Often called kibbeh, these crispy fried snacks are popular across the Levant. This rendition comes from Miriam Persi and her mother-in-law, whose Kurdish family has called Jerusalem home for six generations. Like all kubbeh, this recipe takes time and skill to make. Miriam typically prepares it over a couple of days, making the dough and filling the day before she shapes the kubbeh. After forming the kubbeh, you can freeze them, first on a tray and then in a sealable bag. You don’t need to defrost the kubbeh before cooking, just add 2-3 minutes to the frying time. Learn more about Miriam’s family and their kubbeh traditions on the Jewish Food Society’s archive.
Check out more kubbeh recipes and explore the centuries-long history of this iconic regional dish here.
½ cup neutral oil (like canola, sunflower or grapeseed)
4 large onions, finely chopped
Canola or sunflower oil, for deep frying
In a medium bowl, soak the bulgur in cold water for 30 minutes. Discard the water, rinse the bulgur and leave in the bowl covered with a towel.
Heat a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place the ground beef (and ground lamb fat if using) in the pan breaking it up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon until browned and no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Add the spice mix, coriander, salt and pepper, and mix well. Turn the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until it looks dried up, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the ½ cup oil in a pan on medium-low heat, and add the chopped onions. Caramelize the onions, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden but not darkened, about 20-25 minutes.
Add the onions to the meat and stir well, allowing them to cook together for 2-3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Transfer the meat to a colander placed in the sink or over a bowl and let the excess oil drain while cooling, at least 10 minutes. Cool completely before using (either by placing it in the freezer for atleast half an hour, or, preferably, in the fridge for a few hours, or up to all night).
To make the dough: Add the chickpea flour, semolina flour, bread crumbs, oil, tomato paste and salt to the bulgur. Mix and knead with your hands, until a dough forms. If the dough does not come together, start adding water one tablespoon at a time (and up to a ½ cup). If the dough is too sticky, add a small amount of flour or breadcrumbs. The dough should neither be wet nor sticky, but it should feel like it can hold together, and hold a filling.
Set out a large baking sheet. With moist hands, take a ping pong ball-sized piece of dough in the palm of one hand and with the other thumb, start to hollow out the ball in the center, gently enlarging it, and keeping a thin layer on the bottom and sides. Fill with 2 teaspoons of the meat mixture — it should be packed tightly and full almost to the top. Gently close the dough (wetting your hands again if needed) and tighten the dough all around it, while shaping it into a pointed football-like shape between your hands. Place the kubbeh on the tray and repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
Pour oil into a large heavy-bottomed high-walled pot until it measures 2 inches up the side of the pot. Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350°F or until bubbles come out from the sides of a wooden spoon when you place it in the hot oil.
Carefully place the prepared kubbeh into the hot oil in batches, being careful not to overcrowd. Fry the kubbeh until it is dark brown, turning once in the middle, about 10 minutes. Move to a plate lined with paper towels and continue with the next batch, adjusting the heat as you go to be sure that the oil does not get too hot.
Serve immediately, with tahini or homemade hummus and chopped preserved lemons.