Friday, February 28, 2014

East, West, and a Skilletful of Dinner

Thanks to a few posts on Facebook, I'd wanted to try these baked eggs and roasted potatoes for dinner today. My version had bacon in place of sausages, and it tasted absolutely fabulous. That one is definitely a keeper. It's not hard, and is practically foolproof.

But I also had fennel that needed using up, a lemon, some minced beef, and I couldn't find my recipe for Tessa Kiros' Greek meatballs with dill.

So I made it up, with help from Simply Recipes' gorgeous Albondigas Soup, which I used to make all the time a few years back, and one of Tessa Kiros' recipes for Pork with Lemon and Fennel.

It turned out amazingly well. More importantly, it's the first time in a long while that I've had the inspiration and the ability to muck around in the kitchen and create - and it is such a liberating, relaxing thing. This is one recipe I'll be going back to quite a bit for bulk cookery.

Yin’s Greek Style Meatballs with Avgolemono Sauce and Fennel
Inspired by Simply Recipe’s Albondigas Soup and Tessa Kiros’ Pork with Fennel and Lemon

300-400g minced beef (best if it has some fat in it, or the meatballs will be rather dry)
2-3 small handfuls white rice (I used brown sushi rice, which will work but will need much longer cooking)
1 egg
As much dill as you can stand
Salt to taste, about ½ tsp or so

Avgolemono Sauce:
Half an onion, roughly minced
3-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Finely minced rind of ½ a lemon
½ to 1 bulb fennel, including green bits and leafy tops
A good big bunch kailan or kale (optional)
Vegetable stock or water, around 3-4 cups
Green curry paste (optional)
Salt to taste
Olive oil, a good drizzle

Juice of ½ a lemon
1 egg

1. Combine all ingredients for meatballs and add about ¼ of the finely minced rind of ½ a lemon. Let sit while preparing soup.

2. Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, then add onions. Sauté till colour becomes translucent, then add garlic and lemon rind, and sauté together. Keep stirring so garlic doesn’t burn. It may brown a little but that’s ok. Add fennel and fry together until onions look just a little brown. Add vegetable stock and turn heat up to medium high, let it come to a boil.

3. Oil hands and form medium-ish sized meatballs. They shouldn’t be too large as they’ll expand – I have small hands and mine were easy to close my fingers over. Drop meatballs into the pot. The stock will probably come to boil while you’re making the meatballs – that’s ok. Once all the meatballs are in the pot, bring the stock to a boil if it hasn’t done so, then turn down to a simmer. Cover, and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes.

4. Uncover pot and check on stock seasoning. Add salt if necessary, and if you’re using water like I did and there’s not enough flavor, add some stock granules and green curry paste if you want to. It’s absolutely not Greek, but it’ll do the trick and spice it up nicely. If you’re using white rice, the meatballs will probably be almost close to ready. I used brown sushi rice, since it’s all I had on hand – it took a lot longer to cook through. Check the meatballs by slicing a chunk out of one and tasting it – if the rice isn’t cooked, leave it in the pot to simmer for a while longer. At this point, add the kailan or kale if you have it and want it, stir in, and cover to simmer some more, maybe about another 15-20 minutes. Check on the stock level – you might have to add just a little more water if it’s boiling down really fast.

5. When meatballs are ready – again, test by slicing off a little chunk to see if the rice inside the meatballs is cooked through – turn heat down to very low heat. Beat egg and lemon juice together, then ladle a scoop of hot stock into the egg-lemon mixture, stirring the entire time. Keep stirring and add another two or three ladles of stock. Pour the egg-lemon-stock mixture back into the pot, stirring the entire time so that the egg doesn’t cook into globs. Don’t let the stock boil – it should now have thickened into a sauce. If you see little strands of egg white, remove the pot from the heat at once – that means it’s done, and any further cooking will give you lemon sauced scrambled eggs.

6. Test for taste – I had to add a little sugar to mine to balance out the tartness. Serve in bowls while hot. It keeps pretty well in the fridge; I don't know about freezing because I've never frozen any before. If reheating, do it gently and don’t let it boil or the eggs will scramble.

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