One of the wonderful (i.e. infuriating) things about traditional dishes is pinning down a set recipe. Then there are those baffling steps that make you wonder why they are even done. In the end it comes down to whom you asked, which region they are from, and what they even like as to what information and advice they give you.
These meatballs are no different. There is an avalanche of differences in the seasonings and methods of preparation. Many of the recipes have you soak the bread in milk then squeeze it out. Uh, did anyone think of just using less milk in the first place? Not to mention the fact that squeezing liquid out of wet bread is about as fun and productive as it sounds (sarcasm alert, it’s not).
I’ve made my own twists and tweaks to the traditional recipe in this version. I like to add raisins and pine nuts, the latter being more of a Middle Eastern touch. It may seem weird to put fruit like raisins in with meat, but it actually is very common (and really yummy) across the globe. You see it in a lot of Mediterranean dishes and in cultures that had settlers from there. Just think, meatballs that help you get your fruits and veggies, too!
These keftedes come together very easily and quickly. Rolling them becomes a quick task just by using a measuring tablespoon as a scoop. There are a couple of options available to you for cooking them, either frying or baking. Frying is the traditional method, but baking also produces a tasty option that allows you to make larger quantities in a short period of time.
Keftedes (Greek Meatballs) Recipe
You can make this in larger quantities and then freeze them in smaller batches for eating later. There are other convenient stopping points along the way to break this task up if needed. Works for us!
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbsp. milk
- 1/4 lb. bread, any kind though white is traditional, cut into very small cubes
- 1 lb. ground beef (or a mix of ground beef and ground lamb)
- 2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1/3 lb. onion, diced, yellow or white
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. cumin seed, or a generous 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp. dried oregano, Greek preferred
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (you can add more if your meat is very lean)
- 2 Tbsp. pine nuts
- scant 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/2 tsp. salt
In a medium bowl, scramble the eggs with the milk. Add the bread cubes and gently toss to coat the bread. Set aside to allow the bread to soak up the liquid.
In a large bowl add everything else. Now the fun begins! You will need to use your hands to gently mix all the ingredients thoroughly. The mix will be too stiff for a spoon. Once all the ingredients have been distributed evenly throughout the meat, add in the bread mixture and repeat the process of gentle, but thorough, mixing.
The choice of next set of steps is up to you. At this point you could:
- freeze the mixture and continue later, or…
- make the meatballs, freeze them on shallow baking sheets, then put the frozen meatballs in a container to be cooked later, or…
- make the meatballs and cook them by either baking or frying, then freeze for eating later, or…
- make the meatballs and eat them right away (my favorite!)
For baking, preheat oven to 375 F while you shape your keftedes. For frying, shape the keftedes first, roll them in a little flour, then generously cover the bottom of a pan with olive oil and heat to 350 F.
To shape the keftedes, use a tablespoon measure to scoop out the meat mixture and roll it a little between your hands. You want to form a fairly smooth ball. You can make your keftedes a little larger if you like, just be sure to adjust the cooking times appropriately. No pink = no E. coli!
For baking, place the keftedes on a shallow baking sheet, spaced about 1/2 inch apart. Unlike cookies, these will shrink as they bake. Place them in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Check a couple to make sure they are cooked through. Allow to cool just a little to firm up, then serve.
For frying, carefully place rolled keftedes into the hot oil, one at a time. Be careful not to splash oil out of the pan. Put only a handful at a time so that there is room in the pan for you to roll them around to get cooked on all sides. You want to cook them until they are browned on all sides and no longer pink in the middle, about 10 minutes. Check a couple to see if they are cooked through. Allow to cool just a little to firm up, then serve.