This is the beginnings of a series of kubba posts. My goal is to include detailed recipes, illustrated instructions, and possibly even video demos to make the whole process more transparent. I'll add info here, then post the recipes one by one as they're ready for human consumption.
History of Kubba (interview with my father-in-law, December 2007).
Kubba came to Iraq during the Assyrian dynasty. An Assyrian empirical palace library was discovered dating back to about 2500 years ago, in which were found books referencing the king's palace and a big banquet that was held at which kubba was served. All the most wealthy and powerful individuals in the empire were invited to be the king's guests, and the price of admission was steep (yes, they paid to attend). The purpose of the banquet was to identify the high rollers who needed to pay more taxes, but the invitees didn't know that until they arrived with their admission fees and thus proof of their affluence. Gulp! Kubba kbebo was the variety of kubba served and a recipe was included. It contained wheat, boiled, crushed and mixed with meat.
When tomato came from the New World, it was added to sauces made for kubba. The invading Mongols brought sweet and sour things from China. My father-in-law thinks (but acknowledges that it's pure speculation) that perhaps this is when sweet kubba originated.
Additional notes: Basterma is undoubtedly from the Mongols, particularly the variety with spices on top. Dolma is Armenian, not Turkish, but the Turks adopted it.
Kubba Tradition (interview with my mother-in-law, December 2007)
Kubba Khaesi (Kubba in sweet apricot sauce) is a special and complicated dish eaten on happy occasions like New Year's Day and when newlyweds return from their honeymoon. Since the setting where it is eaten is so specific, it's usually only prepared a couple of times a year. This sweet variation of the adored kubba dish is well-loved by Maslawis (the locals of Musul, in northern Iraq). Can be eaten as a meal on its own (for instance if a couple is celebrating New Years by themselves), but is usually served as part of a celebratory meal with friends and family.
Accompaniments for sweet kubba
Chicken and turkey, both stuffed with rice, meat, and nuts such as chestnuts, pine nuts or almonds; white basmati rice, hummus, salad, eggplant, fasoulyah beytha or potato curry, or a vegetarian curry
Sweet Kubba Sauce
Boil the lamb bone. When it is cooked, add the rest of the ingredients. Lemon juice goes in at the end.
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
Make a rich, syrupy sauce (but not a thick one). When the flavor is right, drop the kubba in and boil until they rise to the top. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Kubba Hamuth (sour Kubba) is eaten whenever the urge strikes; no special occasion required. Same with kubba yachni (also called kubba hummus), made with chick peas.