Kotel Pishra, Kurdish Mega Kubba

by Sarah on December 4, 2009

Kotel Pishra, meaning meat dumpling in Neo-Aramaic, is a flat, disc shaped dumpling the size of a small plate which is characteristically served on special occasions in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq. In Israel it is seldom made anymore except by the old Kurdish women and I have never had the opportunity to taste it. Therefore I decided to reserve a morning and attempt the recipe myself but soon realized that a day would have been much more realistic. It also became abundantly clear two hours into the process with only one kubba (dumpling)  to show for it why kubba making is made together with a group of family and friends, preferably the entire village. What I did not even want to contemplate was doing all work only to be told by my sons that they hate it. That would have left me in tears.

The prestigious Kotel Pishra is better known as Kubbat Mosul outside of Kurdish Iraq and was probably brought to Kurdistan by merchants and travelers. Masters of this kubba are able to create enormous discs the size of a dinner plates (16 inches in diameter) which seems impossible to manipulate without having the entire thing fall apart. The recipe for Kotel pishra is not as standard as  hamousta kubba,  each of the four recipes I obtained were very different both in stuffing and in the shell. However, they all had some type of grain and meat dough for the shell and stuffing made of chicken, beef or lamb.

Kotel Pishra- Kurdish Mega Kubba

1 cup of semolina (coarse grain)

1 cup fine grain cracked wheat (also called jereesha or grish, which is not parboiled)

1 cup fine grain bulgur

500 grams ground chicken breast (some use ground beef or a combination of them, but was told turkey is not as good as a binder)

Filling

500 grams ground meat such as beef or lamb

1 onion, finely chopped

50 grams raisins (I used golden raisins) washed, soak them if they are hard

50 grams ground almonds

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon baharat (or cinnamon)

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Olive oil or lamb tail fat (lamb tail fat is more traditional)

Soup

10 cups of chicken soup

4 carrots

1/2 cup of chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked until soft

Filling

In olive oil or lamb tail fat, fry the onion until beginning to brown. Add the meat and cook until it changes color and begins to brown. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Let cool completely. Nawal Nasrallah recommends using a raw meat mixture in the filling which acts as a binding layer to keep the kubba from falling apart. In this case just fry the onions to soften them before adding them to the meat with the rest of the ingredients.

Shell

Rinse the cracked wheat and bulgur in a fine sieve mesh. Drain. Add the jereesha and bulgar in a small bowl, cover with water and let soak for about 45 minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess water with the palms of the hands. Add the semolina and ground chicken. Knead to form slightly tacky dough. If the dough is too dry add a bit more water.

Soup

Prepare plain chicken soup, add carrots

Assembly

Place two plastic sandwich bags on a flat surface. Place a golfball size piece of dough in the middle of each bag. Cover each ball with another plastic sandwich bag and press down using a cutting board or other flat object so a flat, thin circle is formed slightly smaller than the palm of your hands.  Remove the top bags and place a heaping tablespoon or enough to cover most of the surface of one circle, except the edges. From below, pick up the sandwich bag with second circle and flip it on to the other half with the meat. Close the edges of the circles together to form a flat, disc shaped kubba stuffed with meat. Flatten the kubba slightly if necessary. This method is not traditional of course but is much easier than handling the large discs by hand. This will only take you about three hours. Now continue stuffing the remainder of the dough.

Cooking

Bring the soup to a boil. Using a large flat utensil such as a soup skimmer, gently place one kubba into the soup and cook it for about 10-20  minutes, it should float when ready. Remove the kubba using the soup skimmer, waiting a few moments for the extra liquid to drain. Place kubba in deep dish plate. Continue cooking the rest of the kubba. Perhaps it is possible to cook more than one kubba at a time but I didn’t try this as they are fragile. Serve with kubba with a few carrots and chickpeas. These kubba can also be fried after cooking in the soup.

Variations:

Rice is used for the shell in Homs, a village in Northern Iraq. In Zakho, dried coriander and onion is added to the shell. The stuffing is sometimes  flavored with paprika and hot chili pepper. In some recipes the kubba is stuffed with the raw meat mixture and the kubba is cooked for a longer amount of time.

The best thing? My son loved it!

References:

Al Hashulhan, Israeli Culinary Magazine, Jan. 2009 edited by Janna Gur

Oshnat Moshe from Agur

Kurdistani Cooking, Varda Shilo

Kurdish Encyclopedia, Mordechai Yona

Delights from the Garden of Eden, Nawal Nasrallah

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelsey December 4, 2009 at 9:48 am

These remind me of something my great grandmother used to make us. They look devine!

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Bellini Valli December 5, 2009 at 8:30 am

These look delicious Sarah…very labour intensive but more hands make the work lighter. Find a group of expats and friends in Isreal to enable you to make this more often.

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yael December 6, 2009 at 8:09 am

Ooof. I didn’t even get to taste them because i’m so forgetful. they look great in the photos though.

Reply

caroline December 16, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Hi. I am trying to make the kubba. I am dutch background so am not familiar with kubba at all. Should the dough be stiff? Is it flattened about 1/8″? Another question. I put it all in my mixer and mixed it quite a bit. It became very elastic. I have a feeling this is incorrect as my kubbas were quite thick after boiling and frying. I need a better idea of the consistency and “feel” of the dough. Does it have stretch? Or is it firm? Thanks so much for any help. I’ll purchase the ingredients again and try and follow the instructions better.

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Sarah December 16, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Wow Caroline, I am impressed that you attempted this kubba, they are tricky to make.
The dough should be a bit on the sticky side but firm, it shouldn’t ooze or loose its shape when you put it on the table. It should have the consistency of playdough and shouldn’t crack too much when you work with it as well. It has a bit of a stretch but this isn’t bread dough, if you can get it to 1/8′” (3 mm) that would be perfect. Nawal Nasrallah rolls her kubba out with a rolling pin and wets it if it begins to stick. The dough should cook to be a bit chewy. As I mentioned it is easiest to fill the kubba with uncooked meat if doing this for the first time. Good luck and if you have any more questions please don’t hesitate.

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