A shower thought: If there’s a Vegetarian Festival in Phuket, a Herring Festival in Denmark, a Pizzafest in Naples, and a Dumpling Festival in Hong Kong, then why there’s no Kubbeh Festival in Jerusalem. Kubbeh is a Jewish Iraqi and Kurdish dumplings made with semolina flour. Typical Jerusalemite food.
Back in the early nineties, kubbeh was something you could only find in Kurdish restaurants in Jerusalem. I had my first kubbeh soup experience when I was 17 in a restaurant called Ima (mother). You can’t not fall in love with this soup – it’s the most comforting and satisfying soup I’ve ever had in my life. The soup is very earthy and tangy, and the dumplings are like mini packages full of surprise. (As I am rewriting this post, I know what I’ll be making tomorrow for dinner!)
Now, there are many places in Israel that have kubbeh soups on their menu. There are different types of soups – Kubbeh hamusta, Kubbeh matfunia, Kubbeh pumpkin – and this, kubbeh selek, beet, which is my favorite. All those version are usually made with meat but I make the soup and the kubbeh’s filling with vegetables. It’s as good as the original.
I should propose the Kubbeh festival idea to Nir Barak, the mayor of Jerusalem, and to Yotam Ottolenghi, the informal representative of Jerusalem cuisine.
I have a weakness to all dumplings: Xiao Long Bao, Buuz, Gyoza, kubbeh… But making them requires two things that most people nowadays don’t have, including a whole generation of Iraqi and Kurdish grandmas who have discovered Facebook. Time and Patience. Patience is slowly getting extinct by the instant gratification monster.
I wish Ima restaurant was just around the corner from here, but it’s not. Which means that if I am dying for a bowl of this holy soup, I have to make it myself. To be frank, the dumplings are not the easiest thing in the world to make – well, not in the beginning. However, it gets easier with time and experience. You really have to feel it. Pretend that you’re a Kurdish grandmother. By that I mean, don’t try to make them perfect. Don’t race. Take your time and enjoy. The steam and aroma of this soup would make your place even more sacred like Jerusalem.
Bete’avon (bon appetit in Hebrew)!
Beet soup with vegetable dumplings (red kubbeh soup)
For the broth
- 4 medium beets - peeled and cut into quarters
- 2 celery stalks - cut into big chunks
- 2 quarts filtered water
- 1 onion - finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons canola oil
- 4 to tomatoes - grated or blended
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- Black pepper
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 4 tablespoons coconut sugar (or cane)
- 3 Persian lemons - pierced with a knife (optional)
For the stuffing
- Half green cabbage
- 1 small onion
- 2 tablespoons canola oil - or any oil of your choice
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- Handful parsley
- 10 mint leaves
- ½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds or pine nuts
For the dumplings
- 2 cups semolina flour
- ½ cup non GMO corn meal
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
To make the soup
- Put the beets, celery and water into a large soup pot and bring to a boil.
- Put the oil into a large skillet on a medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4 minutes.
- Add the grated tomatoes, sea salt and black pepper to the skillet and continue to cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Pour the content of the skillet into the soup pot, then add the lemon juice, sugar and Persian lemons and stir. Simmer uncovered.
To make the filling
- Finely chop the cabbage and diced the onion. Put the canola oil in a skillet (wipe the one you used earlier) and put it over a medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, onion and allspice and saute for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Finely chop the parsley and mint and add them to the skillet with the salt and pumpkin seeds. Remove from the heat and let it cool.
To make the dough
- In a small bowl, combine the semolina, cornmeal and salt and stir gently until it forms a dough. Knead the dough gently. It should be a little bit sticky but if it is too sticky add a little bit semolina and let it rest for 10 minutes.
To make the dumplings
- Grease a plate or tray and set aside.
- Oil your hands, pinch a small piece (about the size of a ping pong) of the dough and roll it into a ball. Flatten the ball on your palm and place a tablespoon of the filling on the center of it. To make light dumplings, flatten the dough out as much as possible. Wrap the edges around the filling and pinch them together to seal, then gently roll it into a ball. Place the dumplings on the greased tray and repeat with the rest of the dough.
Put it all together
- Place the balls into the soup and cook for 30 minutes. The balls will soak up liquid and get bigger.
- Serve with chopped parsley or dill and a drizzle of olive oil or/and a tablespoon of sour cream.