Tucked away in an unassuming little corner of Europe, Greece has always fascinated me. A proud and rich history stretching back to ancient times, impossibly long surnames and glorious islands and sandy beaches all make for one of the most intriguing cultures on the continent.
Then there’s the food. With its prime location on the Mediterranean Basin, Greece is perfectly suited for excellent cuisine in geographical terms, and you can rest assured that its people simply don’t mess around when it comes to food.
While one might more commonly associate meatballs with Italian cuisine (or bastardised American-Italian cuisine, for that matter), the Greeks are also excellent proponents of the humble meat orb. Read on to find out how you can whip up a simple but tasty Greek-influenced meatball dish.
Having a ball
The first step involves making the meatballs themselves. Lump about 400g of beef mince, half a cup of breadcrumbs, one beaten egg, and a dash of minced garlic, chopped mint, oregano and lemon zest into a big mixing bowl.
Knead everything thoroughly together until you get a nice, even mixture, then split and roll it into meatballs. You want them to be decent-sized but not so big that it takes ages for them to be cooked through – more on this later.
Heat some oil in a frying pan and cook the meatballs on high until they turn a nice, golden brown colour (this shouldn’t take long). Turn the heat down low and cook for about 5 or so more minutes until the meat is completely cooked through.
But wait! There’s more
No one has meatballs on their own, and this is where the pasta comes in. Orzo, a rice-like pasta, is the perfect accompaniment to an otherwise dry meat dish.
You’ll need to be extra sharp with time management to make sure everything is ready to eat at roughly the same time. I’d recommend cooking the orzo itself before you do the meatballs – you could have it on the boil while you’re preparing the ingredients for the meatball mixture, for example.
Once the orzo is cooked, mix with a tomato-based pasta sauce in a separate pan and heat for a few minutes. I made a simple version with canned tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and oregano, but you can just use store-bought if you wish.
Last but not least, you’ll need to make some classic Tzatziki dressing to go with your meal. It is a very similar process to making Indian raita – simply mix some grated cucumber with Greek yoghurt, chopped mint leaves and a bit of salt.
Arrange some meatballs, a bit of orzo, a dollop of Tzatziki and a handful of salad on your plate in an Instagram-worthy formation, and you’re good to go.
The end result
Solid stuff on the whole, and I have to say I’m pretty satisfied with my first attempt at meatballs. The four main components of the dish complement each other quite well, making for a nice, well-rounded dish with hearty portions of protein, carbohydrate, greens and, uh, Greek yoghurt.
- Getting the size of the meatballs right is crucial. I made mine slightly too big, meaning they took a bit longer to cook through than they should – and almost completely charring the exterior of the balls. A full-blown Greek tragedy was averted, but lessons were learnt for next time.