I have always known these filled meatballs as Porov Kufte, but outside of my own family, I’ve seen them referred to in several different ways, so I’m not sure where that originated. As kids, we just called them Bombs. They would be a first cousin to Kibbeh. No matter what you call them, they’re great on chilly fall evenings with a loaf of crusty bread to soak up the broth. Of course the cold never stopped me from sneaking leftovers straight out of the fridge the next day. 🙂
1½ lb. ground beef (extra lean)
1/4 small onion, minced
3/4 c fine bulghar (wheat)
3/4 c warm water
salt and pepper
3/4 stick butter
3/4 lb. ground beef (not extra lean)
3 large onions, chopped fine
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
finely chopped walnuts
Chicken broth to simmer in
Start by mixing together the ingredients for the outside shell and setting it aside while you cook the filling. That will give the wheat time to absorb the moisture and plump up some. If you do this step at the end, the wheat is more likely to expand while you’re simmering them and they’ll burst open. They’ll still be just as good, but you might have to fish some filling out of the bottom of the pot if that happens.
Over medium-high heat, saute the ground beef and onion in the butter until the beef is almost cooked through and the onions are translucent. Add the parsley, walnuts, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste. There’s no science to this, so the amount of walnuts and seasoning is up to your personal preference about texture and heat. I probably use a good cup or so of walnuts and about 1/4 t cayenne, lots of freshly-ground black pepper, and just a little salt. When your filling is cooked through, remove from heat and set aside to cool until you’re able to handle it without needing a pair of asbestos gloves.
Once the filling has cooled sufficiently, you’re ready to start filling. Grab about a ping pong ball sized portion of the shell mixture and flatten it in the palm of your hand. You want to get it to about 1/4″ thick or so. You’ll get the hang of it after one or two. Since this isn’t baking, it’s very forgiving. If you realize you don’t have enough, just pinch off a pit more and squish it on. Got too much and have an extra thick one – no worries, just leave it in the pot to simmer for an extra few minutes. If you’re not sure which one(s) it was until you crack it open, go ahead and nuke it to finish it off.
Cup your hand while pressing with your other thumb into the shell mixture to make a little well. Add about a tablespoon of the filling in the middle and keep cupping that hand while pushing into the filling with the other to start working the shell around it. When the filling is completely covered, roll it around in your hand for a minute to make sure it’s sealed all the way around. If you get one that wants to pop open on you, add a little more shell mixture in that spot or a drop of water and roll it around again.
Now it’s decision time…who’s gonna be eating them, and how many does everyone want? Once you’ve established that, you can decide whether you want to go ahead and cook them all now, or freeze some for another time. Most people will tell you to freeze them on a sheet tray, and once they’re hard, you can put them together in a container or ziplock bag. I’ve always skipped the first step, lined them up in a ziplock and tossed them straight into the freezer. I’ve never had a problem separating them when I took them out, but that’s your call.
Put however many you’ll be cooking into a pot with enough chicken broth to cover them and turn up to medium-high. As soon as it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer until they’re cooked through. Since you know the filling is already cooked, you can tell just by the color when they’re done. If you’re like my brother-in-law, you’ll want them drained and with spaghetti sauce over the top. If you’re like the rest of the world, you’ll want two or three in a bowl with some broth. Crack them open with a spoon and scoop it up with some of the broth. Yummm! Don’t forget to soak up any extra broth with a nice crusty bread.
If there are any left in the pot, you can re-heat them the next day or eat them cold right out of the fridge. The last time I made them, I somehow ended up with extra filling. My sister was making squash ravioli with wonton skins, so I stole some of her skins and made some kufte raviolis. I cooked those in broth too, and really liked it, so I’m thinking I might do that on purpose sometime and throw in some veggies – sort of an Armenian Wonton Soup. 🙂