Recipe, photography and styling by Tanya Zouev.
Two of my most favourite words in the Greek language are kefthedes and tzatziki, both of which happen to be food. My other favourite word is Mythos, well it’s a name of a Greek beer, so perhaps not strictly a word. In fact kefthedes and tzatziki are such favourite words I decided to write recipes about them.
Kefthedes are a traditional Greek meatball, usually containing beef and/or lamb. They always contain bread crumbs and are always fried (at least the ones I’ve encountered). I was first introduced to kefthedes at the age of about seven and I fell in love on the spot. So deep was my love for kefthedes that my best friend Eva the Cypriot-Greek, would smuggle them for me as though they were contraband goods from her mother’s kitchen. I would then feast on them at St Finbar’s Primary School (East Brighton, Melbourne) during lunchtime, or morning recess if I couldn’t wait that long. Yep, I was hooked, and let me tell you, I have never eaten kefthedes anywhere which have even come close to Eva’s mum’s.
I’ve have been adapting Greek recipes to be gluten-free and a little on the lighter side for some time. A few years ago Eva and I were pottering in the kitchen trying to work out if we could make a version of the humble Greek meatball which wasn’t fried. It was Eva’s idea to grate sweet potato into the mince meat so I attribute this part of the recipe to her. We experimented with baking our kefthedes and were pleasantly surprised to find out that they were really good.
My other favourite Greek word is tzatziki, the ubiquitous yoghurt dip with cucumber and garlic. Turkey, Armenia, Iran as well as several other countries have their own versions with similar ingredients. Although appearing very simple, tzatziki has had me baffled. The versions I made were tasty but they just didn’t have the right consistency. Since my problem was that the dip was too runny, I surmised that there must simply be too much water in it, so eliminate the water and eliminate the problem. The logical thing then would be to drain the yoghurt and the cucumber.
So read on below, make a batch of kefthedes and tzatziki and enjoy. Just don’t forget the Mythos.
The baked kefthedes
Prep time: 45 mins, cooking time: 45 mins. Makes over 30 meatballs.
500 grams (approx 1 pound) lamb mince
500 grams (approx 1 pound) beef mince
1 small onion chopped very finely
1 small sweet potato about 200 grams (approx 7 oz), peeled and grated**
5 cloves of garlic
2/3 cup mint chopped finely
2/3 cup flat leaf parsley chopped finely
1/2 cup ground cashews
1/2 cup water
1 egg lightly beaten
1/4 cup dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil spray
**If you own a Thermomix you grate up the sweet potato together with the onion and garlic cloves for 20 seconds at speed 5, scraping down the sides of the bowl then grating approximately a further 10 seconds. See pic below.
Preheat oven to 200ºC.
1. Place all your ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly making sure the meat is thoroughly incorporated with the garlic and herbs. I use either a large fork or my hands.
2. Roll into approximately 4cm (1.5″) diameter balls bearing in mind that the meatballs will shrink during baking.
3. Place meatballs into baking tray, spray with olive oil and place into heated oven for approximately 45 minutes turning half way during cooking. If you prefer your meatballs really well done you can cook them a bit longer. They will be more caramelised however will be drier. Delicious with lemon juice squeezed over them and tzatziki on the side.
Prep time: 20 mins, cooking time (including yoghurt straining) approximately 2 hours.
500 grams (approx 1 pound) Greek yoghurt
1 medium cucumber grated (I don’t bother peeling it)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon dill chopped finely
1 tablespoon mint chopped finely
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste
1. Drain your yoghurt for at least 2 hours by placing it into a piece of muslin in a colander. Place in refrigerator.
2. Grate your cucumber and place it into another colander, sprinkle it with salt and let it drain for approximately 20-30 minutes. You can leave it sitting on the bench. After this time take handfuls of cucumber and squeeze the remaining moisture out of it.
3. Place cucumber and remaining ingredients into your drained chilled yoghurt and mix until combined. Chill for an hour or two at least before serving to allow the flavours to develop. I don’t usually add extra salt because the cucumber was already salted. If you feel you need to add extra then feel free to do so. Tzatziki is even better the next day so feel free to make it the day before if you need it for a particular meal.
Another wonderful shoot made up entirely of trash off the street and op-shop donations. I wanted a Greek blue-and-white feel (takes me back to Santorini) and used a baking tray from the local Goodwill which is so beaten up one can only wonder how many meals have been prepared in it. The vintage English plates with the blue leaf border, the white bowl and the cutlery are from the Salvo’s. Everything else is from council hard rubbish clean ups on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. I am particularly pleased with the reclaimed timber chopping board which I sanded back, stained and then sanded again to give a well-worn look to. The background is an old timber tabletop I pulled off a rusty vintage outdoor table my neighbour put out for council clean up and I painted it white (then left it outside for several weeks to weather). The only light used in this image is window light.