The Hamilton Spectator
Comforting Syrian soup pulls everything from pantry
The Syrian soup shurba w’kibbeh is pure comfort food, a rustic mixture of meatballs and rice in a simple tomatoey broth that’s redolent with warm spices. It’s also a prime example of the complex flavour you can build by drawing on ingredients already in your pantry.
This recipe from our book “Cook What You Have,” which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy, weeknight meals, requires just one refrigerated ingredient: ground beef (ground turkey works well, too). Also made with canned tomatoes, rice and boxed broth, the soup can be ready in about 40 minutes.
Inspired by a recipe from “Aromas of Aleppo” by Poopa Dweck, we mix allspice and red pepper flakes into the meat mixture. You also could substitute cumin or cinnamon or combine them all for a slightly different flavour profile that would be no less traditional.
The prep is easy, too. To boost the flavour of the meatballs and the broth, we grate onion and garlic so no knifework is required. What’s more, there’s no need to brown the meatballs. As you form them, simply drop them into the simmering broth when the rice is about halfway done and everything will finish cooking at once. Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro freshens the soup, and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses adds a tart sweetness that balances the richness of the meat.
SYRIAN-STYLE MEATBALL SOUP with Rice and Tomatoes Start to finish
1 pound ground beef OR turkey
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive ■ oil, divided
1 large yellow onion, grated on ■ the large holes of a box grater, divided
5 medium garlic cloves, finely ■
2 teaspoons ground allspice OR ■ ground cumin, divided
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes ■
OR ground cinnamon OR both
Kosher salt and ground black ■ pepper
28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 quart low-sodium beef OR ■ chicken broth
1/2 cup long-grain white rice OR ■ basmati rice, rinsed and drained
In a medium bowl, combine the beef, 2 tablespoons oil, 1/4 cup of the grated onion, half of the garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the allspice, the red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Mix with your hands until well combined; set aside.
In a large pot, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the remaining onion, the remaining garlic, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon allspice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is browned and sticks to the pot, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with juices, the broth and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits, then stir in the rice. Reduce to medium and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for eight minutes; the rice will not be fully cooked.
Using dampened hands, pinch off a one-tablespoon portion of the meat mixture, form it into a ball and drop it into the broth. Shape the remaining meat mixture and add to the pot in the same way; it’s fine if the meatballs are not completely uniform. Simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the soup is slightly thickened and the centre of the meatballs reach 160 F, 10 to 15 minutes. Off heat, taste and season with salt and black pepper.
Optional garnish Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley OR chopped fresh cilantro OR pomegranate molasses OR a combination