Kibbeh with Star Anise Caramelised Onions

You’ve gotta love it when an idea comes together. It’s even better when it’s an idea so simple that it seems crazy that no one has already thought of it.

I once read the following formula:
Modern Art = I could have done that + Yeah, but you didn’t

I’m not saying I’m a modern culinary artist in any way, but there’s a pleasure I find in invention, and I sense joy when I manage to create something new, simple and delicious.

This is my version of kibbeh, and to be honest, it’s bloody awesome. Kibbeh is a family of dishes considered as Lebanon’s national culinary emblem where the common factor is that burghul, spices and onions are mixed with a binding agent. This binding agent could be anything but most commonly you’d see minced lamb or goat, pumpkin or lentils.

The two most famous incarnations of kibbeh are nayyeh and kbeb (or mikliyyeh). Nayyeh is the raw version, a silken beauty doused with olive oil and eaten with loads of fresh mint and raw onions. Kbeb are the torpedo shaped kibbeh, hollow but filled with fried mince, onions and pine nuts and then deep-fried. Imagine how good that tastes.

My kibbeh is derived from the latter, and it simply aims to bring out the best aspects of the kbeb: a crisp exterior, a generous filling of the sweetest, star anise caramelised onions and an abundance of fried pine nuts. It’s kibbeh on steroids, with all the flavours amplified ten-fold. This goes down on my list of top 10 favourites. You’ve got to try it!

Kibbeh Recipe



  • 0.5 kilo finely minced lamb, beef or goat meat (twice minced)
  • 180 grams fine burghul
  • 1 pureed or finely grated onion
  • 2 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • salt – use your judgement


  • 6 large onions, sliced
  • 4 star anise, in a muslin bag
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup fried pine nuts


  • In a frying pan, add all the filling ingredients except pine nuts and caramalise on a low heat. It will take around 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and make sure the onions don’t burn
  • Remove from heat and add pine nuts
  • Mix all the shell ingredients
  • Flatten some of the shell mix between your palms until it’s evenly thin
  • Use a cup you like the shape of and line it with the meat.
  • Use the method outlined in the photo below (from my pumpkin kibbeh post) for a fully manual kibbeh experience, or rill the meat with filling and cover the bottom with another piece of flattened shell, ensuring the bottom adheres to the rest of the kibbeh.
  • Deep fry until golden


  • Oh my god. I am drooling. next time you make some, can you please let me know and bring some so I can stuff my face full of them?

  • Fouad, this looks great! You can serve it as an amuse bouche at your Michelin-starred Levantine restaurant. Now you need to come up with a similar treatment for hummus (chickpea cappucino?) and felafel.

  • Fouad, reading this made me realize just how underused star anise is in my (albeit limited) cooking repertoire. The combination with caramelized onions looks so simple yet phenomenal, I’m stacking this one up in my ‘combos I’ve gotta try someday’ list!

    The photography is stunning…what camera are you using? Also, what’s the dip you have going on on the side – yogurt and mint?

  • The one thing that I adore about your blog, beside it’s wit and interesting stories, is the fact that I actually want to make everything you post.

    Will definitely making these 🙂

  • The twist of star anise with wholesome sweet fried onions sounds delicious alone – now add the fried pinenuts and this sounds fantastic! Will try these with, naturally, the fine lamb mince mixture – with a little fresh oregano, probably not authentic, but your star anise onions are unique as well. Thanks again for sharing your creative take on a classic. Your blog is always interesting, exciting and enjoyable.

  • Comrade, Sir, I’m the truck driver from Albuquerque, NM, to whom you generously offered a recipe for chicken mograbeh soup flavored with caraway, for which I thank you. I’m home for a few days and catching up on things like making chicken mograbeh soup flavored with caraway, reading past posts (and your readers’ insightful comments ) and analysis of the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables. Many of which, interestingly, concern Lebanon. Which means nothing, I’m sure. I’m just saying. Coincidentally, and I can’t find it just now, I’m pretty sure I came across one that contained worried references to your class-based analysis of food, and a plan that was drawn up to co-op your croissant and have it sold at McDonald’s. Apparently, infighting has broken out in the State Department over whether to make it a sandwich, with bacon and cheese on a beef-like patty, or a breakfast item, with bacon and cheese on sausage-like patty. There’s also some dispute over whether to name it the March 14 Mac or the March 8 Mac. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has put the project on fast track and hopes it outsells the increasingly popular Hizzbolah and Hotcakes.

    The soup is really, really good, if I do say so. Since I would be reporting back to a chef, I got most of the fat out of my broth, and even strained it, then put in the chicken, mograbieh and caraway. I’m not used to caraway. My family is German, and suspects caraway. And here in New Mexico, the state flavor is the chili pepper. I had to make a special trip to the market, but I was the center of attention, and the assistant manager even thanked me for my patronage as I left, or else was thinking, “I thought I’d never sell that caraway.” It’s a bit of a dry flavor from what I’m used to, but it seems to bring out the flavor of the meat and the mograbieh, both. The soup is light and aromatic, with a hint of mystery.

    Sorry for writing a comment longer than some of your posts, but again, thanks

  • Fouad,

    No need for false modesty, here; you are an artist and I believe in calling a bird a bird. Your text made me chuckle, as always, and your creation made me gasp. Good job, mate.

  • Hey Reemski – Sure thing. Next time I make some, you’re getting an email 🙂

    Amanda – of course not. Sometimes not sharing is caring.

    MarkC – hehehe. Chickpea cappuccino indeed. I know better than to mess with hummous Mark – I’d be crucified by the purists. A friend of mine once had a fish falafel. She said it was wonderful.

    Arva – using a nikon d90 with a 35mm f1.8 lens. I love it. It’s really affordable now too. And yes, it is mint and yoghurt as a sauce. Didn’t work as well as I would have liked. It’s actually nicer without.

    Sara – thanks darling. I only write about things I want to eat as well, so I understand where you are coming from 🙂

    Merryn – Lovely to have you as a reader. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I hope I can keep my content exciting 🙂

    Corinne – you MUST try it. It is wonderful.

    Frank – though longer than my posts, your comments are even more entertaining. Keep them coming. Thanks for taking the time. You really gave me a good belly laugh.

    Joumana – cheers mate! Thank you for your lovely comment, as always.

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