Do pumpkins symbolise Autumn? Every time I look at the different colourful varieties, I visualise the glorious changing colours of leaves in Autumn. I also think of Halloween and associated traditional Western dishes, such as pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup and so forth but there is one which you may not have heard of and that is Pumpkin Kibbeh.
Kibbet La’teen or Pumpkin Kibbeh is one of the multiple variety of vegetarian Lebanese kibbeh. It is in fact suitable for both vegetarians and vegans as well as meat eaters for the mingling of flavours makes it quite tempting. Another advantage is that it keeps and freezes well. Although, it is called pumpkin kibbeh, I normally go for butternut squash because it is part of the pumpkin family and it is easy to handle.
However, if you prefer pumpkins, go for the smaller ones because they retain more intense flavours. For both pumpkins and squash, always choose those with smooth, unblemished flesh, when you hold one, it should feel firm and heavy.
Here are 2 websites which you might find useful:
For the filling:
- 50 g / 2 oz chickpeas soaked overnight in 3x times their volume of water, add ¼ tsp of bicarbonate of soda, alternatively, you could use the same amount of tinned chickpeas
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 medium onions thinly sliced
- 35 g/ 1¼ oz shelled walnuts broken into chunky pieces
- 35 g/ 1¼ oz pine nuts
- 1 tbsp of pomegranate syrup
For the kibbeh
- 550 g / 1¼ lb pumpkin or butternut squash (skin on)
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 225 g / 8 oz fine burghul
- 50 g / 2 oz plain flour
- Salt and freshly milled black pepper
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- ½tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
Utensils: you need also a deep baking dish rectangle one measuring 20 x 30 cm and 5cm deep ( 8 x12 x 2 inches), or any shape that has the same approximate surface area.
For the kibbeh
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C / 400°F.
- Wash the pumpkin or butternut squash. The easiest way to cook pumpkin is to cut it in half, remove seeds put the halves in a lightly greased baking tray, drizzle over some olive oil, season with nutmeg, cover with aluminium foil and pop it in the oven for roughly 50 minutes (it depends on the size). It is cooked when you can easily run the fork through.
- While the pumpkin or butternut squash is baking, rinse thoroughly and squeeze dry the burghul. Finely chop the onion and season it with salt and pepper.
- When it becomes easy to handle, scoop out the flesh of the cooked pumpkin or butternut squash and put it in a large mixing bowl. Mash it with a fork and season with a little pepper.
- Add the onions, burghul and flour to the pumpkin or butternut squash and mix everything with your hands until you obtain a dough-like consistency, it should hold together so you could spread it easily, if necessary, add more burghul. Taste and adjust if needed. Let it rest in the fridge while preparing the filling.
For the filling
- Wash the soaked chickpeas and transfer to a pan, add fresh water and ½ tsp salt. Using a high heat setting, bring to the boil and remove any scum, then reduce the setting to a medium heat, cover and keep checking once or twice if needed toping with hot water. It takes about 45 minutes to cook, afterwards leave it on the side to cool. You can do that well ahead of time, even a day or two before cooking the whole dish.
- Using a medium setting, heat up the oil in a large frying pan then add onions and fry until golden.
- Drain chickpeas and stir them into the mixture for another 3 minutes.
- Add pine nuts and walnuts to the onions-chickpeas mixture and cook for further 3 minutes.
- Season with salt and freshly milled black pepper, allspice, ground nutmeg and cinnamon, taste and adjust if necessary.
- Finish off by stirring in the pomegranate syrup, mix thoroughly, switch off the heat. Let it cool.
- Prepare a small bowl of iced water to dip your hands in if necessary.
- Grease generously the baking dish with olive oil and divide the kibbeh dough in halves. Take the first half and divide it into 4 balls. Spread them within an equal distance from each other in the baking dish. Flatten each ball to about ½ cm / ¼ inch thickness, so at the end it is one piece that covers the bottom of the baking dish. If your hands become sticky, dip them in the water and smooth the dough, so in the end you have one uniform piece that covers the bottom of the baking dish. Now spread the filling all over.
- For the top part. Divide as before the remaining half. Now because you need to cover the filling, it becomes a little trickier. Dampen your hands in the iced water, take one ball at a time and flatten it between your palms to the same thickness as before and lay it on top of the filling. If it is a rectangular or square baking dish, start from one corner, repeat the same process with all of them until you cover the filling including the edges. Again, smooth it together so it is uniform.
- Cover and chill in the fridge for ½ an hour before cutting it into squares, then make a hole in the middle of the baking dish. Drizzle the top with 1 tbsp of olive oil.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven 190°C / 375°F for 30-35 minutes. The top should be golden.
- Serve hot or cold with any lemony salad such as rocket, cabbage or simply Tabbouleh (See recipe in Salads)