Oh pregnancy cravings. You always have a way of being exactly what I’m not supposed to have. While we don’t eat a lot of red meat in our diet, I repeatedly craved kibbeh nayeh (a Lebanese dish made of fresh raw meat, bulgur, and spices) during my first pregnancy and now find myself craving it with my second. For obvious reasons, raw meat is a no-no but I was determined to see my craving satisfied by creating a stellar vegetarian substitute. When I first attempted to make faux kibbeh during my first pregnancy, I happened to only have yellow potatoes on hand and this turned out to be the biggest blessing in disguise. I have since tried this recipe using your average Idaho potatoes and let me tell you it simply isn’t the same! The waxiness of the yellow potato gives you that authentic meat-like texture and flavor that other potatoes don’t. Just take my word for it and you won’t be disappointed.
We didn’t eat kibbeh nayeh much growing up but when we did it was an absolute treat. For many Lebanese, the highlight is the meat but for my dad the thought of devouring mouthfuls of raw meat was just unappetizing. We ate this meal a particular way: a light amount of meat thinly spread, heavily topped with crunchy bulgur, walnuts, and aromatic spices, drenched in olive oil so rich you could drink it, garnished with fragrant herbs like basil and mint, and served alongside fresh sweet onions, radishes, and other crunchy veggies and treats. This is what I have sought to recreate in this recipe; not just faux meat but an entire medley of exquisite flavors that make for a simple, nutritious, and delicious vegan lunch or dinner. This recipe makes quite a bit because we enjoy it so much that we have it for lunch for a few days. So if you’re looking for a recipe that makes weekly meal planning a bit easier, this is definitely a keeper!
Faux meat base:
3lbs yellow waxy potatoes
1/3 cup fine bulgur
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 to 2 cups of kammouneh*
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon high quality extra virgin olive oil
3 cups fine bulgur rinsed and thoroughly drained and dried
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon dried ground basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less depending on how much heat you can handle)
**You can also get kammouneh for kibbeh nayeh from your local Lebanese butcher if you live in the Dearborn area. I have some stored in my freezer which I use to make this recipe.
For serving and garnishment:
Lebanese pickles and olives
High quality extra virgin olive oil
- In a small bowl, combine 1/3 fine bulgur and warm water. Set aside for 30 minutes until soft.
- Meanwhile, peel and boil your potatoes in a large pot until cooked and tender.
- While your potatoes are boiling, make the kammouneh in the food processor by mixing the 3 cups of thoroughly drained bulgur (remove any excess moisture) with the kibbeh spices. The bulgur will stay slightly crunchy and will take on a reddish hue.
- Once your potatoes are thoroughly cooked, drain and rinse with cool water.
- This step can either be done with a potato masher or handheld mixer in a large bowl or in the food processor. You will want to whip your potatoes while warm and incorporate the 1/3 cup of soft bulgur, tomato paste, kammouneh, olive oil, and salt and pepper until perfectly seasoned. The amount of kammouneh that you add is flexible-start with 1 cup and if you feel it needs a bit more flavor and texture then add a bit more.
- Spread the faux meat base on a plate, making grooves with the fork.
- Top your base in the following order: 1) kammouneh 2) walnuts 3) scallions and herbs
- Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil and serve alongside pita bread and fresh herbs and vegetables.
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