Meatballs – such a comforting food. Close your eyes and think about what it conjures up for you. For me, it’s Greece, where I once ate a plate of them drowning in a rich tomato sauce, strewn with wild oregano and the most delicious, creamy feta. The sun was slipping behind the hills, bathing an olive tree in a particularly golden light. Did I dream the heavy-laden, long-lashed donkey walking past? I’m feasting off dreams like these at the moment – and on Greek meatballs, which I’ve recreated at home.
Greek lamb meatballs
This recipe is simple and the meat requires no browning. Just shape the balls while the sauce is bubbling, then pop them in, and very soon dinner will be on the table.
Prep 15 min
Cook 45 min
50g fresh white breadcrumbs, soaked in 2-3 tbsp water for 10 minutes
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed with a little salt
2 tsp dried oregano
500g lamb mince
For the tomato sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 cinnamon stick
Salt and black pepper
1 handful mint leaves
Orzo, to serve
Make the tomato sauce first. Warm the oil in a large, wide pan over a medium heat and fry the garlic for two to three minutes, until it begins to colour at the edges. Pour in the tomatoes, add the cinnamon stick and half a tomato tin’s worth of water, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Season with half a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper and leave to cook for at least 20-25 minutes, until it is sweet and delicious.
Meanwhile, squeeze out any excess water from the breadcrumbs and empty into a medium-size mixing bowl. Use your hands to mix in the garlic, oregano and lamb mince, and season generously. Shape into golf balls and arrange in an even layer in the simmering tomato sauce, gently pushing them down so they are immersed in the sauce. Cover, and poach in the sauce for 15-20 minutes, until they are tender, turning once or twice.
Turn the grill to its highest setting. Crumble the feta over the meatballs and grill for a few minutes, until the feta begins to break down and colour. Rip over the mint leaves and serve with orzo.
And for the rest of the week
The tomato sauce is delicious: use it as a base for a Turkish pizza with tahini and pine nuts, or for a shakshuka breakfast of baked eggs with chard or spinach thrown in.