One of the certain facts of gastronomy is that people have a tendency to like round shaped food. Let them be sweet or savory, soft or crunchy, bare or swimming in a rich, flavorful sauce, babies and grandpas will similarly go crazy for them. I bet you are counting now those plentiful and mouthwatering dishes, which come to mind by thinking about rounded foods.
Meatballs have an even more special place in the heart of foodies and gourmands, probably because they are easy to make, stodgy, extremely versatile in terms of spicing and edible hot and cold, with fresh pasta, then in a warm bagel the next day.
By all means, Greece has its own idea when it comes to meatballs. Shaping a piece of ground meat, then frying is an old technique in the world of culinary. Keftedes are medium sized meatballs and their name most likely has come from the Persians, where kofta is the traditional way of grounded meat consumption. Moreover Greeks have a tiny version of the meatball, in the size of a walnut and that’s what they call keftedakia.
Their size and versatility made them a wonderful option for social events, such as picnics, field trips and parties a long while ago. They were served warm or cold, accompanied with some tangy yogurt or a spicy tomato dip. Then, they just simply went out of fashion.
Nowadays they are rather eaten as a part of a meze (Middle-Eastern appetizers) assortment or cooked in a rich sauce for a cozy lunch or dinner. Ouzo, the Greek traditional anise flavored aperitif goes well with them, as well as beer and freshly squeezed lemon gives a great finish for the ones served without a sauce.
When you visit the country and talk with locals about food, you will see that the versions are endless, and unsurprisingly there is a unique variation in each family. The meat has to be tasty and flavorful, like pork, beef, veal, lamb or most preferably a mix from these meats. If you have a few slices of stale bread, you can soak them, but pay attention to squeeze them well, then thoroughly knead with the meat (for at least 10 minutes, but others say 20 minutes). That way you will get a softer consistence or as the recipe says, use some crunchy breadcrumbs to achieve a thicker, more pliable mix.
It’s better to rest it in the fridge for an hour or even a whole night before frying, so the spices have time to incorporate to the flavor. If you find them too soft, roll the balls around in some flour. There is another way to thicken the meat mix by omitting the breadcrumbs and using hard boiled potatoes instead, broken into a homogeneous mash, then kneading them together. You certainly don’t need the flour coating when using potato, so the gluten-free balls are really fuss-free to prepare.
What really differentiates keftedakia from other nations’ meatballs is the wide range of spices used in the recipes. Cumin, fresh mint, garlic, parsley and thyme are essential and firmly define them, similarly to a bitterish olive oil. You can see oregano, cinnamon and even ground allspice in some recipes. So you know immediately by smelling the aromas, that you are eating something from the Mediterranean area.
For a side dish, French fries and spiced potato wedges are the most common choice in these days, but freshly baked pita would amaze anyone around your table, especially if you bake it yourself. Fresh, seasonal vegetables are splendid accompaniment, especially for a gluten free option and for this version, which is cooked in a rich tomato sauce, an al dente tagliatelle is more than one can ever wish for.
- 3 lb beef , ground
- 3 onions , finely grated
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 1 bunch parsley , chopped
- 3 cloves garlic , crushed
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 5 large tomatoes (ripe), peeled and seeded
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 small branch thyme
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 2 eggs
- 5 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- Olive oil
- ½ cup water
- In a large container, place the ground beef.
- Add the mint, parsley, bread crumbs, vinegar, garlic, cumin and onion.
- Add the eggs. Season with salt and pepper.
- Mix and knead vigorously for 10 minutes.
- Form small balls.
In a pan with high edges, pour the olive oil (about 1 inch/2,5 cm of oil).
- Fry the meatballs until golden brown.
- Remove the meatballs from the pan with a skimmer and place on paper towels. Set them aside.
- Pour 5 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven.
- Grate the tomatoes very finely and add them to the pot.
Add salt and pepper, tomato paste and ½ cup (100 ml) of water. Add the thyme.
- Mix with a wooden spoon.
- Place the tomato sauce on medium heat and, when once it is boiling again, add the meatballs.
- The tomato sauce must cover them completely so, if necessary, add a little more water.
- Simmer on low-medium heat, stirring, for 45 minutes. The sauce should be thick.