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Fried kubbeh is delicious but requires time and effort to make—and then it still has to be fried. Here, The Palestinian Table author Reem Kassis shares a delightful alternative, which she learned while growing up in Jerusalem.
“So what’s your secret?” I asked my mother a couple of years ago as we sat at our kitchen table making kubbeh. “What makes your kubbeh the best any of us have ever had?”
She looked at me, smiled, and showed me her hands. “Thirty years,” she said, “that’s my only secret.” Not the answer I was hoping for, but not one I could argue with either. I have to agree that kubbeh really is a case of “practice makes perfect.” But for those of us who don’t want to spend a couple of decades perfecting these torpedo-shaped croquettes, kubbeh pie is the perfect answer.
Kubbeh, in general, is a combination of fine bulgur and meat that is prepared, cooked, and shaped in many different ways—from deep fried croquettes to grilled domes to hearty stews. The key to good kubbeh is good ingredients. Use fresh, lean meat that you or your butcher grind twice through a fine meat mincer. Keep a bowl of ice water next to you as you work to ensure your hands remain cold and the meat stays fresh.
Another important component to the dish is a nine-spice mix, which flavors both the kubbeh and its filling. I make this blend at home for the freshest flavor, but also because it reminds me of walking through Jerusalem’s old city as a child with my mother, going from vendor to vendor buying whole spices in bulk that she would roast and grind once we got home. If you do not want to make this blend at home, however, you can substitute with store-bought Lebanese 7-spice or Baharat for a similar flavor profile.
The final decision is the form. While the stuffed individual torpedo and dome shaped varieties require patience and experience to perfect, this pie offers you the same delicious flavors and textures of kubbeh, but in much less time.
It’s a beautiful and easy dish to entertain with, especially with a side of garlic cucumber yogurt or a tomato sumac salad. It also makes a great weeknight meal as you can make several of these pies, freeze them without baking, and then cook direct from frozen for a delicious and healthy meal on the table in under thirty minutes.
For the kubbeh dough
- 1 1/2 cups (9 oz/280 g) very fine bulgur wheat
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Nine Spice Mix (see below)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 9 ounces 250 g lean goat, lamb, or beef meat, twice ground (minced) through a fine mincer
- olive oil, for brushing
For the stuffing
- 1 cup (4 oz/120 g) toasted pine nuts (additional 1 cup for extra crunch, optional)
- 1/2 cup (2 oz/50 g) coarsely chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions, finely diced
- 1 pound 2 oz (500 g) ground (minced) lamb or beef, or a combination of both
- 1 teaspoon Nine Spice Mix (see below)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- NINE SPICE MIX
- 6 tablespoons allspice berries
- 6 cassia bark or cinnamon sticks
- 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 10 cloves
- 2 blades of mace
- 1/2 nutmeg, crushed
Share your favorite family recipes—and ways you've tweaked them—in the comments below.