Kubbeh (or kibbe as they are also called) are little dumpling-style savory treats traditionally made with bulgur, meat, potatoes (or other starch, such as squash or pumpkin) and spices. They can be cooked in broth and served in a soup or stew, but they are most often seen in these little fried torpedo-shapes that are a perfect appetizer, side dish, or main dish when accompanied by salads, sauce and rice. Kubbeh are ubiquitous in the cuisines of Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Cyprus with both restaurant and home cooks using various techniques and ingredients to create a finished product that reflects their region and heritage.
I have never met a small fried dumpling I did not like, and I think that if you enjoy a tater tot or a falafel now and then, kubbeh are sure to win you over. The wonderful thing about this particular recipe is that if you stay more or less with the set proportions you could really play with the flavor. Instead of potato, use butternut squash or pumpkin, then add some smoked paprika instead of sweet. Over time, you could have your own family kubbeh recipe that reflects your tastes and the ingredients that are seasonal in your area.
Vegetarian Kubbeh with Mint and Potatoes, from The Foods of Israel Today, by Joan Nathan
This is a recipe that can be done in stages (phew!). I made these leisurely, over the weekend, soaking the bulgur on Friday (then covering it with plastic wrap and storing the fridge), cooking the potatoes and mashing and mixing the dough on Saturday (wrapping well and storing in the fridge), shaping the kubbeh on Sunday morning, and frying them Sunday evening before dinner. Enjoy!
1 cup medium bulgur (#2) — should yield 2 1/2 cups after soaking
1 lb potatoes (I used yukon gold)
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 Tbs dried mint (I used 1 1/2 Tbs fresh, and it was yummy)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
Vegetable oil for deep frying (safflower is the best)
Cover the bulgur with about 1 1/4 cups cold water, and let sit for half and hour, until the water is absorbed, draining off any excess.
Meanwhile, peel the potatoes, cut each in half and cover with cold water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Drain, cool, dice, and season very well with salt and pepper.
Add the potatoes, mint, paprika, cumin, and marjoram to the bulgur and season liberally with more salt and pepper to taste. Knead the mixture for a few minutes, or until the dough has a tacky consistency (I used a potato masher first, then kneaded by hand). Refrigerate for one hour.
Using about 1 heaping Tbs of dough at a time, form a sausage-like shape, about 2-inches long. Repeat with remaining dough.
Heat a few inches of oil in a deep frying pan to 375º F. Gently insert 3 or 4 kubbeh at a time (you should try one first to see if your oil is the right temp) and fry 2-4 minutes, turning with a slotted spoon or tongs. Drain on paper towels. Do not crowd the kubbeh in the pan or they will stick together.