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Easy cook with common ingredients

Christopher Kimball

AP – 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 preparation 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. PHOTO: AP

Start to finish: 40 minutes.
Servings: 4

You’ll need one pound ground beef or turkey, four tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided one large yellow onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater, divided five medium garlic cloves, finely grated two teaspoons ground allspice or ground cumin.

You will also need divided one-fourth teaspoon red pepper flakes or ground cinnamon or both Kosher salt and ground black pepper, 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, one quart low-sodium beef or chicken broth, one and halves cup long-grain white rice or basmati rice, rinsed and drained

In a medium bowl, combine the beef, two tablespoons oil, one-fourth cup of the grated onion, half of the garlic,

One and a half teaspoons of the allspice, the red pepper flakes, one teaspoon salt and half teaspoon black pepper. Mix with your hands until well combined; set aside.

In a large pot, combine the remaining two tablespoons oil, the remaining onion, the remaining garlic, the remaining half teaspoon allspice and half teaspoon salt. Cook over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is browned and sticks to the pot, about five minutes.

Add the tomatoes with juices, the broth and two 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 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 71 degress Celsius, 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.

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