Every once in a while, I like to make something that I've never even tasted, something completely outside my frame of culinary reference. This past weekend, it was vegetarian Lentil Kibbeh, based loosely on a recipe by Paula Wolfert, and filtered through The Hungry Tiger blog.
Redfox was clearly dealing with better lighting for her photo, and it probably helped that she chose yellow stoneware instead of black to show of her little heap of goodies, but the end product looks quite similar, I thought.
The sauce is a haphazard combination of Turkish cacik, Greek tzatziki, Indian raita, and Arabic labneh - yogurt with garlic, flat leaf parsley, dried mint, and salt. It is fairly tasty on its own, as a dip for the kibbeh, or drizzled over sfiha (little lamb pizzas). I knocked it together on the spur of the moment, but these kind of sauces / raitas are always pretty tasty.
The kibbeh themselves were quite interesting. Not difficult to make, but a little time consuming in that the lentils must be cooked, then stirred into bulgur wheat and left to stand for some time. Then, a mixture of sauteed onions and spices are added, stirred through, and finally, after a suitable resting period, the kibbeh are shaped into little ovals and baked for 15 minutes to firm up their exterior.
I wanted to use harissa for the chile paste, but couldn't secure any quickly (the corner shop that used to carry it no longer does, although the owner accorded me some strongly worded advice about purchasing only the tubes, not the tins), so I eventually ended up using sambal oelek, sieved to remove the seeds. Lacking fresh tarragon (which, honestly, seems like an odd choice for this dish) I subbed flat-leaf parsley, and plenty of it.
The mixture that I made was a little wetter than ideal, I think, or perhaps I didn't let enough water evaporate while I was cooking the lentils. At any rate, I finally decided on the quenelle method (a nifty sculpting of a triangular oval using two spoons) for shaping them, in the interests in keeping my hands from being completely encrusted with lentils. This worked very well, and after they were all shaped, and had a chance to dry a little, I pressed down the distinctive ridge that is the signature of the quenelle, and smoothed out any rough bits.
The verdict? I enjoyed them - especially after they had cooled a little, but I'm not entirely sure if I'll make them again. They could certainly be an interesting party snack - quite pleasing to the vegetarian contingent, as long as they're down with the spicy and moist - and I do confess that the leftovers lurking in the fridge have become a midnight snack these last couple of days. There was something along the lines of "slightly damp falafel" about them that made me wonder if I would like them better deep-fried - a fate not yet ruled out for the survivors in the fridge. Certainly, they're garlicky, spicy, and bite-sized, which are all good things. The jury's still out.