Both Food Interpreters have at least one grandparent that arrived from Asia Minor. The refugees did not carry with them much (they were refugees, not expats) but they had a very strong culinary culture that enriched the cuisine of mainland Greece. In a sense the food they ate, influenced from Easter Mediterranean, Asia, Ottoman cooking and – for the ex-residents of Smyrna – France, was better than that of their established co-patriots.
The women were adamant about the recipes they brought with them. Deviations from the ‘original’ recipes were not an option, and, in case a poor individual strayed away from the path of culinary righteousness was looked down with contempt.
The Soutzoukakia we are presenting here are such a faux pax: They are are baked and not fried, they are bigger than they should, are less spicy and in general terms lighter. Nevertheless we think they are great comfort food and certainly more suited for children.
Serves 4 hungry people
For the soutzoukakia
- 600g minced beef
- 220g onion, very finely chopped
- 2 garlic gloves, minced
- 150g rusk crumbs
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 Tbsp olive oil (plus some more for brushing the soutzoukakia)
- 4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the tomato sauce
- 500g freshly grated tomatoes (or chopped canned tomatoes)
- 1/2 tsp sugar (optional, depending on the acidity of the tomatoes)
- 3Tbsp olive oil
- 110g onion, very finely chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
To prepare the soutzoukakia, place the ground beef in a bowl, and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Wet your hands and knead well to a smooth paste.Cover and let rest for about 10-15 minutes.
Preheat your oven grill to high temperature and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
To shape the soutzoukakia take a handful of the meat mixture (about 50g) and make it into a shape of a flat oblong sausage. As soon as the soutzoukakia are shaped, brush them with olive oil and place them on the prepared baking tray.
Broil them under the hot grill for about 6-8 minutes, turning over half way and brushing them with olive oil, until they are golden and cooked through.
In the meantime, place a large pan on medium heat with the olive oil and cook the onions for about 7 minutes stirring regularly. Add the tomatoes with the sugar and ground cumin, bring to a boil stirring well, then lower the heat and let simmer uncovered about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the soutzoukakia in the tomato sauce and stir gently. Let simmer about another 10-15 minutes minutes until the sauce thickens.
Serve immediately over rice, mashed potatoes or triple cooked chips.