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Soutzoukakia [Greek meatballs in tomato sauce]
The pork and chicken Souvlaki that I have consumed [alot] in Greece is wonderful. You need a barbie to really give yourself a chance here. I love it with lemony potatoes and tzatziki but chips or rice works well too.
Ingredients: A couple of chicken boobies or one boneless pork loin. The marinade – a juicy lemon, a couple of large cloves of garlic, a generous splash of olive oil, a good amount of salt and pepper and rigani. The quantities should be enough for 2- 3 peeps.
Method: Smash the garlic and add the lemon juice, oil, herbs and seasonings to make your marinade. Cut the poor dead animal into bite sized cubes and mix with your marinade and leave for a few hours in the fridge. When you are ready to cook and your barbie is piping hot, skewer the meat onto wooden or metal skewers. Cook over the coals, regularly turning the meat and basting with spare marinade. If your marinade runs out just drizzle over more olive oil and lemon juice while it is cooking.
I love soutzoukakia and I have been fiddling around with various recipe ideas for some time and I am really happy with the recipe below. We are all familiar with Italian or Spanish meatballs in a rich tomato sauce but the Greek version is not so well known [possibly as it is hard to spell!], which is a shame as they are so yummy with a cuminy twist.
The accompanying sauce has a unique and rich flavour due to the allspice and cinnamon. The absence of onions was a suprise to me at first but do try and resist the temptation to add them – in the balls as well as in the sauce.
Ingredients: To feed 2-3 peeps.
For the balls – 500g minced beef, 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic, half a teaspoon of cumin, a couple of slices of chopped crustless bread soaked in a splash or two of white wine, a generous amount of salt and pepper, a big splash of olive oil. [I tend to not add any egg, as it binds perfectly well without].
I have also tried this recipe using veggie mince and it worked out really well although I suspect you won’t see this option very often in Greece.
For the sauce – 4 or 5 ripe skinned finely chopped tomatoes [or a tin], about half a pint of water, a large cinnamon stick [or use powder], a generous shake of allspice, a knob of butter and a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Method: To make the balls, mix the minced beef with all of the other ingredients in a bowl. I think beef mince with around 12% fat works best. Form them into small oblong shapes and then refrigerate until you are ready to cook them. Fry them in olive oil until they are nicely browned and then set aside. I sometimes bake them in the oven and get good results.
The sauce is so easy to make- heat up the oil and butter [butter? yes I know, but it really works well], add all of the other ingredients and simmer slowly until it has reduced to a nice consistency – don’t allow the sauce to thicken to a pulp. Finally, add the balls and simmer until they are piping hot. I like to serve them with rice but chips or oven potatoes are a good alternative.
There are many variations of this classic Greek dish which is sealed in foil and slow cooked in the oven. My recipe does not steer far from a classic Kleftiko but of course you can adjust and change the recipe as you desire. I have experimented with various cuts of meat – the shoulder is a little fatty for some but tasty, the leg is a good option but you will need it cut into fair sized portions per person. Recently I have settled on lamb shanks which are the most expensive option but works really well. Kleftiko is often served in restaurants individually wrapped in parchment but I prefer to cook the whole lot covered in a roasting tin and serve it on plates without the wrapping. This truly special dish is ideal to serve [and impress] when you have guests as it is low maintenance once it has been prepared.
Ingredients: To feed 4 peeps- 1 1/2 kilos lamb, [leg, shoulder or 4 shanks], a few sprigs of rosemary, sprinkle of cinnamon, a bay leaf, a generous sprinkle of rigani, 4 crushed cloves of garlic, a glug of olive oil, tablespoon of honey, 1 large red onion cut into chunks, 1 large red pepper cut into chunks, a generous amount of salt and pepper, the juice and zest of one lemon, 1 kilo of waxy potatoes peeled and cut into medium sized chunks, a couple of glasses of water. Options- 200g grated kefalotyri cheese, a few cherry tomatoes, chopped parsley for sprinkles.
Method: Combine the rosemary, rigani, garlic, cinammon, honey, lemon juice and zest and salt and pepper with the oil. Spread this on to the lamb and leave it to marinade for several hours or overnight in the fridge. Lay a large strip of tin foil over a large rosting tin in one direction and then another long strip across the tin and on top of this do the same with 2 strips of greaseproof paper, make sure you use plenty of paper and foil so it can completely enclose lamb and potatoes that are about to be added. Place the peeled potatoes onto the paper with the bayleaf, place the lamb on top, throw in the onion and red peper and the tomatoes and the water. Then seal the whole lot with the baking parchment and double seal this with the foil. Shove it in a moderate oven for ages! I cook it in my fan oven at around 170C for around 3 hours. You can uncover the foil and parchment seal and increase the oven temperature for the last half hour if you want but make sure it does not dry out. The end result should be a very tender and aromatic lamb dish. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. I sometimes cut down on the potatoes and cook Lemony oven Potatoes seperately as they are so popular. Tzatziki accompanies this dish really well- the tangy garlic kick is better than a mint sauce methinks.
I don’t often eat a take away burger, I have always made my own. A Greek burger stuffed with cheese is rather lovely and very easy to make. I tried a veggie version which was pretty good too.
Ingredients: To feed 2- 3 peeps 500g beef mince [12% fat works well, or use veggie mince], half an onion, a couple of slices of crustless bread, a handful of fresh parsley, a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper, feta cheese.
Method: Finely chop the onion, bread, parsley or whizz it in a blender with a generous amount of pepper and salt and a dash of oil. Thoroughly mix it in a bowl by hand [I don’t like getting gooey, so I use a wooden spoon].
Divide the mix into 2 or 3 portions, depending on how big you want your burger, and flatten each one into a nice splat. Pop a small ball of feta cheese in the middle and then carefully wrap the mince around it to form a ball. You can then press the ball into a burger shape. The raw burger should be firm and not need any egg to bind it together. I found the veggie version was a bit dry dry and a healthier slug of oil at the mixing stage may be a good idea here. Finally fry or grill them until nicely browned. I sometimes bake them in the oven with good results.
It is great served with chips or rice, salad and tzatsiki. A squirt of lemon on the burger is yum, no ketchup allowed!
Greek meat sauce [with pasta]
I rarely order Spaghetti Bolognaise in Italian restaurants, I’m not sure why but in Greece I love their version – Makaronia me kima. It’s full of flavour and tastes similar but very different to the Italian dish. The meat sauce is also ideal for pastitsio and moussaka.
Ingredients: 500g beef mince [not too low on fat], a few ripe tomatoes finely choped [skin removed] or use a tin, a large cinammon stick [or powder], 2 cloves, a bay leaf, 1 finely chopped onion, a couple of cloves of smushed garlic, olive oil and butter. Salt and pepper. Optional– a large glug of red wine, sprinkle of rigani. If you intend to use this sauce with pasta you will need- pasta [der!] and grated Kefalotyri cheese. [Waitrose in the UK sell this, or use Parmesan]. This should be enough to feed around 4 peeps.
Method: Gently fry the the onions in the oil [I add a knob of butter to the oil], throw in the garlic with the cinammon stick, bay leaf and cloves and simmer for a couple of minutes. If you are feeling lazy plop in the minced beef, mix it all up and allow the meat to brown. [The proper way of doing this to to brown the mince separately then add it at this stage].
Add the tomatoes and wine with a glass of water. I like to season the dish now- add plenty of salt and pepper. Then partially cover and allow it to reduce slowly on your hob. Give it a stir from time to time. The good thing about this dish is you can taste it as it goes and adjust the ingredients as necessary. I think English tomatoes can be bland in flavour so sometimes I have to cheat and add a squirt of tomato puree. Sprinkle on the rigani and then leave the dish to rest and heat it up when needed. The meat sauce tastes better if left for a few hours or even longer! I like it to be a thick non-watery sauce. That’s it ! – ready to be added to your favrit pasta or use it for Moussaka or Pastitsio.
Pan fried chicken breast in a Greek mustard and cream sauce
This recipe has been inspired by one of my favourite meals that I have eaten frequently at Elaia in Stoupa. I love making sauces and have made creamy mustard sauce loads of times, however the French mustard in the jars are too vinegery, mustard powder is often too strong and the American stuff- way too yellow !
The answer is you need the right mustard. For this recipe I used Papadimitriou mustard from Kalamata and it is just right- full of flavour and not too vinegary. I got mine in Katerina’s Supermarket in Stoupa.
Ingredients: To feed two peeps- A couple of chicken boobies, a few slices of red and green peppers, a large double dollop of creme fraiche [OK, I lied in the title- not cream, but creme fraiche works really well- use cream if you want], finely chopped fresh parsley, teaspoon or two of mustard, splash of olive oil and a small knob of butter, salt and pepper.
Method: Fry the chicken boobies with the sliced peppers in a large frying pan in the butter and oil for a few minutes at a high temperature so that the chicken browns nicely. The peppers should brown a bit too if you are lucky. Turn down the heat and simmer the chicken and peppers until they are just about cooked. Add the creme fraiche or cream and the mustard and stir it all in with the parsley. Finally, put a lid on the pan and let it simmer gently for a few minutes. You can check the sauce at this stage and adjust as you feel necessary- adding salt, pepper, mustard etc. At Elaia I tend to have it with rice or chips but fresh veg goes really well too.