חמין מהמטבח הכורדי (חיִטֶּה) (באדיבות: רחל זקן זכרונה לברכה): חמין מהמטבח הכורדי (חיִטֶּה). מירב זקן-פישר
חמין מהמטבח הכורדי (חיִטֶּה) (באדיבות: רחל זקן זכרונה לברכה): חמין מהמטבח הכורדי (חיִטֶּה). מירב זקן-פישר
Recipe

Chiteh – Kurdish Chamin

The smell of chiteh - chamin with kubbeh, wheat or groats, chickpeas and meat - would greet my brother and father when they returned from synagogue

In Kurdish cuisine, there is a long tradition of steaming dishes, which are cooked slowly on wicks and their aroma fills the rooms of the house. One of the foods I remember is Chiteh – chamin that included kubbeh, wheat or groats, chickpeas and chicken parts or meat or turkey throats. The smell of chiteh, engraved in my memory as a delightful experience, would greet the faces of my father, Menashe Zaken, and my brother, Efi Zaken, when they returned from the synagogue on Shabbat.

My mother, Rachel Zakan, may her memory be blessed: Kova Hamousta from the Kurdish kitchen. Merav Zakan-Fisher
My mother, Rachel Zakan, may her memory be blessed: Kova Hamousta from the Kurdish kitchen. Merav Zakan-Fisher

My mother, the late Rachel Zaken, was a gracious cook. She surprised our palates with her Arab cooking and prepared, with love and skill, the flavors of Kurdish cuisine that she learned from my grandmother. She chopped vegetables and mixed fillings for kube, for yifrach (vine leaves stuffed with rice), for stuffed vegetables or for lakada (a pastry with dough and salty cheese); rolled dough dumplings, filled them with meat and cooked them with a light and sure hand. She never cooked with written recipes; her experienced hands skillfully fluttered between pots and bowls and were the only measuring tool with which she used to cook – by feel, from memory and from the heart. She ‘felt’ kubbeh dough with her hands and added water to it ‘by eye.’ She pinched balls of equal size from the dough, filled them with the same amount of ‘siske’, or ‘kalya’ – a spiced meat filling that was slowly cooked and chopped by hand, and skillfully and quickly made identical kubbeh, with a thin dough shell, which does not disintegrate when cooking.

Ingredients for Kurdish Chamin

For the filling:

  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1.1 lbs (500 grams) ground beef
  • 2 onions small, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

For the kubbeh dough:

  • 2.2 lbs (1 kilogram) semolina
  • 10.6 oz (300 grams) wheat groats, fine
  • 2 level teaspoons Salt
  • 1¼ cups water lukewarm

For the chamin:

  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 onions medium, chopped
  • 6 cups boiling water
  • Salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon Chicken soup powder
  • 3 cups wheat or groats
  • 3 cups chickpeas
  • beef shoulder cut into 8 pieces or 8 pieces of chicken according to preference or 8 turkey necks
  • hard boiled eggs one for each guest

Instructions

Prepare the filling:

  • 1. Heat canola oil in a wide pan. Add onions and fry until golden. Add minced meat and fry for at least half an hour, until the meat is well browned. While frying, crumble the meat with a wooden spoon, so that it does not clump together. Season the onions and meat with salt and black pepper, mix until uniform and set aside to cool completely.

Prepare the dough:

  • 2. In a large bowl, mix semolina, fine wheat groats and salt. Pour water gradually, until you get a uniform mixture, soft and easy to mold. You may not need all the water; alternatively, if the mixture is too dry, add a little more water.

  • 3. Cover and put in the freezer for about 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed and you get a soft, grainy dough that is easy to work with.

Form the kubbeh:

  • 4. In advance, prepare a tray wrapped in plastic wrap and a bowl of water to wet your hands - it is important that your hands are wet when you form the kubbeh.

  • 5. With wet hands, pinch a ball the size of a ping pong ball from the semolina mixture and flatten it on the palm of your hand. Place a teaspoon of the meat mixture in the center of the semolina circle. Wrap the dough around the filling and gently roll into a smooth ball (you can make round balls or flatten them a little into a disc shape). Place the kubbeh on the tray lined with plastic wrap and shape the rest in the same way.

    Preparations for making kubbeh (courtesy: Rachel Zakan, blessed be her memory): soup from the Kurdish kitchen (Chiteh). Merav Zakan-Fisher
    Preparations for making kubbeh (courtesy: Rachel Zakan, blessed be her memory): soup from the Kurdish kitchen (Chiteh). Merav Zakan-Fisher
  • 6. Transfer the tray with the kubbeh to the freezer for at least 30 minutes so that they do not fall apart during cooking. You can prepare the kubbeh in advance and keep them in the freezer, wrapped well, for up to 3 months.

Prepare the chamin:

  • 7. Heat oil in a wide pot, add the onion and fry for about 10 minutes until golden. Add water and season with salt, black pepper, cumin, turmeric and the soup powder. Add wheat or groats, chickpeas and pieces of meat or chicken or turkey necks, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot and cook for 40 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.  

  • 8. Carefully place the kubbeh balls into the bubbling soup pot. In order not to damage their shape, when you feel that the pot is full, wait about a minute and a half until the kubbeh stabilize a little and only then add more. Shake the pot very gently so that the kubbeh do not stick to each other or to the bottom of the pot. Place hard-boiled eggs on top, cover and cook on a low flame for about 30 minutes, until the kubbeh are soft.

  • 9. If there is time, you should continue to cook the chamin for an additional 4-5 hours, in a covered pot, on a hot plate or in an oven preheated to 212F (100C) degrees.

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