Kibbi with Turnip Pickles & Labneh
FEATURING MONJAY MEZZA’S KIBBI
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Kibbi is the centre point of this dish, but it’s fair to say that the turnip pickles steal the show. Like Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, or Kanye West at an awards show. It wasn’t meant to be about them, but they forced themselves into the spotlight.
Don’t get us wrong – we love our kibbi, we’re proud of our kibbi. These little parcels of burghul and lamb stuffed with onion and pine nuts (and more meat) are dangerous morsels. ‘Just one more’ is invariably muttered repeatedly when a plate of kibbi is on the table. Next thing you know, you’re sprawled ungracefully on the couch, pants loosened at the waist, saliva pooling at a corner of the mouth.
But there’s just something about a good pickle. It’s usually the missing piece to a dish that seems to be lacking something. The crunch and sweet, vinegary tang has been a regular feature in Lebanon, Egypt and Syria for… well, forever. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, pickles are there to boost flavour by several notches, or act as palate cleanser between bites.
Be sure to prepare the pickles five days ahead, and don’t be put off by the necessity for forward-thinking. It’s well worth it.
START THIS FIVE DAYS AHEAD!
There. Don’t say you weren’t warned. For the pickle, combine the salt, bay leaf, fennel seeds and vinegar with three cups of water in a saucepan and sit over a medium flame. Heat until just before boiling, ensuring all the salt has dissolved, then leave aside to cool.
Bruise the garlic cloves with the butt of your knife and add to the brine while it’s cooling.
Peel and cut the turnips and beetroot into one centimetre thick batons, pack into jars, and pour over the brine, garlic included. Screw the lids on and leave somewhere dark and cool for five days. Prepared in this way, these turnip pickles are good for about a month, though they have a snowball’s chance in hell of lasting that long.
When the day finally arrives, prepare Monjay’s Kibbi in one of two ways: either deep fry in oil from frozen for around six minutes or until dark brown, or bake at 170 degrees until dark brown.
Spoon some of Monjay’s Labneh Dip onto a plate and smoosh artistically. Nestle four or five little football-shaped kibbi into the dip, then arrange the pink batons of pickled turnip alongside. Warm the flatbread and have in the middle of the table. They’re great for converting the dish into a wrap, or simply mopping up any remaining labneh and pickle juice.
This dish is complete when served with a crunchy Greek salad.
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