If you've read my food52 profile, then you may have noted that the thing that I'd like a chance to eat is "Kubbe, a Jewish-Iraqi dumpling soup." Well, I finally did it!
These beef-filled semolina dumplings are cooked in a borscht-like beet soup and served piping hot (unlike borscht). Even though this is not a dish I grew up with, the moment I first tasted it in the Iraqi-Jewish section of Jerusalem, I identified it as comfort food. - kmartinelli
There are a million recipes for this soup. The sour, tangy soups are given the label hamousta while the so-called sweet stews (really meaning not sour) are called hulou. Within these two categories there are countless variations, which can include okra, eggplant, squash, zucchini, garlic or beets. Marak kubbeh adom, or red kubbeh soup, is a Kurdish specialty that is based on a crimson red broth made from beets and other root vegetables. Syrians also make a similar variation, kibbe, that are fried.
I adapted the kubbeh recipe from an out of print cookbook from 1964 called “The Israeli Cookbook: What’s Cooking in Israel’s Melting Pot” by Molly Lyons Bar-David. I made a number of changes, including the addition of ras al hanout (a lovely North African spice blend that is not at all traditional here but works beautifully) and omitting the pine nuts (which I've found to be more common in Syrian preparations). To see this recipe, and to read an article I wrote about the history of kubbeh, check out: http://blogs.forward.com/the-jew-and-the-carrot/133921/.
This is one of those dishes that every Iraqi or Kurdish mother makes and always has in their freezer. And indeed, it freezes well (see my instructions below). I made plenty to have extra on hand, but feel free to halve the recipe. Also, it looks like there are a lot of steps, but I was thrilled at how easy this was to make. Really, it comes together in just about two hours (I was expecting an all day affair). - kmartinelli —kmartinelli
Test Kitchen Notes
I think I could easily become addicted to this. The beet soup itself was really well flavored and nicely balanced. The lemon juice brightened the soup and made the subtleties of the other ingredients shine. As for the dumplings, yum. I loved the textural combination of the meat and semolina when cooked together with the soup. As kmartinelli suggested, I froze some of the dumplings and heated the soup with the frozen dumplings for an additional ten minutes. Perfection! - thehappycook —Victoria Ross
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the beets and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the paprika and season with salt and pepper, then add the chicken stock (of course it’s best to use homemade here, but just use the best quality you can. I have to admit, I used “chicken soup mix” because that’s what we have here, and it turned out great.). Allow to simmer over medium-low heat, uncovered, for at least an hour.
Just before adding the kubbeh, stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Using an immersion blender, pulse to partially blend the soup (or carefully transfer about 1/3 to a blender). This step is optional and will depend on what texture you like your soup.
Marak Kubbeh Adom
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the ras al hanout and toast, stirring, 1 minute. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up with a spoon, until meat is cooked through. Remove from the heat and season with black pepper. If there is a lot of grease and fat in the pan then drain. Allow to cool, stir in cilantro, and set aside.
Put the semolina and water in a large bowl and allow to sit for a few minutes until the water is fully absorbed. It should be soft, but not liquidy or sticky. Try to avoid adding additional water or semolina as it could become very sticky; if this happens discard and start over. Just trust me.
A native New Yorker, I recently moved to Be'er Sheva, Israel with my husband while he completes medical school. I am a freelance food and travel writer and photographer who is always hungry and reads cookbooks in bed.