I don’t have the best light for photography in my kitchen – sorry!
Keftedakia – meatballs are popular everywhere in the world and Greece is no exception. They are standard fare in tavernas and for parties. They are easy and delicious.
In Greece the two main types of meatball are the classic keftedes, which are not as punchy in flavor as the Asia Minor Greek dish of soutzoukakia, which is very pungent – made with lots of garlic and cumin and with a sauce of cinnamon and tomato. I made keftedes last night. There are lots of ways to flavor them but I kept it pretty simple. The good thing about keftedes is you can tweak the recipe every time you make it so no two batches are ever the same.
The ingredient that makes Greek meatballs a bit special is the use of spearmint. It might sound an odd ingredient but it works brilliantly. Greece uses a lot of spearmint in its cookery and it’s a fantastic ingredient that brightens and lifts everything to a nice summery note. I didn’t use lots in this recipe so it’s just a hint. The amount can easily be increased.
I also omitted garlic because I want the meatballs to be a different thing from soutzoukakia. If I want garlic pungent meatballs then I will make the soutzoukakia of the Greek refugees of Asia Minor, their gift to Greek culture. But if I’m making classic keftedes then no garlic, a bit of onion and lots of herbs.
Once the mixture has been made it needs to sit in the fridge for at least 1 hour to allow the flavours to develop and for the bread to soak up all the juices. I don’t roll my keftedes in flour. I just roll them up as they are. But if you like a bit more of a crisp outer shell then do roll them in flour or half flour and breadcrumbs. When it comes to frying, I use a cast iron pan and I cover the bottom in EVO oil which I heat over a low light to hot but not smoking. I want my keftedes to sort of simmer gently in the oil. I don’t want a raging rolling smoking hot boil. I want the meatballs to take a bit of time to cook and be brown outside. Not black or nearly black. If EVO oil freaks you out, use groundnut. Don’t crowd your pan either! Cook in small batches and have room for your keftedes.
Finally, use good bread, preferably a bit stale. I’m going to have to give a lecture on sourdough very soon. Any good bread will do, though. Just let it be real bread!
Keftedakia tis kizbots
600g of half beef, half pork mince
3 big handfuls of real fresh bread crumbs
1 onion finely minced or grated
a big handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
a handful of chopped spearmint
juice of half a lemon
1 shot glass of ouzo (optional)
1 large egg
a couple of tablespoons of EVO oil
salt and pepper to taste
I usually mix all the ingredients well in a large tupperware with a lid, so once I’ve given everything a good mix and squeeze through my fingers I can put the lid on and leave it in the fridge for an hour. I make a small test patty, before making up the others, to fry off and test for seasoning. Then I make small round patties rather than balls. I put just enough mix into my cupped palm to fill the little cup. Then I roll it gently for a few seconds before patting down into a patty shape. Fry off and leave to drain on kitchen paper.
They’re lovely with tzatziki to dip into!