Kibbet Samak or Fish Kibbeh originates from North Lebanon more specifically Tripoli. It is light and could be used as a healthy light meal or a starter. Simple ingredients such as bulgar wheat/ burghul, fresh coriander and a few spices are mixed with the fish to achieve a well balanced flavour. Importantly, the saffron that is added to the filling makes this dish a colourful and tasty one. On the subject of saffron, I was recently watching a programme about it and was amazed by the varieties which are available worldwide in the market but not necessarily of good quality. Here are two websites which I found informative:
For the kibbeh:
- 450 g/ 1lb white boneless fish, skin removed, cut into chunky pieces. For the fish, I usually go for Haddock, but you can use any other white fish.
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 100 g/ 4 oz fresh coriander washed, dried and chopped
- Zest of one lemon
- 150g/ 5 oz fine brown bulgar wheat or burghul
- A bowl of slightly salted water
For the filling
- 3 tbsp olive or vegetable oil + 1 tbsp to drizzle at the end
- 400 g/ 14 oz onions sliced
- 65 g/ 2½ oz pine nuts
- A pinch of saffron strands
- salt to taste and ground white pepper
- Ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground coriander
You also need a baking dish, if round one, the diameter would be roughly 25 cm/ 10 inch, rectangular one: 28 x 20 cm/ 11 x 8 inches and 4.5cm/ 1¾ inch depth
- Put the burghul in a sieve and rinse it with cold water a couple of times, then squeeze it with your hands to remove excess water. Transfer to a bowl, season with a little salt and keep it aside.
- Rinse the fish (skin removed) under cold tap water, pat dry then cut into chunky pieces, transfer into a food processor then blitz once or twice just enough to break up the chunkiness of the fish.
- Next, add the remaining ingredients except the burghul and process until combined, season with salt, a ¼ tsp ground white pepper and a pinch of cinnamon. Lastly, mix in the burghul and process again so the mixture will achieve a smooth kibbeh texture. Check seasoning again and adjust if necessary. Transfer to the fridge and let it rest while preparing the filling.
- Heat up the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onions until they are just softened. Stir in a pinch of saffron strands and the pine nuts half way through. Season with ¼ tsp white pepper, ½ tsp ground coriander and salt to taste. Leave to cool before assembling.
- Lightly grease the baking dish with vegetable oil.
- 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. When necessary, moisten your hands with water and smooth down the kibbeh so in the end, you have one uniform piece that covers the bottom of the baking dish. Spread the filling evenly 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 with the salted water, take each ball 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 edges. Again, smooth it together so it is uniform.
- Cover and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes so that it cuts better, meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 190°C/ 375°F.
- With a table knife, mark 4 quarters on the kibbeh. Starting with the first quarter, draw deep geometrical lines to achieve lozenges or square shapes (about 5 cm / 2 inches). Do likewise with the rest, you may need from time to time to moisten the knife with either water or oil. Finally, make a hole in the middle of the baking dish and drizzle the top layer with olive oil and bake until golden brown, roughly 30 minutes.
- Serve hot or at room temperature.
Fish kibbeh goes well with a lettuce lemony salad, hommous or with Taratoor/ tahini sauce (see recipe in Sauces).