Tomato Kubba

by Sarah on April 14, 2009

My grandmother is a simple Kurdish woman. No. She is the keeper of family memories, speaker of ancient languages, a treasury of dying traditions, a symbol of passing time, a mediator, nurturer and a giver, a giver a giver, not expecting anything in return. She lived in a time when that was expected of her and into a time when it is not appreciated. She is outdated. No. She is smart, perceptive and modest, she stands for what I want my kids to be, what I want to be but I am too selfish. I give her respect, for she possesses such rare and underrated traits that are almost never found in this hard and edgy world. And my grandmother still giggles, even now, when life is hardest of all.

As a child, every few years we traveled to Israel to visit my mother’s relatives and stayed at my Safta’s (grandmother in Hebrew). Safta Zarifa, with a name of a rhythm and blues singer, was short and squat with a long black hennaed hair braided down the length of her back. She always wore colorful flowered smocks with a contrasting and equally colorful kerchief on her head and tied to the nape of her neck. With eyes outlined in black kohl eyeliner she looked more like an Apache Indian than an Iraqi Kurd. There was always food cooking away in the kitchen. Although I was used to culinary surprises from my family a meal at Safta Zaria’s house was a totally different experience. Her table was colorful with greens, reds yellows and everything strangely fresh. I was used to parsley sprigs being used as a garnish but here it was piled high together with coriander and green onions and everyone would eat it together with the meal. My grandmother always covered her table with steaming chicken flavored rice, fresh fruits, crispy round flat bread, fluffy bread with nigella seeds, chicken with onions and many different salads. But above all she was known for her dumplings, semolina filled meat in a sweet sour tomato sauce and no meal was complete without them.
Tomato Hamousta

Hamousta means sour so plenty of lemon juice needs to be used to make this authentic tasting kubba. This isn’t a strong tasting soup but it is lemony, fresh and filling.

Makes about 20-24 kubba

Meat filling
1/3 teaspoon baharat spice (or cinnamin)
300 grams ground meat (traditionally mince by hand)
½ minced medium onion
25 grams (1/4 cup) finely chopped celery leaves

Combine all the ingredients for the filling. Mix well.

8 cups chicken stock or water
4-5 tomatoes, skin removed, finely chopped or grated (or liquefies them in the food processor, skin and all)
3 tablespoons tomato paste or 50 grams
1 onion, chopped
1-2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf (my addition)
1 lemon, juice or citric acid
½ teaspoon baharat (or cinnamon)
300 grams pumpkin and/or summer squash, cut into large cubes

Fry onion only until translucent
Add a few tablespoons of tomato paste and fry to release the flavor, add the tomatoes, chicken stock and cook for about 40 minutes or until the tomatoes have blended into the stock, add pumpkin at the last 20 minutes since it softens quickly.

2 cups semolina flour
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients until a dough is formed.
The dough tends to dry out quickly so it best to do one cup at a time. When using uncooked meat it is easier to make the kubba when the dough is more on the soft side (although these tend to break more easily)

Making the kubba

Take a piece of dough the size of a walnut, shape the dough into a ball and with your thumb make a hole for the stuffing. If the dough is soft just push the meat into it and roll the dough around it. For every piece of dough try stuffing with about the same volume of meat. The sides of the shell should be thin, as the dough will expand in the soup. A bowl of water is useful to dip your hands in to keep the dough from sticking. When the soup is boiling add the kubba. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the kubba begin to float. Remember the kubba will disintegrate if cooked too long. Uncooked stuffed kubba can be frozen. To freeze put a tray of kubba in the freezer until frozen to the touch. Take them out and put them in a freezer bag.


For the filling fry one onion until it is very golden brown. Add the ground meat and fry it while breaking lumps with a fork and it has changed colors. Continue cooking until it is well browned. Sometimes garlic is added by my grandmother never used it in her kubba and that is what I am used to.

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