Kubbeh, aka Kibbeh or Kubbah, is a Middle-Eastern dumpling made from semolina or bulgur and filled with meat or vegetables. In Israel, semolina kubbeh is recognized with Kurdish and Iraqi Jewish cuisines, and bulgur kubbeh with Alepian and Lebanese cuisines. There are many different variations on this amazing dumpling, depending on the ethnic group and even within each ethnic group. For the most part, it is cooked in some kind of soup or sauce, but kubbeh can also be deep fried and eaten “dry”, or cooked in the oven all night on very low heat (in sauce, of course).
The following recipe is the basic semolina kubbeh dough that you would use for most kubbeh recipes. It makes about 25 kubbeh balls. A portion is 3-4 kubbeh balls in soup.
2 ½ – 3 cups (500g) coarse semolina* (found in Middle Eastern stores)
1/2 cup (100ml) vegetable oil
3 slices of bread without the crust
1 cup (240ml) water
1 teaspoon salt
* Very important: coarse semolina is not the same as the semolina used for pasta that is found in every supermarket. The Italian (pasta) semolina is very fine and is almost like flour. Coarse semolina has a consistency closer to cornmeal. It is widely used in Greek, Arab, Israeli, Persian, and Indian cuisines, so you are more likely to find it in these ethnic stores. You can also buy it online. Just make sure it says coarse semolina or semolina #2.
Place the water in a small bowl and soak the bread in it.
In a large bowl, combine the semolina (start with 2 1/2 cups), oil, salt, and eventually the bread and water.
Knead well to incorporate the bread completely into the semolina. Keep kneading the dough until it is cohesive. Set aside to rest for a few minutes. This makes the dough easier to work with. If you feel that the dough is oily and breaks when you open it, add 1/2 cup semolina and 1/4 cup water. Knead well and let rest for a few minutes. the dough should be pliable but not sticky.
To make the balls, take a small piece of dough (about 2 inch in diameter), and roll it between your hands to a ball.
Nestle the ball in the palm of your left hand (or your right hand, if you are lefty).
Using your right (or left) hand thumb, make a hole in the ball (don’t go all the way through).
Push the kubbeh wall outwards with your finger, while turning the ball slightly, to widen the hole, and to create enough room for the filling. Make sure that the rim is not too thin.
Place a teaspoon of filling in the hole, and then close the top by slightly pinching the dough rim. Smooth the surface, and roll in your hands to create a perfect ball.
Place on a tray and repeat the process until you are either out of dough or filling.
The kubbeh can be made ahead of time and frozen in a closed container. Just make sure to use plastic wrap between layers to prevent the balls from sticking to each other. Thaw before cooking it in soup.