It was my husband who first made kubba in our family because he was bored with my cooking. Of course, he never actually told me this but simply went out and bought a pile of Middle Eastern cookbooks.
I ignored them.
Then he entered new territory, our small one cabinet kitchen, but after all his effort, instead of semolina dumplings stuffed with meat in a light tangy tomato soup, all his dumplings stuck together into a congealed clump of goo, which really wasn’t his fault, the cookbook was seriously faulty. This culinary disaster coincided with the visit of my eighteen year old cousin, Adam, from Philadelphia, who was recruited to eat my husband’s first ever attempt at kubba. From the bedroom, I heard my husband ask,
“Adam, would you like to try ethnic Iraqi food, which I just made today?” My first thought was “NOOOOOOOOOOO! Don’t eat it!” but Adam showed himself to be a very congenial fellow “sure!” I peaked from my room to see if he needed rescuing but he was munching away saying “very, good, very good” every once in awhile between bites. I had the highest respect for Adam, first that he ate the dumplings without complaining and second, he didn’t leave any for me! After a couple more tries the cookbook was left untouched and it was my turn to try my hand at dumpling making, with a little help from my grandmother things have never been the same.
There are several kubba recipes listed on this blog but here is a new version using rice and chicken breast for the shell, which is a great alternative to the usual semolina based dumplings during Passover or for those who do not eat gluten. It is actually easier to use this combination instead of the semolina dough, which has a tendency to dry out quickly so that only small batches are made at a time. Rice kubba also hold up better in the soup, which is convenient if it is being made ahead of time.
This recipe was taught to me by my Aunt Hadassa who makes kubba with rice throughout the year and not only during Passover. Varda Shilo who wrote a Kurdish cookbook adds matza meal in addition to rice and ground meat in her shell. Nawal Nasaralla, author of the wonderful Iraqi cookbook, Delights from the Garden of Eden, uses partially cooked rice and cornstarch to create a kubba (kubbat halab) which are fried (I am not sure if they would hold up to stewing).
2 cups of long grain rice, washed (I used basmati)
400 grams chicken breast (or very lean beef) roughly cut
A pinch of turmeric
Soak the rice in water for 3 hours. Drain completely. Add the drained rice, chicken and spices into a food processor and process until the mixture comes together. Alternatively, reduce the ground meat to 200 grams and add 200 grams of matza meal. Use this as the shell for kubba such as kubba hamousta, tomato kubba and beet kubba. My friend Osnat Moshe uses a similar recipe to make kotel pishra, yet another version of kubba.