These are a wonderful Middle-Eastern speciality. It is good to have a couple of friends helping, as they can be a little tricky, but once you have tasted koupes you will want to know how to make your own. They are shaped like long dumplings or elongated eggs with slightly pointed ends. The outer shell is made with burghul wheat and filled with a mixture of fried mince meat, parsley, cinnamon and pine nuts, then deep-fried. Women who have been making these for a lifetime casually churn out these burghul shells as though they were knitting or doing something quite natural. If you use minced lamb in the shells as well as the burghul, you will find them a lot easier to shape, so I’ve included both methods.
If you are feeling brave, or have made these before, you can make the shells from just burghul wheat. Put
To make the shells by the easier method, put the lamb mince in a food processor and blend to a paste. Transfer to a bowl. Blend the onions to a paste as well, add to the mince and season well with salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside. Rinse the burghul wheat in a sieve under cold running water. Drain well and squeeze out any excess water. Blend in a food processor. Add the mince mixture and blend again. Set aside while you make the filling.
To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan and sauté the onion, stirring, until softened and lightly golden. Add the mince and continue to sauté until all the moisture from the meat has evaporated and it is golden and completely cooked. Break up any clusters with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper and add the cinnamon, stirring constantly to prevent the meat from sticking. Add the pine nuts and cook for another minute or two. Stir in the parsley, then remove from the heat to cool.
Now you are ready to make the shells. Have a small bowl of water ready. If you are using the shell mixture with just burghul, start kneading the burghul wheat in the bowl and then turn it out onto the work surface and knead it as you would a dough (although it will be much harder). It should start to feel softer after a while and then you can break off a chunk about the size of an egg and make it into a ball. If you are using the shell mixture with meat in it, take a ball of the shell mixture about the size of an egg (keep the rest of the mixture covered with a damp cloth to prevent it drying out).
Hold the ball in the cup of your left hand (if you are right-handed). Using your right thumb, flatten the ball so that it takes the shape of your palm, turning upwards like a blanket, and is as thin as you can make it. Add a teaspoonful of the mince mixture and fold the sides of the ‘blanket’ over the mince. Now you need to seal the top, so, if there is enough shell then do so dipping by your hands lightly in the water and using it like a glue if you find it helps. Or add more shell mixture, pressing it to make uniform, and then cup your hands together, cradling the shell tightly to make it smooth and compact. Put this on a tray while you make the rest.
One-third fill a saucepan or deep-fryer with oil and heat up for deep-frying. Add the koupes a few at a time and deep-fry for 2–3 minutes until dark golden and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil and then serve drizzled with lemon juice and an extra sprinkling of salt. These are also good served at room temperature.
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