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 She is outdated.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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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Food King & Queen April 14, 2009 at 2:40 am

Hey, interesting blog post! Unique recipe you’ve got there :)


shaya April 15, 2009 at 4:47 am

Amen to Grandmothers. Thanks for this homage. I feel like I could have written a very similar one to my “Mama” – minus the floral frocks and head covering. There is no better grounding for a granddaughter than to have a strong, loving, generous grandmother in her life.


Sarah April 15, 2009 at 5:00 am

Thanks!She is special.


5 Star Foodie April 16, 2009 at 9:20 am

These sound wonderful! THank you for sharing your grandma’s recipe!


yosunbuka June 9, 2009 at 12:26 pm

is it kibbe?


admin June 10, 2009 at 2:48 am

yes, kubba is the Iraqi way of saying kibbe. In Iraq they are stewed as opposed to fried. In Egypt they are called kibebe.


Sari March 1, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Beautiful post. Interesting recipe, too.


Bahar April 21, 2011 at 5:39 am

Thank you so much!
Kubbahamusta is my husband’s favorite dish that his grandmother god bless her used to make and he says he misses it so much! Now i will make it for him thanks to you.


Zack July 15, 2012 at 1:33 am

This reminds me of our very good friends, the Haiem Balbool family, in Baghdad. Simha,their grand mother, used to make (kubbat yehud) or Jewish kubba. However , it was slightly different from the recipe given above. The shell consisted of ground rice (amber rice), ground cumin,salt and water. The filling was ground lean lamb meat, spices, chopped celery leaves, chopped onions and salt. These were cooked together untill well done.Finally she used to add to this filling slivered almonds and sultana raisons. Kubbahamusta or kubbat hamudh in Arabic, chopped purple top turnips and Swiss chard chopped leaves are added to the soup. (This was more than 60 years ago, can’t forget it.)


Sarah July 15, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Zack, Thank you so much for taking the time to write this comment and for sharing your food memories. It is sad how so many of these wonderful recipes are being lost.


Zack July 15, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Thank you Sara for your instant reply. I hope that one of Mrs. Simha’s children ( now in their 60s or 70s) will read my comment to remember the good old days. I have another recipe that Mrs. Simha used to serve. This is (medfoona) or stuffed cucumber in tomato sause.I love it so much. If you are interested I can send you its recipe . The other thing, your grand mother, Zarifa, knows or at least remembers the recipe of the Kurdish kubba (kiftey kurdee) stewed in meat broth. They are as big as a large grapefruit each. Finally, extend my respect to your grand mother and tell her (emrit draij be) when you see her. Thanks again.


Sarah July 16, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Thank you Zack, I would love a recipe for medfoona. I’ve never made it before and it sounds delicious. I visited my grandmother yesterday and she was deep in discussion with her sister about which kubba is better- with okra or pumpkin. They came to conclusion that everyone loves differently, to each his own. It was rather touching to see them. I sent your respect and she says thank you.


Zack July 17, 2012 at 1:22 am

Hi Sarah:I am glad that you like to have the recipe for (medfoona), here it is:
You need:
6 large cucumbers.
2 cups long grain rice.
250 gm ground meat, lamb or mutton.
1/4 cup sultana raisons.
1/2 cup chopped celery leaves.
1/2 cup chopped onions.
1/2 table spoon mixed spices.
1 tspoon ground cumin.
1/2 table spoon salt.
Transversely cut the stem end of the cucumbers ( about 1/2 inch) and discard.
Cut another 1/2 inch and keep (plugs).
Core the cucumbers almost as far as the blossom end, then use the peeler to remove as much as you can from the inside leaving a shell less than 1 cm thick.
Wash and then soak the rice in cold water for at least 1/2 hour, drain.
Add the ground meat, spices,salt, celery, raisons and onion, mix well with a spoon.
Fill the cucumbers with the stuffing and blug them.
Poke the suffed cucumbers several times with a sharp knife and arrange them in a pot.
Add fresh tomato juice, a pinch of salt and juice of 1-2 lemons (to taste),to cover the cucumbers.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1 hour.
+ if the soup becomes thick you may add boiling water while coocking.
Serve hot.
Enjoy your meal.

Zack July 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm

I was just looking at the photoes of your grand mother,Zarifa Khan, making nani tiri, tears filled my eyes. Athunaii bless her and bless you.


Sarah July 19, 2012 at 3:36 am

Zack, Thank you so much for your kind comments. You’ve reminded me that I need to visit my Safta more often.


Zack July 23, 2012 at 2:07 am

Hi Sarah:
This is a recipe for (Qaisee)

250-300 gm destoned sun dried apricots.
500 gm lamb chops.
1/2 cup golden raisins.
1/2 cup slivered almonds.
2-4 table spoons sugar.
2 tspoons salt.
2-3 cups water.
1. Clean and wash the apricots then soak in cold water and leave in the refregirator overnight.
2. Put the lamb chops in a cooking pot.
3. Add the soaked apricots, together with it’s fluid, and salt.
4. Bring to a boil, add raisins, slivered almonds and sugar.
5. Simmer for 60-75 minutes .
At this point, the meat should be very well done (tender) and the qaisee should have the consistency of say apricot jam.
Serve with rice and Kurdish thin bread.
note: Never use the fancy looking (dry) apricots kept in sealed trasparent
packages, they are good to eat but not to cook.
note2: you may reduce the amount of sugar, but for me, I like it sweet.


Gianna April 1, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Hello, thank you for posting this recipe, I am american, my husband came from Kurdistan when he was 4 and this is my husbands favorite meal that his mother used to make. He could eat an entire pan himself! We also add beets to the soup or anything else really. It’s great. His sisters were so happy that I would do this for him, they were not even sure how to make! Thank you for showing us.


Sarah April 2, 2013 at 12:46 am

Hi Gianna, So happy you found this recipe useful. Kubbeh soup is so versatile as you mentioned- I love adding Swiss chard, pumpkin, squash, beets, carrots….it goes pretty much with any vegetable (though artichoke kubbeh I have yet to taste)


Amy February 12, 2014 at 1:43 pm

My partner is kurdish and as been showing me different recipes his mum cooks and are amazing, I have been wanting to cook him a nice meal for a while but i am worried as it is not something that i cook alot by myself, I am definatly going to be using these recipes,


Big D May 26, 2014 at 11:39 am

This was a fun recipe to follow, though I should have shaped the dough much thinner around the meat (but I was afraid it would break!). This was the closest recipe to what I ate at Mahane Yehuda in Jerusalem, thank you so much for posting it!


Sarah July 17, 2012 at 11:14 am

Thank you so much for this recipe! I’m going to try this just as soon as I can. I’ll let you knnow how it turns out.


Zack July 19, 2012 at 1:51 am

Thank you Sarah: I also have a recipe for ;
1. eggplant sheikh mahshi.
2. (qaisee), dried apricots coocked with lamb, which is a must to serve during Kurdish festivities.


Sarah July 19, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Zack, I am open to all recipes, especially as mouth-watering as eggplant sheikh mahshi and qaisee. I would love to try them. Thank you!


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