Lamb and beef dumplings in lamb broth served with chickpeas, kale and wild garlic
Kubba is a national treasure of Iraq. The best way to describe it is a lamb croquette, meatball, or dumpling. It takes on various textures, cooking techniques and ingredients (usually bulgur, rice or potato)—all as good as each other. This particular dish, kubba yakhni, is one that is very close to my heart. The outer shell of the kubba is made up of ground rice and minced beef, while inside is a fatty lamb mince which has been blended with onions and spices. This is served in a lamb broth with chickpeas.
200g beef mince, no fat
200g ground rice
1 tbsp white pepper
3 white onions
500g lamb mince, slightly fatty
3 tbsp baharat (a blend of coriander, cinnamon, cumin, and all spice)
2 pints lamb stock
3 garlic cloves
1 tin of chickpeas
50g wild garlic
200g kale, roughly torn from any tough stems
1 lemon, juiced
For the outer shell of the dumpling, take a large mixing bowl, and mix the beef mince, ground rice and white pepper with a wooden spoon. In a food processor, blend the mix for a few mins, in small batches. Add a few splashes of water while it’s blending to create a thick, glue-like consistency. It should take 3-4 mins. Place the blended mix in a separate bowl.
Wash the food processor and move onto the filling. Add 1 onion and blend until very fine, then add the lamb mince, baharat spice and some seasoning and blend again so that all the flavours combine. Place the lamb filling mix in a separate bowl.
Now take the beef and rice dough, the bowl of lamb mince and a small bowl of water and find a comfortable chair as this may take some time. With wet hands, take a small ball of the dough (slightly smaller than a golf ball) and flatten it in your hands to form a round disc.
Next, take a small piece of lamb mince and place it in the centre of the disc and begin folding the edges in, to encase the lamb mince filling. This can be quite fiddly, but the dough mix should be quite forgiving. Any cracks should be easily rectified with wet hands.
Once all the dumplings are done, freeze them on a tray. They should not be touching each when they go into the freezer.
For the broth, pour the lamb stock into a large saucepan and place on a medium heat. Finely slice the garlic and remaining 2 onions and add to the stock, along with the chickpeas.
Bring the stock to the boil and add the frozen kubbas. Be careful not to drop them in from too high up, as the bubbling stock might splash on you. Stir once in. You will notice the sauce settling as the cold kubba enters it—don’t worry, keep the heat high and stir every 5 mins, making sure no kubbas are catching on the bottom of the pan. Cover the pot for 15-20 mins.
Meanwhile, sauté the wild garlic and kale in a pan with some butter and seasoning. It will wilt and reduce in size, which is fine. Cook for 6 mins, then set aside.
Once the kubbas have cooked, season the sauce generously and finish with the lemon juice to taste.
To serve, place five kubbas in a small bowl, ladle over the lamb broth and chickpeas and garnish with the kale and wild garlic.
Recipe: Philip Juma
Image: John Holdship