This week Elenas takes you on a trip in Greek history with flavors from Anatolia or Asia Minor!
“Soutzoukakia”, refers to the traditional Greek beef meatballs in a delicious tomato sauce. This dish was introduced to Greek cuisine in the beginning of the 20th century and has its origins from the city of Smirni or Ismir in modern days, in western Anatolia, Turkey where Greeks used to live. That is why it is called “smyrneika”.
What makes this traditional Greek recipe special is the extra aromas of cumin! It differs from the typical Greek meatballs mixture because onions and eggs are not included, according to tradition.
Located on Turkey’s Aegean coast, Smyrna used to be one of the wealthiest cities of the Ottoman Empire, known as the “Pearl of the Orient”, and hosted one of the largest populations of Greeks and Armenians. During the Greco-Turkish War from 1919 to 1922, Greek armed forces settled in Smyrna on May 15, 1919. When the Turkish army regained control of the city on September 9, 1922, a fire was lit up and continued burning for days (as shown on the picture below). A large number of Greeks and Armenians were killed while many Smyrna citizens were forced to abandon their homes and had to board Greek and international ships which led them to safety. September 1922, is one of the darkest moments of Greek history however refugees from Asia Minor have brought their unique culture and cuisine, starting with today’s delicious recipe.
A traditional Greek dish that makes the perfect choice for a family meal!
Preparation time: 10 min
Cook time: 20 min (approximately)
Portions: 4-6 portions
For the soutzoukakia:
- 500gr beef mince (optionally ½ beef and ½ pork mince)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of Greek extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of cumin
- 2 slices of bread without the crust (200gr approximately)
- 1 cup of red wine
- salt and pepper
For the tomato sauce:
- 500gr of Pummaro chopped tomatoes
- 250ml water
- 2 tablespoons of Greek olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- a pinch of cinnamon
- salt and pepper
This traditional Greek dish takes only 5 steps to make it and these are:
- Prepare the soutzoukakia: start by soaking the bread into a bowl with the red wine. Drain the bread and cut it into tiny slices, as fine as possible. Place all the ingredients for the soutzoukakia mixture in a large bowl and mix well. Place the mixture in the fridge for about 1 hour in order for the spices to soak through the meat.
Tip: The wine and the bread (not breadcrumbs) will make the soutzoukakia more fluffy and it is a crucial part of this recipe because eggs are not included. Remember to keep the wine for later to help with the shaping of the soutzoukakia!
Tip: The more the meat stays in the fridge the better it tastes! If you wish so, prepare the soutzoukakia mixture the night before and cook them the next day.
- Shape the soutzoukakia: grab a fistful of the mixture and shape using the palm of your hands into oblong meatballs. Use the wine left from the bread to grease your hands.
- Cook the soutzoukakia either in the traditional way of frying them (2-3 minutes from each side) or in the healthier way of baking them (200 C for 20 minutes approximately).
Prepare the tomato sauce: in a pot with a zip, fry the onions until translucent and then add the cinnamon and a bit of salt and pepper. Finally add the garlic and fry for a few more minutes. Add the tomato sauce and pour the water. Let it simmer over low heat until it starts to thicken (about 10-15 minutes). Adjust salt and pepper, as needed.
Bring the soutzoukakia and the sauce together! Gently place the soutzoukakia in the sauce and simmer for about 10 more minutes until the sauce has thickened.
Serve this tasty Greek dish with mashed potatoes, fries or basmati rice and a traditional Greek salad!
Remember to share your pictures of your cooking with us!
Kali oreksi/ Enjoy!