Kobeba (pronounced Ko-beh-buh) or Kibbeh, is a classic Middle Eastern dish consisting of a filling of ground beef surrounded by layers of a ground beef and cracked burghul (bulgur) wheat mixture. It is very commonly found in single-serve preparations shaped into conical, fried, meatballs.
While the meatball version can be very good, I prefer it baked in a tray like the kobeba in this recipe. At first glance, the description seems very basic (i.e. meat stuffed inside more meat and wheat), but I had no idea how arduous this recipe is. This is one of those recipes that isn’t for the lazy or weak willed. It takes time, effort, and patience. While the result is well worth it, after knowing how this is made, I would feel guilty asking someone like my mother (who showed me how to make this recipe) to ever make this for me! Due to the effort involved, I’ve mostly had this dish served at larger gatherings because it’s a great addition to a dinner table seeking to feed a bunch of guests.
Makes one tray at 5935 calories total or 495 calories per 1/12 piece or 247 calories per 1/24 piece.
Ingredients Part 1 for Filling:
- 2 Pounds Extra Lean (90/10) Ground Beef (200 cal. per 4 oz. or 1600 cal. total)
- 1 Chopped Onion (44 cal.)
- 1/2 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1/4 Teaspoon Allspice
- 3 Pounds Extra Lean (90/10) Ground Beef (200 cal. per 4 oz. or 2400 cal. total)
- 2 Cups of Cracked Burghul Wheat #1 (140 cal. per 1/4 cup or 1120 cal. total)
- 1 Pureed Onion (44 cal.)
- 5 Tablespoons Melted Butter or Oil (about 500 (butter) – 600 (oil) cal.)
- 1.5 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1/4 Cup Pine Nuts (about 227 cal.)
- 2 Cups of Water
- Large Baking Sheet (half baker’s rack – about 16.5 x 12)
- Large Pot or Wide Skillet
- Cutting Board
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Food Processor
- Teaspoon, Tablespoon, and Cup measurements
- Wooden Spoon/Spatula
- Fine Mesh Colander
- In a large bowl place two cups of cracked burghul wheat along with two cups of water and let the wheat soak for 30 min. or so.
- Peel two onions and roughly chop one of them into 1/4 inch pieces.
- Place a large pot or large skillet on the stove with a little oil if needed and bring the heat up to medium-high.
- Put the chopped onion into the pot and start sauteing the onions over medium heat with a little oil if needed to keep them from sticking.
- Take 2 pounds of the ground beef and start browning the meat in the pot with the onions on medium-high heat.
- Add the 1/2 Tablespoon Garlic Powder, 1 Teaspoon Salt, 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper, and 1/4 Teaspoon Allspice to the ground beef. Mix the ingredients thoroughly as they cook.
- Once cooked, set the meat aside to cool and get started on the bottom and top layers of the Kobeba tray.
- Drain the water from the burghul wheat using a fine mesh colander or strainer and return it to the bowl.
- Roughly chop the other onion into big chunks and using the food processor, finely puree the other onion.
- Add in the remaining three pounds of ground beef to the burghul wheat along with the 1.5 Teaspoon Salt, 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper, 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon, 3 tablespoons of melted butter/oil, and the pureed onion.
- Using your hands (feel free to wear latex gloves) mix the ingredients in the bowl very thoroughly.
- Take a couple of handfuls of the meat mixture in the bowl and place them in the food processor. Puree this smaller amount for a couple of minutes until it becomes a paste. You may need to scrape down the sides of the food processor walls a couple of times to accomplish this. When done, remove the mixture and place back into the bowl on the side away from the rest of the mixture.
- Repeat the previous step using the food processor until the entire mixture in the bowl has been finely pureed. Don’t rush this process by over-packing the food processor because it won’t work. Just stick with smaller batches and take your time.
- Evenly split the pureed mixture into two batches.
- Pre-heat the oven now for 375 degrees F.
- Use one half of the mixture and using your hands spread it evenly into the baking sheet so that it covers the whole tray.
- Next, take the cooked ground beef and spread that over the bottom layer in the baking tray. Once spread out, sprinkle about half of the pine nuts over cooked meat.
- Next comes the top layer of the Kobeba, which takes a little time. Take a handful of the remaining meat and burghul wheat mixture in your hands. Roll it into a ball and then start flattening that ball in your hands so that it’s like a pancake. Lay that over the cooked ground beef layer. Continue doing this until you have covered the entire top layer and used up the whole mixture. You can fill in the gaps with smaller amounts of the mixture.
- When the whole top layer is covered, it should be a little bumpy, so don’t be afraid if you can still see seams and patches. At this point wet your hands with cold water (don’t overdo it with the water) and softly rub the top layer of the kobeba. This will help smooth out the top so it’s all even. After that, spread 2 tablespoons of melted butter/oil over the top layer of kobeba.
- Before baking, it is customary to create a pattern of your choosing on the top layer of the kobeba. You can do whatever you want, but the pattern in the pictures here are pretty traditional. First, start by cutting shallow diagonal lines with a knife starting in one corner of the tray. DO NOT cut all the way to the bottom of the tray. You just want to cut only the top layer.
- Next cut diagonal lines going in the opposite directions starting from the adjacentcorner of the tray. Again, you are only cutting the top layer, not cutting all the way down to the bottom.
- Before baking, take the remaining pine nuts and place one in the middle of each “diamond” shape by embedding it softly. Start out by only putting pine nuts in every other section and then add in more if you want to finish the pine nuts.
- Place the kobeba on the middle rack in the oven and let it bake for 30 – 45 minutes until the top is a light brown. Don’t overcook the kobeba or you’ll end up with a hard and dry tray that is good, but not worth the incredible effort you’ve put in to make this recipe!
- Once the Kobeba is done, remove it from the oven, and then set the oven to broil on High. Put the Kobeba back in the oven right under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes or until the top becomes a shade darker and looks a little crispy.
- Remove from the oven and let it cool on the counter.
- Once cooled a bit, the kobeba is ready to serve warm. Just cut along the patterned design to served pieces as large or as small as you like from the tray. Leftovers can be reheated in the oven or the microwave very nicely.