First of all I want to thank each and every one of you again for the lovely comments regarding the cookbook.
Today I want to share with you a delectable recipe sent to me by one of my Greek readers. She wrote to me at the beginning of summer and sent me her grandmother’s authentic recipe of soutzoukakia, who lived in Smyrna. Soutzoukakia are spicy sausage-shaped meatballs, which are lightly fried and then cooked in a delicious tomato sauce.
Smyrna was situated on the eastern shores of the Aegean Sea, opposite Chios in Asia Minor, with mainly Greek population. If you would like to learn more about Smyrna, please read my older post.
My reader says that from the notes she read in the recipe, there were some other variations of this recipe but it was a meal served on very special occasions like engagements or weddings. Cinnamon was added as it was considered to be an aphrodisiac.
This is the original recipe:
3 kilos fresh ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp butter
1 heaped tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon, salt and pepper (allspice optional)
Peel the tomatoes, remove seeds and grate. Cook them on low heat for about half an hour, then add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the sauce thickens.
For the meatballs
1 kilo ground beef
3 slices white bread without the crust, soaked in the wine
Juice of 1 small lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper, allspice, cumin, cinnamon
3 cloves garlic, minced
Mix all the ingredients. Form into oblong small sausages and carefully lightly fry them in olive oil. Cook them in the sauce for about 30 minutes on low heat.
I made a few minor changes to the recipe. In the original recipe her grandmother used fresh ripe tomatoes. As I made this recipe recently when tomatoes are out of season, I preferred to use both tinned tomatoes and tomato juice, although we get tomatoes year round in Greece, but they are more expensive now. I do recommend fresh tomatoes when they are cheap and in season. I never cook with butter, so I substituted it with olive oil to make the sauce. There was no onion in the original sauce, but I believe than adding an onion improves a tomato sauce and instead of using sugar, I added honey. In the recipe there were no specific amounts of spices, so I adjusted them to fit our taste, so it’s up to you to add more spices but I think the analogy was well balanced. I don’t add too much salt in my recipes so you might want to add more.
Soutzoukakia Smyrneika, recipe adapted from Aikaterini-Deligiannis Vouka
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Makes: 37 – 40 meatballs (serves: 5 – 6)
For the Tomato Sauce
- ¼ cup olive oil, divided
- 1 small onion
- 500 grams (1.10 lbs) tomato puree
- 1 tin whole tomatoes with the juice (400 gr. – 14.11 oz)
- ½ cup water
- 1 large tbsp thyme honey
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 allspice berries
- 1 tsp salt
For the meatballs:
- 800 grams ground veal or beef
- 3 slices white bread without the crust
- 1/3 cup red dry wine
- 2 ½ tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp freshly grated black pepper
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice,
- 1/8 tsp cumin
- 1 very large clove garlic (about 1 tsp)
- Olive oil, for frying (about 1 cup for a small deep frying pan)
- Puree the onion together with 2 tbsp olive oil in a food processor. Heat the remaining olive oil and sauté the onion for a few minutes and then add all the spices and stir to get out their fragrances. Add the tomatoes and water, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sauce is thick.
- Meantime, soak the bread together with the wine, lemon juice and 2 tbsp olive oil.
- Squeeze the bread and use the fluid to puree the garlic in a food processor. Then add the bread in the food processor and mix.
- Put the ground meat in a bowl with all the spices and bread. Mix well and let it rest for about ½ to 1 hour in the refrigerator for the flavours to mix.
- Shape the meatballs into an oblong small sausage, around 8 cm (3 inches) long. Heat about an inch of olive oil in a skillet and fry them just until lightly golden brown on both sides. Remove them directly into the sauce.
- Bring the sauce to boil, lower heat and simmer for about another 20 minutes until sauce thickens.
I served the soutzoukakia with olive oil mashed potatoes but if you like you can serve them with fried potatoes, rice or pasta.
Update: April 2012
For those on a diet, you can make the meatballs the same way and bake them in a preheated oven to 180 degrees C/ 350 F for half an hour.
Line your baking tin with parchment paper in order to avoid more oil to grease the pan. They do not need to brown but just to firm up and then continue cooking them in the sauce. I made them when my husband was on a gallbladder diet. However, spices are not recommended when on a gallbladder diet, so just reduce spices to half quantity for a milder flavour but still delicious.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi!!