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MYKONOS IN - Mykonos meatballs with tomato sauce

Mykonos, one of the fabled Cycladic islands of Greece, attracts rich and poor, gay and straight, old and young, black and white. So it’s no great surprise that the food on the island is both good and bad. Being interested only in the good, I started every day with yoghurt, fruit and sesame rusks, lunched on Greek salads and grilled octopus, and dined every night at Mamacas. Its name gives you the right idea. The restaurant itself may be a whitewashed, candle-lit designer terrace filled with the young and the hip, but the cooking is that of mothers.

And yes, there was a very motherly type in the kitchen, cooking up great pots of chickpea soups, spinach pies, wonderful fish stews and the lightest, sweetest and most motherly of all meatballs, served in a sludge of tomato sauce.

This is my attempt at Mamacas’s meatballs, a cross between keftedakia (meatballs) and soutzoukakia (home-made sausages), the flavour lifted with red wine, cumin and cinnamon. Serve with the British equivalent of Greek horta or wild greens, which may mean Swiss chard, sprouting broccoli, cavolo nero, curly kale or spinach, dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice.

What you need

  • Serves 4 (12 meatballs)
  • Prep 15 min
  • Cook 30 min
  • 500g minced beef or lamb
  • 2 thick slices white bread, crustless
  • 125ml red wine
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Half a beaten egg
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Half tsp ground cinnamon
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 500ml tomato passata
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 bay leaf

    METHOD

    Heat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Tear the bread into pieces and soak in the red wine. Squeeze lightly, reserving the red wine, and combine with the minced meat, onion, a crushed garlic clove, egg, parsley, cumin, cinnamon, sea salt and pepper, and mix well, mulching with your hands.

    Form into generously sized round patties, place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake for 20min.

    In the meantime, combine the reserved red wine with the tomato passata, purée, ketchup, olive oil, remaining garlic, sugar and bay leaf in a saucepan, and simmer for 20min until thick.

    Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 10min. Serve with rice.

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