Updated: Feb 3
My kubba adom recipe is a deviation from the classic beet red kubba recipes. Surprisingly, I attempted this traditional Iraqi specialty many years after my introduction to the delicacy of this comforting food. Knowingly I anticipated cooking kubba recipes for years, fearful of the time invested into the preparation, but soften after many requests from my family. My earliest impression of spending endless hours in the kitchen prepping the sauce and the individual kubbas is accurate and I'm not going to pretend kubba is a snap, but the process does flow and the results are worth the time. Finally after several entry-level attempts at perfectly forming my kubba, my confidence shined and I was on a roll. Familiar with my mother-in law, Nina's beet sauce, I attempted to take the recipe on step further and integrate more root vegetables together with the beets. The beets, the vibrant red color, remained the basis of the recipe, but with the addition of carrots, sweet potatoes and kale, the wholesome and richness of the sauce is very desirable.
As I expressed the additional time involved in "kubba" making, I created a basic 'go-to' version of this recipe when pressed for time. Also, I lean more towards this method, as I often prefer a lighter option. I skip the step of forming a layer of semolina around the meatballs, this traditional step is the real character of kubba, semolina formed around a meatball. Instead I simmer the naked meatballs directly in the sauce. The sauce is a wonderful base for adding meatballs, or cut-up pieces of chicken. The only difference between the two methods is in the cooking of the meat. Simply, for the meatballs without semolina, follow the kubba filling directions to sauté onion, parsley and celery leaves in a frying pan for 5 minutes, omitting at the ground meat. Next, remove from the heat and slightly cool, mix into the raw ground turkey or any ground meat you choose with salt and pepper to taste, form walnut-sized meatballs, drop into the sauce and continue simmering until cooked. As a lighter variation to the kubba, I find myself making this version of "naked Kubba" more often. Kubba is a year round meal to savor but kubba adom, the root vegetables, and vibrant colors are soul warming as the Autumn temperatures dip into the cooler months.
1½ lbs. fresh beets, peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 cups carrots, peeled, halved and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 handfuls of kale, torn into 1-inch pieces
6 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
3-4 tablespoons tomato paste, about 6 oz can
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh celery leaves, finely chopped
1 lb. ground turkey or choice of ground meat
dash of salt and pepper
2½ cups semolina
½ teaspoon salt
about 1¾ cups water
Directions for Beet Sauce: I choose to make the stew ready before preparing the dumplings. This way I can drop the kubba directly into the stew after forming.
1. Boil beets for 10 minutes or roast in oven, until slightly softened. If boiling, drain and cool or place roasted beets in a bowl of cold water, let sit 5 minutes and peel off outer layer. Coarsely cut beets into 1 inch pieces.
2. Heat oil in large cooking pot and sauté the the onion over medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until translucent. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots and beets, continuing to sauté for 5 minutes. Mix the kale into the pot letting the leaves soften for one minute.
3. Add the broth or water to pot, bring to a boil and stir in tomato paste. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, then stir in the lemon juice, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to blend, then bring to a boil and gently drop the dumplings or meatballs into the sauce.
4. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until the dumplings or meatballs are cooked through. Before serving, adjust the seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Directions for Kubba Filling
1. In a medium frying pan, sauté onion in oil until transparent, about 3 minutes.
2. Stir in parsley, celery leaves, salt and pepper. Cook for one more minute. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
3. Mix the onion and herb mixture to the ground meat. Combine well and form into small one-inch balls.
4. At this point, either continue to make the Kubba shell or skip this step and drop the meatballs directly into the simmering pot of sauce.
Directions for Kubba Shell
1. Combine semolina and salt in medium bowl. Add enough water to form a stiff but pliable dough. Make sure the semolina soaks up all the water; it should not be crazy sticky but it should NOT be wet. If it is, add a little more semolina.
2. Once the water is absorbed, divide the dough and make 18 ping pong sized balls. Flatten the ball on the palm of your hand or small rolling pin, about three inches in diameter, and create a slight cavity in the center, generously filling the cavity with an onion-herb meatball. Really try to flatten the dough out to avoid heavy kubba balls because they are so incredibly filling even when they’re light. If hands are too dry the dough will stick and rip apart. Best to have slightly damp hands, but not too wet.
3. Pinch together the edges and create a smooth ball using the palms of your hands. I like to place the formed kubba into the simmering stew as I make the balls, but they can also be covered and refrigerated until ready to use or even frozen at this point.
4. Place the balls into the stew, as many as will fit without crowding, very gently stirring, cooking 30 minutes longer. The balls will soak up all the flavor and expand in size.
Kubba adom sauce can simply be reconsidered as a tomato based soup with root vegetables. By omitting the kubba or meatballs, this recipe is enjoyed a pleasant vegetarian soup.