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Afife Harris, from Lebanon, shows how to make kibbeh batata (potato kibbeh).
Afife Harris came to Dunedin more than 20 years ago with her husband Bill, who teaches at the University of Otago. In those days, it was difficult to find the things she needed to make Lebanese food, but now food items such as burgul, sumac and olive oil are readily available. She teaches cooking classes at Logan Park High School and has a stall at the Otago Farmers Market.
Kibbeh is usually made with minced meat, but this version uses potato instead and with its topping of onions, walnuts and sumac, makes a delicious vegetarian dish. It is cooked with the topping on the bottom then turned over to serve.
2 spring onions
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp dried mint or fresh
2½ cups bulgar wheat or burgul
4 potatoes, cooked with skin on
2 onions, sliced
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 Tbsp sumac
¾ cup olive oil
Put the spring onions, torn into lengths, cumin and mint in a processor with a pinch of salt and process until the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add cup bulgar wheat and process until well-mixed. This is the filling.
Chop the onions and cook in a little vegetable oil in a frying pan until they are soft and only just beginning to brown. When softened, add the walnuts and sumac. Add salt to taste and stir until well-mixed and a brown colour. This is the topping.
Soak 2 cups of bulgar with a cup of warm water for 10 minutes or so.
Peel boiled potatoes while still warm and mash. Afife uses a pestle to crush the potatoes. Mix in the soaked burgul, which will have absorbed the water, and the mint and spring onion filling. Mix well with your hands. If the mixture seems a little dry add a little warm water. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble, spread the onion and walnut mixture in the bottom of a baking dish.
Take balls of the potato mixture, pat into rounds and place on top of the onion and walnut mixture until you have a thick potato layer. Use damp hands to smooth the surface.
Cut into diamonds or squares, drizzle with olive oil and bake at 180degC for 20-30 minutes until browning at the edges.
You can serve it from the dish, or turn it out so the onion, walnut and sumac mix is on the top.
Serve with salad.
• You can add tomato and chilli to the spring onion, cumin and mint filling to make a dish by itself.
• Burgul is whole wheat that has been cleaned, parboiled, dried and ground. It is used a lot in Middle Eastern cuisine in dishes like tabbouleh (parsley and burgul salad) and kibbeh. It can be finely or coarsely ground. As it is precooked it only needs to be soaked before eating, as in tabbouleh. Don't confuse it with cracked wheat which is not cooked before cracking. Couscous is somewhat similar but is actually a fine, granular form of pasta.
• Sumac is a red spice with a lemony flavour used in Middle Eastern cuisine.
• Lebanese food uses a lot of onions.
• Afife uses vegetable oil to cook with, and saves olive oil for salads and flavouring food.
• You could cook chicken with the onion, walnuts and sumac, and use it as a filling for pita bread.
• Cooking potatoes in their skins gives them a better flavour, but remember to wash them first.