I found the courage and motivation to make kubba bamya after 25 years of marriage! The premonition of spending hours in the kitchen forming a dough around a mixture of freshly seasoned ground meat did not seem worth the while to me, even though my family adored the Iraqi jewish dumplings. I'm not sure if I was finally up to the challenge, or I just wanted to surprised Eddie for his birthday. This may seem crazy, but Eddie probably dreams of me making kubba for our family, especially since I declared years ago never to make the semolina favorites and over the years, kubba has become a rarity in the kitchen among our Iraqi jewish generation. Also, I may have snapped after recently returning home from Tel-Aviv. During our stay, we enjoy eating at Suzana, a quaint restaurant serving Iraqi food in area of Neve Tzedek. The restaurant probably sparked my inspiration, since the food is exceptional and leans towards my style of cooking. My first attempt at making the kubba went well, but I was too meager with the meat filling resulting in heavy dumplings. The bamya, otherwise known as okra, is a much loved vegetable in the middle east sparking flavor to the sauce. The sauce tasted zesty, exactly as I hoped for, so the next day I attempted to create kubba again achieving more satisfying results. Since I was on a role, I tackled kubba adom the next day and resulting in light and full of filling kubba's! Patience, dedication and practice truly gave me my results. I can finally claim to make decent kubba and pleased to have a very, very satisfied and proud family.
Bamya (okra) Stew
2 lbs. fresh or frozen okra, about 3 inches long
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups tomatoes, finely chopped
2 quarts chicken, vegetable broth or water
3 tablespoons tomato paste, about 6 oz. can
¾ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
3 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
3 tablespoons parsley, freshly minced
3 tablespoons celery leaves, freshly minced
dash of salt and pepper
2½ cups semolina
½ teaspoon salt
about 1¾ cups water
Directions for Okra Stew: 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. Wash the okra and trim the stems in needed. Cover the okra with hot water and add vinegar. Set aside for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel. Frozen okra is another option. Defrost at room temperature.
2. Heat oil in large cooking pot and sauté the okra over medium-high heat until lightly browned on all sides, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Add the broth or water to pot, bring to a boil and stir in tomato paste, lemon juice, sugar and salt. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Add the kubba (dumplings) and continue cooking for 30 minutes more to fully cook them. 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. Add the ground meat and cook until meat is no longer pink, breaking up into small pieces with a fork.
2. Stir in parsley, celery leaves, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for a few more minutes, the meat should be fully cooked. Remove from the heat and set aside.
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, about three inches in diameter, and create a slight cavity in the center, generously filling the cavity with 1 tablespoon of meat mixture. Really try to flatten the dough out to avoid heavy kubba balls because they are so incredibly filling even when they’re light.
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, and cook for another 30 minutes. The balls will soak up all the flavor and get bigger.