Soutzoukakia Smyrneika (Σουτζουκάκια Σμυρναίικα)


A dish close to my heart. Originating from the city of Smyrna (Izmir in Turkish) in modern day Turkey, this dish was brought to Greece by refugees from Asia Minor in the early 1920s during the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey. It is nothing more than a dish of spicy oblong meatballs with cumin and garlic served in tomato sauce. But boy is it delicious.

For the meatballs (4-6 portions):

  • 50ml Olive Oil (preferrably Extra Virgin)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 500gr mixed minced meat (250gr pork, 250gr beef)
  • 200gr bread (toast or 2-day old bread no crusts)
  • 100ml milk (full-fat or semi-skimmed)
  • 1 egg
  • salt
  • pepper
  • a pinch of spicy dry chili flakes
  • 2tsp cumin
  • 100gr flour for “breading”
  • 50ml neutral frying oil (e.g. sunflower)

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, medium
  • 1tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 laurel leaves
  • 250ml water
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 400gr chopped tomatoes

How to – meatballs:

  • Very finally chop the garlic and mix it with the olive oil
  • In a large bowl pour all the liquid ingredients. The oil with the garlic, the milk, and the egg. Stir with the whisk for 30 seconds. Add the bread in small pieces, the cumin and the chili flakes.
  • Mix very well with your hands until the bread is completely melted.
  • Add the mince meat to the mixture and a good amount of salt and pepper.
  • Stir with your hands again until the mixture is homogeneous.
  • In a baking tray with flour, shape the soutzoukakia into an oval shape and place them on the baking tray. (about 30-50 g each).
  • Make sure the flour coats them well.
  • Put a non-stick pan on a medium to high heat, add seed oil and wait 1 minute for it to be at a good temperature.
  • PRO-TIP FOR THE SEASONING: To make sure you have added enough salt, pepper, cumin, etc., save a small portion of the mince, make it into a tiny meatball, fry it well in the oil until its cooked and taste it. Add anything that you think is missing and continue with the process.
  • Remove the extra flour, shaping them by hand and place the soutzoukakia one by one in the pan.
  • Fry the soutzoukakia until they get coloured on all sides. (for +/- 5 minutes)
  • Transfer the soutzoukakia to a pan or a plate covered with kitchen paper to drain the excess oil.
  • Leave aside.

How to – sauce:

  • Place a large saucepan on medium heat.
  • Roughly chop the onion.
  • Pour some olive oil into the pot and add the onion.
  • Cook until the onion caramelises or is soft and seethrough. (Tip: if you want the onion to caramelise quickly, you can add 1tsp of sugar)
  • Once caramelised, add 1 tbsp. full of tomato paste and sauté well for at least a couple of minutes to set the sauce.
  • Mix the stock cube into the warm water until it dissolves.
  • Add the bay leaves, the stock and the tomato. Mix a little and add the soutzoukakia.
  • Cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes for the sauce to set and for the soutzoukakia to be ready.
  • Soutzoukakia are normally served with basmati rice! (And fresh mint, sometimes, if you’re feeling artistic).

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