sauce.

Enjoy with a generous sprinkle of good quality parmesan cheese.

Tips:

  • Whisk, whisk, whisk! Otherwise your sauce will be really lumpy.
  • Remember the sauce thickens as it cools.
  • Store any exrtra sauce and freeze for a quick midweek dinner or weekend lunch. Just cook the pasta and mix through heated sauce.

Pumpkin and Herb Risotto

I have been making this regularly at least once every fortnight. Really easy and full of flavour.

You will need:

1 large stalk celery – finely diced

one small carrot- finely diced

approx 2 cups Jap pumpkin – cubed into 2cm pieces

one medium onion – finely sliced

1-2 cloves garlic – minced

1-2 tablespoons oregnao (fresh or dry)

white and black pepper to taste

2 cups arborio rice

approx 2 L boiling water or chicken stock

parmesan cheese to serve

olive oil

To make:

Saute onions, carrots and celery on medium high heat in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Stir constantly until some pieces start to caramelise. This step is very  important because it forms the flavour base of the risotto.

Add rice and stir  for a few minutes until translucent. Add pumpkin and stir well. Add water about one cup at a time, stir well and cook on a gentle simmer until almost fully absorbed. Add more water and repeat until rice is cooked through, but not mushy.

Season well with garlic, salt, pepper and oregano while cooking.

Serve hot with shaved or grated parmesan.

I had mine with some avocado and grilled chicken.

 

 

Chicken ‘Satay’ with Veg Jasmin Rice.

It has been stinking hot here in Melba for the past few days.. Nearing 40 deg C.

I’ve noticed my cooking has changed to suit the weather.. no curries or slow cooked food, especially with an electric stove-top  that retains its heat for a longggg while.

I made this dish last weekend. The reason why I didnt call this satay chicken is because I couldn’t find any bamboo skewers and really couldn’t be bothered for just good looks 🙂

Anyway. Super easy dish to make, perfect for this kind of weather; marinate the chicken and cook for a few mins when it’s time to eat.

Enjoy!

For the chicken:

2 medium chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips (you can bash a bit to tenderise, but I don’t)

3/4 tsp turmeric powder

pinch of chilli powder (to taste_

one minced clove of garlic

2 tablespoons brown sugar (can use honey or normal sugar)

2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use Maggin seasoning sauce)

salt to taste

sesame oil for cooking (can use any other mild tasting oil)

Kecap manis and lemon to serve

To cook:

Mix all ingredients together and allow to marinate for at least an hour (the longer the better)

When ready to cook, heat a little bit of oil in a skillet or non-stick  pan and add chicken pieces. Do NOT overcrowd the pan or turn too much. You want to turn only when the bottom side is cooked and picked up some colour. This way  you get a beautiful flavour without using a bbq.

Turn and cook the other side.

Serve with a drizzle of kecap manis and squeeze of lemon juice.

For the veg rice:

Chicken stock (i use the water I poach chicken in)

1 spring onion- sliced

2 cups jasmin rice

1/4 cup each diced carrots, peas and corn

1 small clove of garlic – minced

salt and black pepper to taste

To make:

Bring veg to boil in the stock with garlic and spring onions. Season well. Add pre-soaked and washed rice and cook according to packet instructions.

Vietnamese Beef and Noodle Salad

It’s been a while since my last post.. havent been feeling upto blogging much lately… Sometimes it feels like I blog to myself.. until I bumped into a family friend who told me she had been trying out recipes from my blog.. knowing that people are trying and appreciating my recipes encouraged me to get back into yet..

And my husband has been encouraging me too 🙂

Enough about me and now back to cooking ……….

This is what I eat when it is hot and I can’t be bothered standing infront of my electric stove top for long…

It is healthy and delicious.. try it out and it would be a sure favourite lunch for the hotter months.

Serves 2:

2 servings of dry thin rice noodles – cook according to packet instructions (usually you just soak in boile water for a couple of mins)

thin strips of red pepper and carrots – 1/4 cup each (i use a eg peeler to make thin ribbons of carrot)

1/4 cup sliced celery

1/4 cup salted roasted peanuts

fresh mint and/or thai basil / corriander leaves – few roughly torn

small clove of garlic minced, added to noodles while hot (to avoid stinky breath!)

small handful fried shallots for garnish (optional)

For dressing

2 tablespoons of soy sauce (i use Maggi seasoning sauce as it has a nice flavour) you can also use fish sauce.

about 2 tsp sugar

squeeze of lemon or lime (approx 1 tablespoon )

Beef:

250 gms beef  topside cut into thin strips

1 tablespoon kecap manis

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 tablespoon minced ginger

1 small clove minced garlic

mix everything together and allow to marinate, then stir fry in some oil until crsipy, taste to adjust seasoning.

To make the salad, mix everything together and add dressing to taste.

Enjoy hot, warm or cold!

 

Taking the stress out of entertaining.

I have a little secret to share.. I am really bad when it comes to cooking for other people… well I used to be until I stated planning.

I over think things, and end up trying to do too many things at once, when just one dish cooked from the heart would have been more than enough.

When it comes to entertaining guests, I have come up with a plan. It makes life so much easier.

  • First of all, dont fret it. Most of the time a simple dish that you take forgranted can be very impressive to someone who has never tasted it before.
  • Presentation is key. Take time to arrange things nicely. Browse the net for ideas and keep them in a folder for inspiration.
  • Add fresh herbs ad even roses from your garden for a fancy garnish.
  • Instead of trying to make fancy desserts with exotic flavours ( which some people my not appreciate), stick to perfecting some classics and keep your tried and tested recipes. Som must knows are:
  1. Sponge cake
  2. Moist chocolate cake
  3. Buttercream filling (you vary the flavour)
  4. Vanilla or Chocolate Cupcakes
  5. Red Velvet Cake
  6. Tiramisu or other sponge biscuit cake
  7. Fresh custard and creme pattissiere.
  8. whipped cream
  9. Chocolate ganache
  10. Butterascotch sauce
  11. Butter cookies
  12. Chocolate Brownies
  13. Carrot Cake
  14. Fruit Cake
  • You also need good recipes for:
  1. Basic yeast dough for pizzas, buns, rolls etc
  2. Shortcrust pastry
  3. Samosa skins
  • Arranging a fruit platter is an easy way to impress.
  1. Make sure you have a variety of fruits.
  2. Make sure they are fresh
  3. Slice evenly and stack together.
  4. Leave  some whole fruit well.
  5. Dont cut too early as frits will lose their freshness. Wash and dry fruit as prep.
  • Make things you can prep in advance ad dont break the budget:
  1. Chopped Lebanese bread makes excellent dipping chips when toasted. It can be prepared in advance and is inexpensive.
  2. Make spring roll filling or other fllings the day before and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
  • Ice and lemon/orange slices add an ielement of interest to an otherwise ordinary drink, and a jugfull ca n make a beautiful centrepice.

These are my tips for now… and here are some pics for inspiration from my recent afternoon tea:

 

Rich Chocolate Cake with Dark Choc Ganache and Mocha Buttercream Filling

This cake is always a massive hit.  Whenever I make it people think it is store bought, but the flavour is oh so much richer than many commercial cakes.

I first tasted this (without the buttercream) a few years back when it was made for me by someone I knew. I later reaslised it was a recipe from the women’s weekly. I decided to try it and have been making this whenever I want to impress with minimal effort.

I have tweaked the recipe to suit me over time, and have found it is even better the next day, so perfect for preparing in advance.

Some of the charm of a chocolate cake is in its rustic appeal, so it is ideally suited to those (like me) who arent that great with cake decorating (yet).

So if you want a cake to impress, put aside that box of Betty Crocker, and try one from scractch.. you will be glad you did.

For the cake:

1.5 cups water

2 cups caster sugar

1 tablespoons vanilla sugar

1 tablespoons insant coffee

1 cup dark chocolate buttons

1 cup plain flour

1.5 cups selfraising flour

1/4 cup coco powder

1 cup oil or 250 gms unsalted butter

2 large eggs

For the buttercream filling: 

1 teaspoon instant coffee dissolved in 2 tablespoons milk

125 gms unsalted butter

125 gms coffa (vegetable shortening)

2 cups icing sugar

For the ganache:

1 cup thickened cream

1 cup dark chocolate buttons

To make:

In a saucepan, melt chocolate, water and sugar. Stir until dissolved. If using butter, add as well.

Allow to cool FULLY before proceeding to the next step or else you will end up with scrambled eggs.

Sift the coco powder, flours and vanilla sugar and mix well. This will ensure an even colouring.

Add lightly beaten eggs and cooled water/choc/sugar/butter liquid.

Mix well with a spatula, but do not over mix as this will make your cake tough.

Grease and line a deep round or square cake tin. I found my 7 cm high, 20 cm diam tin too small for this, so use the size up.

Bake in a medium heat (I had to lower my oven to 120 because the cake was rising too quickly). Start off at 150 and alter the temp to suit.

This cake takes about 1 hour 30- 50 mins to cook. It is done when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. check around the 1 hr ten minutes mark, if it is still wobbly and wet looking dont even bother with the skewer, wait and check later.

Do not over bake as this will result in a dry cake.

I bake my cake at night and make my fillings and ganache the next day. The cake must be cooled entirely before decorating.

…..Now for the filling!

Beat the butter, copha until well combined. Add sugar and and beat again until fluffy. Add milk/coffee mix until fluffy again. Set aside at room temp.

……..and the ganache

On medium heat, allow cream and milk to melt together. Mix well and remove from the heat. Allow to cool.

To fill the cake. Slice the cake into two or three equak portions. Slice off the top iff the cake is uneven. I use a long bread or any long flat knife with a jaggered edge.

Dont cut in one directional motion, rather go around while turning the cake and go deeper with each rotation. I will post a link to this.

Fill with as much butter cream as you want. You can retain some for decorating.

You have 2 choices with the ganache, either pour over when cool but still runny, which gives a glossy finish, but is more difficult to deal with, or allow to cool further and spread over which gives a more matted look.

Experiment with both techniques as they both look good, and ultimately both taste great!

Note: If you wondering what the golden dust is on the cake, that was some salted butterscotch crumble I made, but that is really not necessary.