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Author Notes: Fried kubbeh is delicious but requires time and effort to make—and then it still has to be fried. So on those occasions when you want to make kubbeh but do not have the patience, this baked version is an equally delicious alternative.
Note: This Nine Spice Mix lends dishes a uniquely Palestinian flavor. It is my mother’s own blend but feel free to adjust to suit your taste, or you can substitute with store-bought baharat or Lebanese seven spice mix for an equally tasty, albeit slightly different, flavor profile.
Excerpted from The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis (Phaidon). Copyright © 2017.
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
- To make the Nine Spice Mix, place all the ingredients in a large skillet (frying pan) over medium-low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon periodically to ensure the spices do not burn, until you begin to smell the aroma of the spices, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and set aside to cool completely, about 1 hour. This step is crucial because if the spices are not cooled properly, they will form a paste when ground rather than a powder. Place all the roasted spices into a heavy-duty spice grinder and grind until you achieve a fine powder consistency. Store the spice mix in an airtight container. It will keep for several months although the aroma will fade with time.
- To make the dough, put the bulgur into a large bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to soak for 15 minutes, then drain, squeezing out as much excess water as you can. Put the onion, salt, and spices with 1 tablespoon of cold water into the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground (minced). Add the meat and pulse until combined. Add the soaked bulgur and process until the mixture resembles a smooth and pliable dough. Knead briefly with your hands to smooth out and evenly combine. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and up to overnight.
- To prepare the stuffing, heat olive oil in a skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat and fry the onions for 3—5 minutes, stirring, until translucent and starting to brown. Add the meat, spice mix, and salt and cook for 6—8 minutes, or until the water has evaporated and the meat is nicely browned, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and mix in 1 cup of toasted pine nuts, if using. At this point, the mixture can be used as called for in a recipe, or cooled and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or the freezer for up to 1 month. Combine 1 cup of toasted pine nuts, walnuts, and lamb with onion and spices.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas Mark 6 and grease a shallow 28cm round or 12 x 8-inch/30 x 20-cm rectangular ovenproof dish with olive oil. Keep a bowl of water nearby to wet your hands while you shape the kubbeh.
- Divide the dough mixture into 2 equal halves. Spread one half of the mixture evenly in the bottom of the baking dish, wetting your hands as you go to ensure an even and smooth finish. Spoon the stuffing over the dough and gently press in with your hands. To spread the top layer of kubbeh, tear off a handful of the dough and flatten out with your hands to a similar thickness as the bottom layer. Place the flattened piece on top. Tear off another portion and repeat, slightly overlapping it with the first. Continue, wetting your hands as you go, until the top layer is covered, then smooth out.
- With the tip of a sharp knife, score the top layer to form a geometric pattern. If using a rectangular dish, the most customary is a diamond pattern, which can be achieved by doing criss-crossing diagonal lines. If using a round dish, you can divide the circle into quarters or eighths and then do a diamond pattern within each triangle. Once you have created your pattern, cut all the way through the kubbeh along the lines that you want each serving sizes to be.
- At this point, it can be baked or it can be frozen for up to 3 months. To cook, brush generously with olive oil and bake, uncovered, for 35–45 minutes, until dark golden brown. Check it once or twice and if it seems dry, brush with olive oil. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
- This recipe is a Community Pick!