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This blog started as a way for me to share my recipes + culinary adventures, tips for vibrant health + happiness, thoughts on the latest developments in nutritional medicine + the low down on the Sydney wholefoods scene and beyond...

Recipe for Kefthethes (Greek meat balls) with tomato sauce

Becca Crawford

 

I have super fond memories of my mum’s keftethes growing up....


Dipping them into tomato sauce, devouring them one by one….I reckon I ate my body weight in them in any given sitting. I haven’t met anyone, young or old, who doesn’t love them.

They are a great party food (especially for kids’ parties), convenient for picnics and school/work lunches (make in bulk and freeze in between sheets of baking paper) and can be made into larger sized flatter patties for hamburgers. People (especially children and those transitioning off a vegetarian diet) who find the texture of meat (eg steak) difficult to consume may find meatballs/patties more digestible and palatable.

While you can make this recipe without coating the meatballs in flour, the flour tends to hold the meatballs together and prevents them from sticking to the pan. I use a 100% gluten-free activated buckwheat flour made by grinding up my activated savoury buckwheat groats in a spice/nut/coffee grinder.

I wont lie, meatballs are probably one of my most labour intensive recipes to make, hence why I don’t make them nearly as often enough as my kids would like. I LOVE cooking but anything that takes longer than 15 minutes in my kitchen is not an everyday food. It’s frying them up that’s the time consuming (and messy) part. If you accept that your stove top will be splattered with coconut oil, you’re hands covered in meat patty mixture, and your benches covered in buckwheat flour, then you’ll be fine! I always like to tell it like it is. But the reward is worth the effort. The joy that you will bring to those who eat them will be worth it, especially when they are eaten fresh and warm straight from the pan dipped into some home-made tomato sauce.

Kefthethes are a great source protein (minced meat) and healthy saturated fats (eggs, natural fats for frying). I also sneak in some vegetables so if your kids are fussy with their veggies, here’s a good place to hide them (shhh!).

So I now share with you a modified version of my mum’s recipe which I have tweaked over the years.  I have also included my own home-made tomato sauce recipe because there is no sugar-free tomato sauce on the market (to my knowledge) and tomato sauce is so ridiculously easy to make that there is simply no excuse for buying the commercial crap-filled variety.

Enjoy and kali orexi (that’s Greek for good appetite)!


The players...

500g 100% grass fed beef or lamb mince (the fattier the mince the better for both taste and nutrition). If the mince is lean you can add extra beef/lamb fat if you have available

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

2 eggs

2 carrots

1 teaspoon unrefined salt eg sea salt, Himalayan crystal salt

cracked pepper

3 teaspoons herbs/spices of your choice eg one or more of oregano, sumac, thyme, basil, chilli, paprika

handful of chopped fresh parsley (optional)

coconut oil, beef tallow, butter, ghee (or other natural fat of choice for frying)

activated buckwheat flour or rice flour (optional) (approx 1 cup)


Game On...

If you have a food processor: roughly chop onions and carrots with a knife and add to food processor. 

Add all other ingredients (other than fat of choice for frying and flour) to food processor and process ingredients until they are well mixed (using the processor’s blade function). If the volume of food is too great for the capacity of the food processor then process in smaller batches and combine all food in a large bowl, mixing well with your hands.  

  • If you don’t have a food processor: grate carrots finely, dice onions and garlic finely. Chop parsley finely. Beat eggs. Add mince to a large bowl together with all ingredients (other than fat of choice for frying and flour) and mix well with your hands.
     
  • If time permits, leave mince mixture to marinate covered in fridge overnight or for several hours to allow flavours to infuse. Drain any excess liquid from mixture.
     
  • To make the flour process activated buckwheat groats or activated rice in a nut/spice/coffee grinder or Thermomix until ground into a fine powder. Add flour to a shallow plate or small glass container ready for the meat balls to be coated. 

Heat a liberal amount of fat of choice in a stainless steel frying pan on low heat (I have several frying pans on the go at the same time to save time).

Roll a small amount of the mince mixture into a ball in the palm of your hand (about half the size of your palm, or 40g).

Pat the outside of the ball into the buckwheat /rice flour so it is well coated. Repeat for as many balls as can fit into the flour plate/container.

Fry the meat balls on one side until golden brown. Fill the pan(s) with as many meatballs as you can comfortably fit. Gently press the top of the balls down is you desire a flatter patty. Using a stainless steel spatula, turn the patties over to brown the other side. You may need to gently ‘nudge’ the meat balls periodically in the pan with the spatula to prevent them from sticking to the pan. You may need to replenish the butter/oil/tallow throughout the frying time. This calls for a very generous amount of natural fats to prevent the balls from sticking especially if you use a stainless steel pan (like I do) or if you have not coated them with flour.

When cooked, place on plates or cooling racks lined with paper towels to absorb excess fat.

Makes approx 30 x 40g meatballs. Serve with home-made tomato sauce if desired (refer to separate recipe below).

Keftethes can be made in large batches for freezing in between sheets of baking paper. Freeze when completely cooled. Defrost a few at a time for school/work lunches. When defrosting, place meatballs on paper towels in a container to absorb moisture. 



Variations...

 

  • Instead of minced meat, use the meat pulled off the bones after making beef/lamb broth. You could also add some sneaky offal such as 1 lambs brain, some livers, kidneys and/or some bone marrow (reserved from making bone broth) to make up an approx total weight of 500g (eg 70% minced meat and 30% lambs fry).
     
  • Instead of (or in addition to) carrots, add other root vegetables eg potatoes or sweet potatoes. You could add above ground vegetables such as zucchini but be sure to drain very well the liquid that comes out of these vegetables after you grate or process them otherwise the mince mixture will become too runny and the meatballs will not hold together.
     
  • Instead of pan frying the meatballs (which can be time consuming as I alluded to above), make baked meat balls in tomato sauce by placing the balls in a large oven proof dish, generously cover with tomato puree or home-made tomato sauce (refer to separate recipe below) and (if desired) grated parmesan cheese and bake uncovered at 120 degrees for 1 hour.
     
  • Spiced Chicken patties Follow the Keftethes recipe except substitute the following ingredients:

    > 500g cooked chicken meat (eg meat from the carcasses after making chicken broth) in place of red meat. You could also add offal such as 1 lambs brain, some livers, kidneys and/or some bone marrow (reserved from making bone broth) to make up an approx total weight of 500g.
    > 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon sumac, ½ teaspoon turmeric and ½ teaspoon paprika as suggested herbs and spices.
    > Handful of chopped fresh coriander in place of parsley

 

now for the Tomato sauce -
The players...
 

1 cup tomato puree (note- always buy in glass jars and not tins as the acid in the tomato leaches the BPA from the tins into the contents)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon whey (optional)

1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce (I like the Melrose certified organic brand)

1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)

½ teaspoon unrefined salt

1/8 teaspoon chilli powder (or more depending on taste)

a good sprinkling of cracked pepper


How they tango...

 

Mix all ingredients well with a stick blender or fork. Makes approx 1.5 cups.

The addition of whey will help your sauce last longer, adds enzymes and increases nutrient content. If you have added whey, let the sauce sit at room temperature covered for 7 hours before refrigerating. Tomato sauce keeps for several months in the fridge. Without the whey, tomato sauce will keep for about 3 weeks.