Greek Meatballs With Lemon Zest


The history of Greek Meatballs dates back to ancient times when they were commonly consumed as a simple meal. Traditionally, these meatballs were made with a combination of ground beef and lamb, seasoned with aromatic herbs like parsley, mint, and oregano, which were abundantly available in the Mediterranean region. The use of fresh herbs not only adds a delightful fragrance but also enhances the overall flavour profile of the dish.

What truly sets Greek Meatballs apart is the addition of breadcrumbs or soaked stale bread, which helps bind the ingredients together, resulting in a moist and tender texture. This ingenious technique ensures that the meatballs remain juicy and succulent, even after being cooked to perfection.

Ingredients For Preparing Greek Meatballs 

To prepare the Greek meatball recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Ground Meat: A combination of ground beef and lamb is commonly used for Greek Meatballs. You will need approximately 500 grams (1.1 pounds) of ground meat. Adjust the ratio of beef to lamb according to your preference.
  • Onion: 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped or grated, will add flavour and moisture to the meatballs.
  • Garlic: 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced, will enhance the savoury taste of the meatballs.
  • Fresh Herbs: A generous handful of fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, and oregano, finely chopped, will infuse the meatballs with their aromatic flavours. Use approximately 2 tablespoons of each herb.
  • Breadcrumbs: 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs or soaked stale bread will help bind the meatball mixture together and retain its moisture.
  • Egg: 1 large egg acts as a binder and helps hold the meatballs’ shape during cooking.

Salt and pepper: To taste, add salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning.

Olive oil: For pan-frying the meatballs, you will need approximately 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil.

Optional ingredients for variation:

  • Grated Lemon Zest: For a hint of citrusy freshness, you can add the zest of half a lemon to the mixture.
  • Spices: Some variations include a pinch of ground cinnamon or ground cumin for added depth of flavour. Use these spices sparingly, as they can overpower the other ingredients.

Step-by-Step Guide Greek Meatballs Recipe Cooking Direction

Follow this step-by-step guide for preparing Greek Meatballs:

Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients

Gather all the ingredients required for the Greek Meatballs recipe. Finely chop the onion, mince the garlic, and chop the fresh herbs (parsley and mint). If using feta cheese, crumble it. Set aside.

Step 2: Combine the Ingredients

In a large mixing bowl, add the ground meat (beef and lamb). Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, chopped herbs (parsley and mint), breadcrumbs, and crumbled feta cheese (optional). Crack the egg into the bowl.

Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and dried oregano. Using clean hands, mix all the ingredients until well combined. Ensure that the mixture is evenly mixed, but avoid over-mixing as it can result in tougher meatballs.

Step 3: Shape the Meatballs

Once the mixture is well combined, it’s time to shape the meatballs. Wet your hands with water or lightly coat them with olive oil to prevent sticking.

Take a small amount of the meat mixture (about 1-2 tablespoons) and roll it between your palms to form a smooth, round meatball. Place the shaped meatball on a plate or baking sheet. Repeat the process until all the meat mixture is used.

Step 4: Cooking Methods

Option 1: Pan-Frying

In a large skillet or frying pan, heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the meatballs in a single layer, leaving enough space between them. Cook the meatballs for about 4-5 minutes per side, or until they develop a golden-brown crust. 

Flip them gently using tongs or a spatula to ensure even cooking. Once cooked, transfer the meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Repeat the frying process until all the meatballs are cooked.

Option 2: Baking

Preheat the oven to 375Β°F (190Β°C). Grease a baking sheet with olive oil to prevent sticking. Place the shaped meatballs on the greased baking sheet, leaving a little space between each one. Bake the meatballs for about 20-25 minutes or until they are cooked through and golden brown.

Step 5: Serving

Once the meatballs are cooked, they are ready to be served. Greek Meatballs are often enjoyed as part of a mezze platter, as an appetizer, or as a main course with a side of rice, roasted potatoes, or a Greek salad. 

Serve the meatballs hot, and garnish with a sprinkle of fresh herbs (such as parsley) for an extra pop of colour and flavour. You can also accompany the meatballs with a side of tzatziki sauce, lemon wedges, or pita bread to complete the Greek culinary experience.

Equipment For Preparing Greek Meatballs 

To prepare Greek Meatballs, you will need the following equipment:

  • Mixing Bowl: A large mixing bowl is essential for combining the ingredients. Choose a bowl that is big enough to comfortably mix and knead the ground meat mixture without it spilling over the sides.
  • Cutting Board and Knife: A sturdy cutting board and a sharp knife are necessary for chopping the onion, mincing the garlic, and finely chopping the fresh herbs.
  • Skillet or Frying Pan: If you choose to pan-fry the meatballs, you’ll need a large skillet or frying pan. Opt for a non-stick skillet or one with a good-quality cooking surface to prevent the meatballs from sticking.
  • Spatula or Tongs: When pan-frying the meatballs, a spatula or tongs come in handy for flipping them gently to ensure even browning on all sides. Choose heat-resistant utensils that won’t scratch the skillet’s surface.
  • Baking Sheet: If you prefer baking the meatballs, you’ll need a baking sheet to place them on. Use a rimmed baking sheet to prevent any juices from dripping off during cooking.
  • Oven: An oven is required if you opt to bake the meatballs. Make sure your oven is preheated to the recommended temperature before placing the meatballs inside.
  • Grater (Optional): If you decide to incorporate lemon zest into the meatball mixture or use grated cheese as a topping, a grater will be needed. A fine grater is suitable for zesting the lemon, while a coarser grater can be used for grating cheese.
  • Serving Dish: Once the meatballs are cooked, you’ll need a serving dish or platter to present them attractively at the table.
  • Optional: Food Processor or Blender (For breadcrumbs): If you don’t have store-bought breadcrumbs, you can make your own by pulsing stale bread slices in a food processor or blender until they reach the desired consistency.
  • Optional: Measuring Cups and Spoons: While not essential, having measuring cups and spoons can help ensure accurate measurements for ingredients such as breadcrumbs, olive oil, and herbs.

Greek Meatballs With Lemon Zest

Greek Meatballs, also known as Keftedes, is a classic dish from Greece. Made with a flavourful blend of ground beef and lamb, fresh herbs, and breadcrumbs, these meatballs are tender, aromatic, and perfect for sharing.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Greek
Calories 300 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb (450g) ground beef
  • 1 lb (450g) ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup (60g) breadcrumbs
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup (15g) fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp (5g) fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 tsp (1g) dried oregano
  • 1 large egg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil (for pan-frying)
  • Additional olive oil for greasing (if baking)
  • Optional: 1/4 cup (30g) crumbled feta cheese
  • Lemon zest, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Gather all the ingredients required for the Greek Meatballs recipe. Finely chop the onion, mince the garlic, and chop the fresh herbs (parsley and mint). If using feta cheese, crumble it. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the ground meat (beef and lamb). Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, chopped herbs (parsley and mint), breadcrumbs, and crumbled feta cheese (optional). Crack the egg into the bowl.
    Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and dried oregano. Using clean hands, mix all the ingredients until well combined. Ensure that the mixture is evenly mixed, but avoid over-mixing as it can result in tougher meatballs.
  • Once the mixture is well combined, it's time to shape the meatballs. Wet your hands with water or lightly coat them with olive oil to prevent sticking. Take a small amount of the meat mixture (about 1-2 tablespoons) and roll it between your palms to form a smooth, round meatball. Place the shaped meatball on a plate or baking sheet. Repeat the process until all the meat mixture is used.
  • In a large skillet or frying pan, heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the meatballs in a single layer, leaving enough space between them.
    Cook the meatballs for about 4-5 minutes per side, or until they develop a golden-brown crust. Flip them gently using tongs or a spatula to ensure even cooking. Once cooked, transfer the meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Repeat the frying process until all the meatballs are cooked.
  • Preheat the oven to 375Β°F (190Β°C). Grease a baking sheet with olive oil to prevent sticking. Place the shaped meatballs on the greased baking sheet, leaving a little space between each one. Bake the meatballs for about 20-25 minutes or until they are cooked through and golden brown.
  • Once the meatballs are cooked, they are ready to be served. Greek Meatballs are often enjoyed as part of a mezze platter, as an appetizer, or as a main course with a side of rice, roasted potatoes, or a Greek salad.
    Serve the meatballs hot, and garnish with a sprinkle of fresh herbs (such as parsley) for an extra pop of colour and flavour. You can also accompany the meatballs with a side of tzatziki sauce, lemon wedges, or pita bread to complete the Greek culinary experience.

Video

Keyword black pepper, breadcrumbs, Lemon Zest, meatballs

Tips & Tricks for the Perfect Greek Meatballs Recipe

Expert tips to help you prepare delicious and tantalising meatballs:

1. Meat Selection

For authentic Greek Meatballs, a combination of ground beef and ground lamb is commonly used. This blend imparts a unique flavour and richness to the meatballs. Choose high-quality, lean ground meat for the best results.

2. Breadcrumb Consistency

Breadcrumbs are crucial for binding the ingredients together and adding moisture to the meatballs. Ensure that your breadcrumbs are finely ground and evenly distributed throughout the mixture. If using fresh breadcrumbs, allow them to dry out slightly before incorporating them into the mixture.

3. Soaking Breadcrumbs

For an extra moist and tender texture, consider soaking the breadcrumbs in milk or water before adding them to the meat mixture. This technique helps to keep the meatballs juicy during cooking.

4. Aromatic Herb Medley

Fresh herbs play a vital role in Greek Meatballs, adding vibrant flavours and aromas. Chop the herbs finely to ensure they are evenly dispersed throughout the mixture. Use a combination of parsley, mint, and oregano for an authentic Greek taste. Adjust the herb quantities based on personal preference.

5. Seasoning

Don’t forget to season the meatball mixture generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Proper seasoning enhances the overall flavour of the meatballs. Taste the mixture before shaping the meatballs and adjust the seasoning if needed.

6. Mixing and Kneading

When combining the ingredients, mix and knead the meatball mixture thoroughly. This process helps in distributing the flavours and ensures a cohesive texture. However, be careful not to overmix, as it can result in dense meatballs.

7. Test Cook

Before shaping all the meatballs, it’s a good idea to cook a small portion of the mixture to taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. This way, you can make any necessary flavour adjustments before committing to the full batch.

8. Shape Uniformly

To ensure even cooking, aim for uniform-sized meatballs. Rolling them between your palms helps create a round shape. Wetting your hands with water or olive oil can prevent the mixture from sticking.

What To Take With Greek Meatballs

Taking your Greek meatballs with complimentary side dishes can go a long way.

1. Tzatziki Sauce

Tzatziki is a quintessential Greek condiment from yoghurt, cucumbers, garlic, and dill. Its cool, creamy texture and refreshing flavour create a perfect balance with meatballs. The hint of garlic and the herbaceous notes of dill in tzatziki complement the rich, seasoned meat.

2. Greek Salad (Horiatiki)

A classic pairing, the Horiatiki salad features crisp cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, red onions, Kalamata olives, and creamy feta cheese. Drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with oregano, this fresh and tangy salad is a fantastic side dish to accompany the meatballs.

3. Pita Bread and Hummus

Soft and warm pita bread served with a side of creamy hummus, offers a delightful textural contrast to the meatballs. You can create bite-sized wraps by placing a meatball inside a piece of pita and adding a dollop of hummus.

4. Rice Pilaf

A fluffy, aromatic rice pilaf can be a wonderful addition to your Greek meatballs. Seasoned with herbs, spices, and sometimes toasted nuts, the pilaf complements the flavours of the meatballs while providing a filling component to the meal.

5. Roasted Vegetables

A platter of roasted vegetables, such as bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and cherry tomatoes, adds a colourful and dimension to your meal. The slightly charred and caramelized flavours of the vegetables harmonize with the seasoned meatballs.

6. Lemon Potatoes (Patates Lemonates)

Lemon potatoes, a Greek speciality, are a delightful side dish for Greek meatballs. These potatoes are roasted with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and oregano, resulting in a zesty and flavorful accompaniment.

7. Spanakorizo (Spinach and Rice)

Spanakorizo is a classic Greek dish made with tender spinach and aromatic rice. Its earthy flavours and moist texture provide a great contrast to the meatballs and offer a healthy component to the meal.

8. Greek Olives

A platter of Greek olives, such as Kalamata or green olives stuffed with pimentos, can add a salty and briny note to your meatball feast. The olives serve as a classic Mediterranean accompaniment.

9. Eggplant Moussaka

If you’re looking for a heartier pairing, consider serving your meatballs with eggplant moussaka. This layered casserole combines eggplant, spiced meat, and a creamy bΓ©chamel sauce for a rich and indulgent side dish.

10. Lemon Wedges

For a simple and refreshing addition, provide lemon wedges that diners can squeeze over their meatballs. The citrusy brightness of fresh lemon juice cuts through the richness of the meatballs.

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