I was a bit of a late bloomer in the kitchen but I have always been a bit of a professional eater since I was a kid, choosing my friends based on what I thought their mothers could offer me in way of snacks. The last thing I needed was another manga cake friend named Andrea who had a mom serving up Kraft Dinner for lunch when I could befriend young Rui who’s mom was slinging bacalhau fritters . After years spent travelling and exploring, I gradually gained some kitchen skills and by 2010 I started my blog, The Yum Yum Factor, originally as a way to catalogue the dishes that I cooked for friends and family who were constantly pestering me for recipes. I consider myself a solid home cook with an adventurous palette, a high tolerance for burns and cuts and a desire to eat the world.
I have been on a meatball making mission lately so when Mushrooms Canada asked me to come up with a new Blend and Extend recipe, I was thrilled because it just so happened that I was already working on adapting one of my favourite meatballs. I was so happy with my Middle Eastern Meatballs and was almost finished perfecting this recipe for keftedes.
I have never met a mushroom I didn't like, although I don’t think I actually tasted a real mushroom until I moved to Toronto at 19. Growing up, we only ate canned and I was not fan but I really thought that was all there was until I left home. From my first taste of dried shiitakes in some Chinese restaurant upon my arrival in Toronto at 19, I was hooked. After that, as I travelled more and more, my love affair with these versatile little babies grew and expanded to include more exotic varieties over time.
Everything was hunky dory until I became a mother and BAM, I was cursed with a child who hated mushrooms. For a decade I could only cook with them when he was away on a sleep over and my husband and I would take that opportunity to feast on mushroom risottos, bisques and tarts, knowing that it might be months before we could do that again. Happily, The Kid grew and his palette expanded and we eventually got to a place where he still didn't like the texture, but he admitted to liking the flavour and mushrooms were back on the table. Fast forward to today, and mushrooms are, once again, a regular staple in my kitchen and all is right with the world.
My recipe for keftedes had been cobbled together after years of watching my share of friend’s Yiayias (Greek Grandmas) make these things so the result is a mishmash of my favourite versions.
Shroomy Beef Keftedes by The Yum Yum Factor
These are usually served warm or room temperature as part of a mezes platter, with some tzatziki on the side.
For the Keftedes:
350 g ground beef
100g button mushrooms
1 tbls red wine vinegar
1 small onion, minced or grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large plum or roma tomato, seeded and finely chopped (just half and squeeze out the seeds)
1 small egg beaten
1/3 cup panko
1 tsp dried oregano
1 heaping tbls fresh parsley
1 heaping tbls fresh mint
1 tsp kosher salt
4 or 5 grinds freshly ground pepper
about 1/4 cup flour
Olive oil and vegetable oil for frying
*optional- about 1/4 cup ouzo
Grind the mushrooms in the food processor and remove to a big bowl along with the ground beef. Sprinkle the vinegar over the mixture and then add in the onion, garlic, tomato, herbs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and egg and, using your hands, mix well until everything is combined. Put the mix in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up.
*If you really hate the feeling of using your hands, you can mix it in a stand mixer with a dough hook on low for a minute.
Put the flour in a shallow bowl or dish.
*If you are using the ouzo, put it in a shallow bowl and dip one of your palms into it so you get a bit of ouzo on it and then pat your hands together before you roll out the meatballs. Do this every two or three meatballs.
Start rolling the meatballs, making them golf ball sized and sit them in the flour. Toss the meatballs around so that they are lightly coated and remove to plate or platter. If the meatball mixture feels damp, I just give it a light squeeze as I am forming the meatballs and it will release a bit of liquid as you do that, letting it drip through your fingers.
Heat a pan over med to med high heat and coat the bottom with a generous layer of 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 vegetable oil (canola works well). The oil should be about 1/2” deep. Without overcrowding the pan, start frying the meatballs. Get them nice and brown on all sides, leaving room in the pan to roll them around, for about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Do this in batches until they are all done.
Serve them warm or room temperature with Tzatziki.
1/2 English cucumber, grated coarse
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic , minced
1 tbls olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Grate the cucumber on a coarse grater, put in a strainer or sieve, sprinkle a small pinch of kosher salt and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to a couple of hours.
Mix the yogurt, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and the strained cucumber in a bowl. Before you add the cucumber, give it a good press to force out any remaining liquid ( I use a piece of paper towel to press it down). Keep in the fridge until you are ready to eat.
These are a lovely snack, appetizer or dinner side! They're also a fun treat and healthy treat for the kids. Thanks Carole for sharing these Greek-inspired treats.