In the small world of foodies, food writers and food bloggers restaurants come into fashion very quickly and some times they disappear as fast. On occasions this "sudden" popularity is a result of a well organised PR drive, just check the story of L'Anima and linguine alle vongole to understand what I mean.
On other occasions the popularity is (I hope) of the more benign genuine variety. Yalla Yalla is the restaurant in vogue these days. For those who haven't heard about it yet, it is a small Lebanese restaurant/cafe in Soho. The place is every where. The late London Paper called it "the best street food in London", it received glorious reviews in Metro and Time Out and fellow food bloggers World Foodie Guide and The London Foodie gave it equally excellent reviews.
In these reviews, I loved the fact people were adventurous enough to try kibbeh nayyeh. This is raw kibbeh made with raw lamb and bulger wheat, something like Levantine lamb tartare.
I always thought kibbeh nayyeh (nayyeh in Arabic means raw) was a step too far for the Western palate and only the most hardcore of gourmet would dare to attempt it. From the look of things I was wrong and more people are welling to give it a go than I expected, so here is a recipe for it!
Kibbeh Nayeh is the queen of any mezze spread and a must on any Levantine restaurant's menu. When well made Kibbeh Nayeh taste fresh and delicious. You need a good quality, fresh as a daisy, lamb meat. Any self respecting restaurant well not serve you the dish if they are not one hundred percent happy with the lamb, so don't be surprised if you get turned down when you order it.
Like all mezze, everybody have their own recipe. The most authentic uses meat and bulger with few flavouring ingredients apart from salt and pepper. On the other hand, upper end restaurants in Damascus add finely chopped onions, green peppers and spring onions to make the dish less shocking for their many tourist costumers. My recipe is somewhere in between.
For this recipe I use fine bulgar wheat. In Syria bulgar come in two varieties fine and coarse and you can pick these from any Middle Eastern shop, the main stream supermarkets' version is some where in between, this will work but leave it a bit longer in the food processor.
If you are a starter on kibbeh nayyeh use a 1:1 ratio between bulgar and lamb. The more hardcore you get the more meat you can use. This ratio is about volume rather than dry weight.
Another ingredient I would love to use but is not available in London is sun-dried red pepper paste. Instead I use preserved chopped chilli, Tesco have this within their Ingredients range and Bart have a similar product.
Here is my recipe:
Enough for four people as you need a very small portion
Ground lamb 150g
Fine bulgar wheat 50g
Onion one quarter
Tomato one half
Chilli paste 1 tsp
Soak the bulgar in cold water for an hour. It should double in size and be of equal volume to the meat. Drain and squeeze the extra water.
Start a food processor on the highest speed then drop the onion while the machine is running. Stop the machine and scrape the sides then run again till the onion is very finely chopped. Add the tomato in the same way. Run the processor for a minute or so.
Add one third of the meat, one third of the bulgar and the chilli paste and process for few minutes till you get a smooth paste consistency.
Now add the rest of the meat and bulgar and process in short bursts so it is all mixed but you keep the texture of the bulgar. Move to a bowl and mix by hand. Season to taste.
Form into small patties. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and drizzle with olive oil.