Syrian ‘sandwich’: Kibbeh bil sanieh

Lesson #1 learnt whilst cooking Syrian food: cutting a wedge out of one’s finger whilst trying to dice a tomato makes it really quite painful to type.

Subsequently, this is going to be a shorter than usual preamble. However, it is probably an appropriate moment to sing the praises of what is possibly our best bargain buy ever – and that’s saying a lot, as Miranda is one of the world’s most dedicated bargain and freebie hunters. But few bargains have had the longevity of our favourite kitchen knife – from IKEA, of all places.

IKEA knife

When Ash first moved out of home, we did a big IKEA shop, cheaply picking up all the essentials, with the intention of upgrading the important things later. One of the essentials, of course, was an all-purpose knife, which he picked up for about £8. Four and a half years (and a few sharpenings) later, it is still our most reached-for knife when cooking, and will probably feature in nearly every recipe on this blog, despite the fact that since then we’ve acquired fancier and more expensive knives. Moral of the story: don’t underestimate IKEA. (But don’t come into too close contact with the knife blade, if you know what’s good for you. And don’t visit the store on a bank holiday Monday, if you know what’s good for you.)

Fortunately, losing a chunk of Miranda’s finger didn’t affect our ability to cook and eat Syrian kibbeh bil sanieh, which is basically multiple layers of meat sandwiched together – which made Ash very happy. Unfortunately we can’t remember which website this recipe came from, so apologies for the lack of credit.

Kibbeh bil sanieh

300g lean minced lamb
300g lean minced beef
2/3 cup bulgur wheat (burghul)
4 large onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp allspice
2 tsp sumac
Olive oil

1. In a small bowl, let the bulgur wheat soak for about 30 minutes.
2. In a large pan, heat a little oil and cook half the onions until translucent. Add the minced lamb, and half of each of the spices. Add the pine nuts and cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat, until the lamb is cooked. Set aside to cool.
3. In a large bowl, combine the minced beef, remaining onion and remaining spices, then add the bulgur wheat. Mix well with your hands.
4. In a baking tray or dish, add half the beef mixture and spread it evenly on the bottom. Add the lamb filling, and top with the remaining beef mixture. Smooth out the surface and bake at 180C for 40-45 minutes.
Serves 4

Would we make this again? It was nice, but we wouldn’t rush to repeat it, except maybe to try the recipe again with the beef component much more finely minced, as was suggested in other recipes. The way it was, we found that there really wasn’t much difference between the beef and lamb mixtures, which made it a little bit bland overall. Having said that, we really liked the flavour created by the combination of spices, and would certainly use that same mix in other dishes.


Ready to bake

We served the kibbeh bil sanieh with a simple Syrian-style salad of tomato, cucumber, green pepper, little gem lettuce, red onion, parsley, mint and lemon, which balanced the flavours in the meat really well. Ash thought the overall meal would have been improved further with some flatbread to sandwich the kibbeh in, too. As a little added extra, one of the recipes we read suggested a bit of ketchup on the side – it might be nontraditional, but it worked!

Kibbeh bil sanieh and salad

Syrian dinner

Whilst enjoying the cooking and eating of this meal, we couldn’t help but think of the Syrians whose lives aren’t as comfortable as ours, and who aren’t judging their meals on whether they’d like to eat them again, but rather whether they’ll even be able to. In response, we’ve made a donation to one of the many charities offering help to those affected by the Civil War. We chose Tearfund because of the fact that they provide kitchen goods (amongst other things, obviously) to those in crisis, which we thought was appropriate, but there are many more out there. It’s very easy to watch the news, feel pity and then not do anything, so we were glad to be prompted to make a contribution.

Lebanon next! Miranda in particular loves Lebanese food so this is very exciting. The only question is what dish(es) to choose!

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