As Europeans begin to ask more questions about where their meat comes from and sales of supermarket beef drop, I think it’s a good time to share a recipe that champions good quality beef in a very comforting way.

I love meatballs and there are some great recipes out there.  Already, I’ve shared my recipe for Keftedes (Greek meatballs), but today I want to share one for soutzoukakia (soo-zoo-ka-ki-yah). These are usually little sausage-shaped meatballs which are more like kofta and are served in a tomato sauce.  They’re gorgeous and a little spicier than ordinary meatballs.

My mum makes killer meatballs, maybe the best, but my recipe comes close; certainly close enough that I feel no shame in sharing it with you.  These beauties melt in the mouth and will permanently stain whatever clothing they touch, so cover up when you tuck in.  They’re great with all kinds of food, but I love them with a fresh cabbage salad and chunky chips.  They freeze well too, so make a big batch and then tub it up for a rainy day.  We had some on pasta recently and it was a real treat!


For the meatballs

750g minced beef

2 large onions (quartered)

1 slice of white bread

handful of fresh coriander/dill (chopped)

12 fresh mint leaves (finely chopped)

3 tblspoons dried oregano

1 tblspoon ground cumin

3 tspoons cayenne pepper

2 tspoons ground cinnamon

half tspoon ground nutmeg



For the sauce

3 tins chopped tomatoes (about 400g each)

10 garlic cloves

1 glass red wine

1 cup beef stock

1 tblspoon tomato puree

2 tspoons cinnamon

1 bay leaf

1 tspoon dried oregano



Make breadcrumbs with the white bread and pour into a large mixing bowl with the beef.  Puree the onions and garlic in a food mixer and add to the beef.  Next, add all of the meatball ingredients to the bowl and use your hands to squeeze everything together until fully combined.  This takes some time and is best done when the minced beef is at room temperature.

You can leave the mixture overnight to let the flavours develop, or you can get on with making the meatballs.  Wash your hands well and leave them wet if you are going to make the meatballs immediately.  This prevents the mixture from sticking to your fingers.  Break off small chunks (or whatever amount you would like) and roll into a little ball.  Set to one side ready for frying.

In a large casserole, gently heat enough olive oil to cover the base.  Add the meatballs in batches and get some nice colour on them before removing them.  Let them drain on kitchen paper in a bowl.

When all of the meatballs have been cooked, keep the heat low and add the red wine to deglaze the casserole, stirring all the time with a wooden spatula or spoon.  Get all of the bits of meatball off the base and add the tomatoes and the beef stock.  Bring to a rolling boil and stir gently for around two minutes; just enough time to burn off the alcohol in the red wine.

Lower the heat and stir in the puree.  Bruise each garlic clove before throwing into the sauce.  Finally, add the dry ingredients and stir.  Once the sauce is simmering, gently add the meatballs and add enough stock to cover them.  Keep the sauce simmering for at least an hour with the lid off to reduce the liquid.  Stir from time to time and stop cooking when the sauce is nice and thick (or to your liking).  Taste the sauce and season it if necessary.  Remove the bay leaf before serving.

The good news is that soutzoukakia can be served with all kinds of things.  As I said earlier, I love them with chips and a crunchy cabbage salad, but they’re just as good with mash, roasted potatoes or in a hot baguette with some grated cheese on top!  You gotta love meatballs!


Things got meze- part 2. My kingdom for a Greek meatball!

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 eggs

2 slices white bread

1 onion (finely chopped)

150ml water

1 handful fresh parsley (finely chopped)

1 handful fresh mint (finely chopped)

1 tblspoon dried oregano


black pepper

The keftedes begin to cook.

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.

It's easy to see which batch needs turning next.

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.

The kitchen paper soaks up excess oil.

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…

Keftedes and tzatziki are a good match.

I want the moon on a stick!

I just wanted a fun recipe that would bring together chicken and Chorizo.  That’s not a tall order.  I came up with the idea of combining the two in the simplest of forms- meatballs!  As I’ve already mentioned, chefs with painted grins on Youtube had beaten me to it.  Not to be defeated, I bought a few ingredients and made my mind up to keep everything very simple.  Big flavours, satisfying result.  That was the goal.  All I had to do was control my urge to add lots of different spices, herbs and random bits that would end up robbing the meatballs of their distinctive taste.

Chicken and Chorizo meatballs

500g minced chicken

120g Chorizo sausage (skin removed)

1 green pepper (diced)

1 lime

1 egg

vegetable oil

sea salt

black pepper

Chop the Chorizo into small pieces.  This isn’t easy because of the high fat content and the firm texture that comes with cured meat.  Put the Chorizo into a large bowl with the minced chicken and the egg.  Season with plenty of salt and pepper, squeeze the juice of one lime over everything and work the mixture with your hands until thoroughly combined.  Mix in the diced green pepper and then begin to roll the mixture into little balls.  Try to push the green pepper into the centre of each ball so that it won’t break away when it cooks.

Heat some oil in a frying pan and brown the meatballs in continuous batches until there is no mixture left.  I managed to make just over forty, but it all depends on how much mixture you use for each one.  You could always make these into burgers if you wanted something more substantial.  Transfer each set of browned meatballs to a baking tray and when it’s full, slide onto the middle shelf of a preheated oven at 180 degrees.  Cook the meatballs for about fifteen to twenty minutes until they’re done all the way through.  Don’t be tempted to eat them if they’re still pink in the middle.

I liked the idea of threading these meatballs onto wooden skewers and I served them like that with Mexican rice and a Chipotle relish.  Sour cream and guacamole would be great to dip into, but to be honest, these little beauties are best appreciated on their own.  For once, I didn’t mess up a perfectly good idea by tinkering too much with decent ingredients.  As always, there are lots of things that could be added to the meatballs, but I’m very happy with how small the list of ingredients is.  This time, I’ll agree that less is definitely more.

Chopped fresh coriander and another squeeze of lime does the trick.