Would it be politically incorrect to say that this recipe wouldn’t have existed if Jesus never walked the earth? It’s true. Well, somehow true. The Kebbé pasta is actually an edit of my grandmother’s recipe that she learned from her catholic neighbor. Each Easter, observant Catholics undergo a forty-day lent during which they are not allowed to eat any animal product. For forty days, they transform into the most creative vegetarian chefs, sourcing a historic repertoire of traditional recipes re-dubbed “Kebbé Rahéb (Rahéb being Arabic for ‘monk.) Festively, Kebbé, a traditional Levantine dish made primarily of Bulgur and meat becomes a Kebbé-Rahéb, transforming an array of Kebbé recipes into sans-meat, vegetarian dishes.
The type of Kebbé we’re exploring today is inarguably, the simplest form of the Kebbé-Rahéb crop. It’s a side dish that I consider a main dish and so will you. You can always make one of the salads we’ve prepared in previous posts, or just make one up.
For this recipe, you will need 1 cup of fine-grained Bulgur. Don’t cheat, the coarse Bulgur will not work. For each cup of Bulgur in this recipe you will need 1.5 cups of white flour. You will also need Salt, Pepper, 2 cups of lemon juice, crushed walnuts, any form of chili spice, basil, olive oil and lots of garlic.
My grandma makes this dish with cilantro, not basil, but I don’t grow any cilantro on my balcony, so we’re changing the recipe. My grandma now uses my recipe, so you’re safe.
Pour the Bulgur in a pot, and add water. Let it soak for around five minutes, then throw away the water. Don’t over-drain the Bulgur, we somehow need it wet. Add the white flour, salt and pepper. Here comes the fun part. Massage your mix until it becomes dough. It will take a while. That’s okay. While you do it, listen to some good music. Here’s what I suggest:
Lianne La Havas - Forget (Mele Remix)
Misun - Coffee (Cousin Cole & Nacey Edit)
Banks - Warm Water (Snakehips Remix)
Bastille – Of the night
Now back to the mix. If it doesn’t hold, add a few drops of water and blend again. Keep doing so, until it holds as a blob of dough. Don’t overdo the water, it will ruin everything, just be patient, adding a few drops at a time.
Once your dough is ready, start on the Kebbé balls, which should be one centimeter in diameter, give or take. Did you know the Arabic word Kebbé essentially means “Ball”? That makes Kebbe balls sound redundant…Take a piece of your dough and roll into a ball, then with your thumb, make a hole in the middle. It should look like a magnified picture of a red blood cell. If youre balls aren’t perfect, it’s fine, just make sure that they’re not too thick. Thick balls won’t cook well.
Once your balls are ready, keep them out to dry. Prepare a cooking pot with water, lots of oil and salt. Let it boil. The cooking part is very similar to making pasta, hence the name “The Kebbé Pasta.” Once the water boils, drop in the Kebbé balls and let them cook for around 20 minutes. Then taste. They should taste soft, and it’s okay if they taste a bit like flour. If this is your first time making this dish, there’s no real way to judge if they’re cooked or not. Trust your hunch about how they taste, or trust my 20-minute timing. Drain your balls and rinse them with cold water so they don’t keep cooking in their own heat. Sprinkle some olive oil too, so they won’t stick to each other while draining. Let your Kebbé cool as you make your sauce.
For the sauce, add the lemon juice in a pot with chopped basil, chili pepper, salt, crushed walnuts and lots of minced garlic. Mix well then pour over the cooled Kebbé. Be generous, the sauce should cover the Kebbé like a soup but not smother it. Mix well, but don’t smudge around with your Kebbé, it’s a bit delicate. Pop your mix in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. Serve in formal ware, you’re probably going to have to give an awards-acceptance speech.