I’ll bet ten drachma that every self-respecting wife and mother in Greece has her own meatball recipe. In Greece, you’ll find keftedes on the islands and the mainland in all shapes and sizes. My mum has her way of making them adapted from my yiayia (grandmother). My mum likes to brown the meatballs and then cook them slowly in a very rich tomato and red wine sauce. We love her for it and I make a point of wearing something dark if I go round for some- the sauce is the reddest I’ve come across and permanently stains anything that it comes into contact with.
My meatball recipe is very simple and that’s why I like it. For the meze, I chose to make lots of small meatballs rather than the large ones that my mum would normally make for a main meal. In a nod towards my Greek and English heritage, my perfect platter is a combination of the meatballs in that gorgeously rich lava of a sauce and a huge dollop of buttery mashed potato (with carrots in it). A big bowl of crunchy cabbage salad helps to cleanse the palate if the sauce gets too much. Here though, is my basic recipe for meatballs. Perhaps mum will share the sauce recipe with me one day. Here’s hoping!
Keftedes (Greek meatballs)
500g minced beef
2 slices white bread
1 onion (finely chopped)
1 handful fresh parsley (finely chopped)
1 handful fresh mint (finely chopped)
1 tblspoon dried oregano
Soak the bread in the water for a little while and when it’s soggy, break it up into small mushy bits. Combine the bread and all of the other ingredients in a bowl by rolling your sleeves up and going to work on it with your hands. Season the meatball mixture well and heat plenty of oil in a large frying pan ready to fry the meatballs in batches.You’ll need at least enough oil to completely cover the base of the pan, but ideally, the oil would come half way up the meatballs. Not a recipe you’ll find in weight loss handbooks, but great as an occassional treat.
Roll the meat into little balls and place gently into the hot oil. The trick here is to leave the meatballs alone. Poke and prod them at your peril. They will crumble and break if you mess with them. A couple of minutes should be enough to brown them and allow you to turn them over without destroying them. At this point, it is worth mentioning that if you haven’t chopped the onion very finely, you’ll have a harder time keeping the meatballs together. If you’re going to cook the meatballs in a sauce, you need only brown them. Since I was serving the meatballs with a little lemon juice and tzatziki, I had to make sure they were cooked all the way through. You don’t wanna mess with mince. Meatballs that are pink in the middle? Not a chance.
Place the cooked meatballs on a plate with some kitchen paper and finish cooking all of the mixture. You can serve these hot or cold and once they’re cool, they can be refrigerated for a day or two. Just make sure to reheat them fully if you want them hot. As a child, I used to love raiding the fridge the day after we’d had meatballs. I would sneak into the kitchen, grab a plate and squirt tomato ketchup onto it so that I could dip the cold meatballs in it before dinner. For the meze, I assumed that my guests would be expecting something a little more authentic. Maybe next time…