Soutzoukakia – Greek meatballs in rich tomato sauce spiced with cumin and cinnamon. Perfect as meze for sharing or a main meal.
I have been daydreaming about holidays in Greece of late. Maybe it’s the sunnier weather, or the fact that I haven’t had a proper holiday in ages, but suddenly all I can think of is lazy afternoons spent in the sun and of all the amazing food. All this nostalgia had to go somewhere, so I made some soutzoukakia – Greek meatballs in rich tomato sauce. If you have ever tasted soutzoukakia in Greece you are almost guaranteed to have fond memories – it’s a deceptively simple dish that packs a lot of flavour despite the few ingredients.
A lot of the flavour can be atributed to the ground cumin and cinnamon that are used to spice the sauce and to the garlic which is also plentiful. In fact this recipe is quite rich and I prefer to eat it as meze rather than a main meal. It is great for sharing with some pitta bread to dip into the rich sauce (and wipe the plates clean). But you can also serve it as a main meal with rice, mash or even homemade fries – I remember joyfully dipping those into the sauce when I was growing up in Greece. So, until that next holiday, I may have to recreate a few more sunny dishes and daydream some more…
Soutzoukakia – Greek meatballs in rich tomato sauce
- 450 g | 1 lbs minced beef
- 100 g | 3 1/2oz stale bread cubed
- 120 ml | 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 large egg
- 2 shallots peeled and finely diced
- 2 large garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 onion granules optional
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 3 tbsp flour
- 3 tbsp light olive oil to fry
- fresh thyme to garnish
- <b>For the tomato sauce</b>
- 3 tbsp light olive oil
- 1 red onion peeled and finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- red wine see method
- 400 g | 14oz tin tomatoes in tomato sauce
- 80 ml | 1/3 cup water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Soak the bread cubes in the wine. Leave to stand for a few minutes then squeeze dry and put the bread in a large bowl, reserving the wine to use in the sauce.
- Add the mince, egg, shallots, garlic, cumin, onion granules, salt and herbs in the bowl with the bread and mix together thoroughly.
- Form the meatballs with slightly wet hands – about the size of a walnut. You can form them into little balls or rugby ball shapes.
- Put the flour on a large plate and roll the meatbals in it to coat. Roll them in your hands again to remove excess flour.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan and then fry the meatballs, in batches in necessary, until browned on all sides. Use two tablespoons to gently flip the meatballs over – they can be a little delicate.
- Remove from the pan, set aside on a plate and clean the pan to use for the sauce.
- Heat the oil for the sauce and then cook the onion and garlic over low heat for 10 minutes.
- Add the cumin and cinnamon sticks.
- Add the reserved red wine and increase the heat until it is boiling.
- Blitz the tomatoes in a blender for a smoother sauce (or you can also use passata) and add to the pan together with the water, sugar and vinegar.
- Simmer for 15 minutes then add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for a further 20-30 minutes until cooked through. Add a splash of water if the pan gets too dry.
- Serve garnished with fresh thyme, with steamed rice, mash or fries as a main or with pitta bread as a meze.
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