There are several variations of lentil kibbeh in the Levant. I came across this particular recipe when I met up with Syriac ladies in Beirut. The dish originated in the city of Urfa in Turkey, and travelled with families, and communities as they fled for safety following the Assyrian Massacre at the beginning of the 20th century. “Wherever we go, our food goes with us; without our traditions we would no longer be’, said my interlocutor Siham. “We may no longer speak our language, but food is the language that binds us together” she added.
When I asked her if she knew why the dish was called dallu’w which, literally translates as coddled, she laughed and said, “we have to coddle them in the palm of our hands to give them their shape”.
If you are vegetarian, a lentil lover or simply a ‘coddler’, here is a wholesome dish that comes with a history of its own, and takes little time to prepare. Enjoy it as a starter, or as one of many mezze dishes, eat it with salad, or a bowl of yogurt. I like to dip it in a dressing made with pomegranate molasses, vinegar and olive oil.
- 250 g red lentils
- 160 g fine bulgur
- 1 small onion, grated
- 1 ½ teaspoon dried coriander,
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 5 sprigs parsley, finely chopped and more for garnish
- 5 sprigs coriander, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Sea salt
- Olive oil to drizzle
- Place the lentils in a pan, and cover with 800 ml water. Add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer until the lentils are cooked through and mushy.
- Rinse and strain bulgur, and mix it into the lentils together with the coriander and cumin. Stir well to combine and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
- Transfer the lentil kibbeh to a large bowl, add the onions, the coriander and parsley, check the seasoning, and knead with your hands for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Take a small portion in one hand, squeeze it lightly in between the palms and fingers to leave the imprint of the back pf your knuckles on it. Shape each bite into 2 inches long fingerling. Repeat to finish the dough.
- Arrange the lentil kibbeh bites on a plate, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.