I am depressed. I thought I was the Kubba Queen but after visiting Osnat, my Kurdish relative, I realized that I have been delusional; I have to relinquish my crown. Osnat makes the smallest and the tastiest kubba (dumplings) that I have ever eaten, and I have eaten many. I am passionate about kubba and have tried kubba across the country and each cook will tell you that her rendition is the tastiest. Some even go as far as to bad mouth fellow kubba makers saying things like “she makes hard kubba! She adds garlic, that should never be done, her sauce is like water!” Not Osnat, when I told her how great her kubba tasted she said that her daughter Sonya makes them even smaller and tastier than hers.
kubba( קובה אדומה)
This colorful and healthy dish is bursting with tantalizing sweet and sour flavors. Although this is an Iraqi recipe, the sweet/sour combination is often seen in Persian cuisine and has its origins in ancient Babylonia. The pigment which give beets’ its color, betaine, is important in cardiovascular health. Betaine reduces the amino acid homocysteine which is harmful to blood vessels, thus reducing stroke and heart disease.
3-4 medium sized beets, peeled and cut into large cubes
1 onion, minced
10 cups chicken soup or water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3-4 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
3 celery sticks, sliced
1/2 cup celery leaves, chopped
1 ½-2 cups semolina flour
½ teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
300 grams ground beef or lamb
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ cup celery leaves, finely chopped
½ teaspoon baharat (cinnamon based spice mix)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Fry the onion until translucent, add chicken soup or water, beets and celery. Cook for about 1 hour until the beets are soft. Add the brown sugar, salt and vinegar and cook for another ½ hours. Taste and adjust seasoning and add the celery leaves.
Fry the onions until translucent*, add the meat, breaking clumps with a fork. When the meat has changed color, remove from heat and add celery leaves and spices. It is also possible to combine all the ingredients for the filling and use it as is, without frying. This method is quicker. It is also easier to stuff the dough with the clumped mixture than the cooked crumbly dry one.
Mix the semolina and salt. Start adding water and begin kneading with your hands until the dough is soft and pliable. The dough tends to harden quickly so it is best to make small batches of the dough.
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. The sides of the shell should be thin, about 1/6 of a cm as the dough will expand in the soup. This takes a bit of practice. A bowl of water is useful to dip your hands in to keep the dough from sticking. Stuff the shell with the cooled meat filling, for every piece of dough stuff with about the same volume of meat. 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.
*I have come across recipes using parsley, mint, coriander, tomato paste, turmeric and garlic. You can experiment with the different herbs and spices. I like this simple recipe, the taste is fresh and uncluttered with many flavors. The onions in the stuffing can also be caramelized, a method that some kubba makers use to add flavor. Each family has their own recipe, based on regional and personal preferences.