For as long as I can remember, the typical Syrian Jewish Shabbat meal has to have something with “hashu” in it. Whether it be mechshi (a stuffed vegetable) as a side dish, or “ribbet”, which means veal pocket as a main dish, hashu is the spiced meat and rice mixture that goes into every mechshe, yebrat, and ribbet. When we were kids we thought that the name”ribbet” was gross, because it sounded like some kind of frog dish, but we quickly got over the weird Syrian name, and everyone always fought over the hashu, or the well cooked burnt edge of the veal roast..
The basic Syrian style stuffing traditionally included fatty chop meat which really must have tasted really authentically Syrian, but nowadays, many Syrian women stuff their mechshes, yebrats (stuffed grape leaves), and ribbets with turkey, chicken, or extra lean ground chop meat.
These Syrian meatballs were ALWAYS hand made by our grandmothers, but at one point back in the 50’s when women wanted to do more than sit, grind their rice and chop meat, roll and stuff, some community entrepreneurs decided to sell their homemade kibbes. Now all of the Syrian kosher butchers in Brooklyn sell packs of these Syrian meatballs. They have an outer shell that consists of finely ground meat that is ground with rice, and are stuffed with celery leaves and spices.By the way, my mother in law makes her very own kibbes and would never consider buy them. Very often she drops off a very appreciated freshly frozen bag of kibbes that I use for “hamud” and many other Syrian holiday and Shabbat recipes. Honestly, I’ve tried making my own, but I’m sorry to say that I don’t have the patience.
My neighbor Linda, introduced me to the idea of these mini “ribbets” because years back, the butcher would only slice the neck of the veal as one big pocket the size of a roast. Nowadays, “mini” is the big thing so even veal pockets have followed the “mini” trend.
Adapted from the Magen David Yeshivah Chef at Home cookbook, here is my recipe for Mini Veal pockets with Kibbe Balls and Asparagus.
Perfect on your Rosh Hashanah Menu as a Main Meat Dish:
1- First make the hash (meat stuffing). You can find the hashu recipe HERE, as it is useful for many meat Syrian recipes.
2-Order 2 dozen mini veal pockets from your butcher, as they don’t usually have them readily available.
3- One by one, wash the veal pockets inside and out and let the water drain off. Pat dry with a paper towel.
4- Stuff each one with hashu, making sure that the meat is not sticking out. Its advisable to leave some space before the edge of the meat because the rice expands the mixture as it cooks.
5- At this point you can freeze the mini pockets on a tray, and when frozen you can bag them. It’s always such a great feeling to know that when Friday 7 a.m comes around, you know that you can pull out these frozen ribets and the dish can be put together , and slid into the oven in less than 20 minutes.
6- Drizzle some safflower oil on the bottom of a roaster and place fresh or frozen mini pockets in the roaster. Flip and rub the pockets all the way around so that it all gets covered with the oil.
7- Spice on top and bottom with salt, garlic powder,lots of fresh chopped garlic, allspice, and pepper.
8- Steam in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. If frozen, steam for an extra 10 or 15 minutes.
9- Throw kibbe homda balls onto the veal pockets, or for a more browned look like the photo above, you can brown the kibbes in a pot with oil beforehand, and then throw them on top of the veal pockets.
10. Add 1 cup of water or enough water to come to 3/4 high of the veal pockets in the roaster. You need this water to cook the rice in the hashu.
11- Cook for at 350 in the oven in the roaster.
12- While cooking, saute cleaned and peeled asparagus separately for about 5 minutes with chopped garlic, salt, and pepper.
13- About 50 minutes into the roasting of the veal pockets throw sautéed asparagus on top and uncover the roaster. Don’t let the asparagus get brown by too much cooking. Roast for another 20 minutes uncovered. All ovens vary so use your discretion with cooking time.
14- Save some pretty bright green sautéed asparagus for garnish on top.
One LARGE veal pocket being stuffed:
image via The Boreka Diary