A Lenten staple, kebbet laa’tin is the definitive mountain vegetarian kibbeh.
It is easy to prepare with the garden’s bounty of pumpkin (which keeps all year and from harvest to harvest) and wild herbs, the best of which is obviously homeyda, the spring wild sorrel leaves, which add a special lemony taste to the stuffing. If they are unavailable, you could use other leafy greens, such as Swiss chard (the best option after the sorrel) or a mix of available wild leafy greens (kale does a great job in kale countries!). You could try spinach, but sometimes it can be too watery.
No matter which alternative you choose, a bit more sumac will give the desired lemony taste.
The Seven Spice Mix
The seven spice mix can be a great mystery. It exists in every Lebanese pantry, but rarely are two alike! The best spice mixes are certainly from Aleppo’s souk where the spice tradition has been cultivated for a long time, but you can create your own to your own liking. The traditional version mixes all spice (a staple of Levantine cuisine, what we call bhhar halou or sweet pepper), black pepper (giving more heat), cinnamon (another staple), nutmeg, coriander seeds, cloves, and ginger.
- ¼ cup dried chickpeas
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 14 ounces sorrel (or Swiss chard or kale), finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon ground sumac
- 1/3 teaspoon 7 spices see below
- 2 ¼ pounds pumpkin
- 2 cups bulgur
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Zest of 1 orange
- 2 sprigs of marjoram
- 2 sprigs of basil
- 1 medium yellow onion
- Vegetable oil for frying
- To prepare the stuffing, soak the chickpeas overnight in water to cover. Drain and rub in a kitchen towel to take off the outer skin. Break each chickpea in half. Peeled and halved chickpeas are nicer and tastier in the stuffing. Boil the chickpeas in water to cover for 20 minutes and then drain.
- Chop the onion. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute the onion until translucent. Add the cooked chickpeas and the sorrel and stir just to mix well; lower the heat. Season with the sumac, the 7 spices, and salt to taste.
- Peel the pumpkin and cut it into cubes. Boil in water to cover for 20 minutes until tender and then drain and squeeze well with your hands. Add the bulgur (without washing or soaking it) to the warm pumpkin and knead well to soak the bulgur. Add the flour as needed to obtain a good
- dough. Add the lemon and orange zests. Finely chop the marjoram and basil, finely grate the onion, and add to the mixture. Season to taste with salt.
- Heat a few inches of vegetable oil in a deep pot or skillet until hot. Shape the kibbeh into walnut-size balls and then deep-fry in the hot oil until light gold all over. Let drain and cool on paper towels. Serve at room temperature.