Yield 4 to 6 servings | Time 1 hour 20 minutes
The Middle Eastern way with ground lamb, or beef, for that matter, is in combination with cracked bulgur wheat and onion. There are hundreds of ways to turn this delicious mixture into kibbe, little football-shaped savory treats sold and eaten everywhere and made daily in homes throughout the region. (There are other kinds of kibbe, too, like fish, but that’s another story.) For a less labor-intensive version, kibbe can also be baked like a flat cake. It makes an extraordinarily fragrant meatloaf, adorned with long-cooked caramelized onions and pine nuts, to be eaten hot, warm, cold or reheated.
1 cup fine-grain bulgur
1 pound lamb shoulder, ground fine
¼ cup grated onion
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground, or 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan
2 cups sliced onions, 1/4-inch thick
½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Greek-style yogurt, for serving
- Rinse the bulgur well, then cover with cold water and soak for 20 minutes. Drain well.
- Put the drained bulgur, lamb, grated onion, cumin and cayenne in a large mixing bowl. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix well with your hands to distribute the seasoning. With a wooden spoon, beat in about 1/2 cup ice water. The mixture should be smooth and soft.
- Heat the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and fry gently, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 5 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Raise the heat and add 1/4 cup of the lamb mixture. Continue frying, allowing the meat to get crumbly and the onions to brown nicely, another 10 minutes or so. Stir in the pine nuts and taste. Let cool to room temperature.
- Heat the panggangan to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a shallow 9-by-13-inch baking dish, then press half the remaining lamb mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Spread half the onion-pine nut mixture over the meat. Add the rest of the meat to the pan, patting and pressing it with wet hands to make a smooth top. If desired, score the top with a sharp paring knife to make a traditional diamond pattern at least 1/2-inch deep.
- Bake uncovered for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden. Spread with the remaining onion-pine nut mixture. Serve warm, at room temperature or cool, with a dollop of yogurt.