Thursday, March 25, 2010

Giant beans and small chilies

Easter is less than two weeks away and the period of Lent is well under way. It's a difficult time for people who fast, being deprived of meat and dairy products. I'm not included in that category but I do know that for some people it's worse than others. Many crave juicy steaks and fried eggs, many dream of feta cheese pies and meatballs and most of them wait anxiously for Easter Day to come in order to enjoy the oh-so-incredible lamb.






In Greece, on Easter Day, every household roasts a whole lamb on a spit (sorry for any vegetarians out there but that's the tradition) and enjoy a "kokoretsi" which is (vegetarians look away!) seasoned offal like sweetbreads, kidneys, lungs, hearts that is wrapped with lamb intestines and roasted on a spit. I know it sounds kind of gross for those of you who are not familiar with it, but let me tell you, it tastes absolutely marvellous. But that's another post and of course I must be in Greece to write it because in Holland you can't go to your butcher and ask for a kokoretsi. When you explain to him what it is, he'll probably have a heart attack right then and there.






Now, what does lamb has to do with beans? Well, ostensibly nothing, but for me it's the closest thing to meat that you can have without actually having meat. So, in essence you get all the nutrients and fibers without all the toxins. Isn't that great? When I say beans though, I don't mean the small little pathetic canned beans that most people eat. I'm talking about dried giant Greek beans, perhaps the best beans in the world.






Giant white Greek dried beans are absolutely delicious legumes. They're so fulfilling and substantial and in Greece we use them to make an excellent dish. Baked giant beans or "Fasolia gigantes sto fourno" which is my favorite white bean dish. The beans are first cooked in water to soften and then you smother them with a deliciously tomato and red pepper sauce and you bake them in the oven until they crisp up. As with any other Greek dish, every home cook adds his or her own twist. My twist is a rather fiery one. Hot red chili peppers in addition to boukovo. Boukovo is the Greek equivalent to dried red pepper flakes and it is hot. Add too much and the dish is ruined.






So this is a hot and spicy Greek dish. At least my version is. Of course you can adjust it to your own tolerance of heat, which is the beauty of it, but there are certain ingredients you just can't toy with. One of them is the parsley, flat-leaf parsley not the curly, useless, only-for-decoration one. Parsley is so underestimated it bothers me. It is a beautiful herb with such a fresh and aromatic flavor that really complements the giant beans, balances the hot notes and brings the whole dish together.






It's a main dish that can feed and satisfy a whole family. I serve it with a side of feta cheese, a big chunk of feta cheese that I sprinkle with Greek dried oregano and drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and some wonderfully tasty Kalamata olives. Make sure you also have lots of bread around to gather up all that flavorful sauce that covers the giant beans.






What's very interesting about this dish is that, apart from being a hearty main dish, it's also a traditional Greek mezes, served on a small plate and accompanied by ouzo or beer. So keep that in mind the next time you plan to have friends over, have a mezes dinner party with some tasteful little plates of yummy food, including these delightful beans.












Fasolia Gigantes sto Fourno-Plaki (Greek Hot & Spicy Baked Giant Beans)

You can use any kind of red hot chili pepper you prefer or can find. It's a matter of personal taste as well as heat-tolerance. I used Thai chili peppers because I love how hot they are but beware, don't use them unless you enjoy enormous amount of heat in your mouth. I wouldn't suggest using them or any other extremely hot chilies unless you're familiar with them.
If you can't stand the heat of chilies or simply don't like them omit them from the recipe altogether.
Boukovo I suppose is hard to find outside of Greece but you can use dried red pepper flakes or the Turkish equivalent, Pul Biber, or Aleppo pepper, which are very much like boukovo. I wouldn't suggest omitting boukovo from the recipe. It is not that hot if you use a small amount, as in this recipe, and it gives a great flavor to the dish.







Yield: 4-6 main-course servings

Ingredients
500 g giant Greek white dried beans or dried large butter beans
Water
2 1/2 cups bean cooking liquid
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium-sized onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
400 g fresh tomatoes, skinned, seeded and cubed or canned diced tomatoes
3 tsp tomato paste
2 large red bell peppers, cut into thick strips
A pinch of sugar
Salt
1/4 tsp boukovo or dried red pepper flakes
2 fresh red hot chilies (optional)
2 Tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley including stalks, chopped, plus extra to serve (only leaves)


Preparation
Soak the dried beans by placing them in a large bowl and filling it with tap water so that the beans are completely covered. They need to be soaked for 12-16 hours. It's better to do this overnight.
Drain them in a colander and rinse them very well under running water. Then put them in a large pot, cover them with water and bring to the boil over high heat. Turn down the heat to low and let beans cook for about 1 hour until they're soft but not cooked all the way. Ten minutes before they're done sprinkle some salt in the water. Don't add salt as soon as you start cooking the beans because they will become tough.
Drain the beans and reserve their cooking liquid.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Meanwhile start preparing the sauce.
To prepare the chilies cut them lengthwise, remove membranes and seeds with the tip of your knife, wash them under running water and finely slice them*.
In a medium-sized saucepan heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onions. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until softened and add the garlic. Sauté for further 1 minute and add the tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, sliced chilies, pinch of sugar, salt and red pepper flakes (boukovo). Stir everything around the saucepan and pour 2/3 cup of fresh water. Stir again and let it come to the boil. Immediately turn the heat down to low and let sauce simmer for 20 minutes. Five minutes before the sauce is ready add the red bell peppers and stir. When sauce is ready remove from heat and set aside.

Transfer the cooked beans into a large ovenproof glass or ceramic baking dish (I used a 36cm x 25cm ceramic baking dish) and pour the sauce all over the beans. Stir everything around so that the beans get coated with the sauce and add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved bean cooking liquid into the baking dish. There should be enough liquid in the dish to cover the beans. Put baking dish carefully on the lower rack of the oven and bake for 45 minutes until beans are soft, almost falling apart on the inside and a bit crunchy and golden brown on the outside.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve.


*When handling chilies, especially the very hot ones, it is better to wear rubber gloves. Otherwise you need to wash your hands thoroughly after working with them and avoid contact with your eyes, nose or mouth.







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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Michelin starred tartlet?

Each year, Michelin stars are awarded to the greatest restaurants in the world based on the quality of ingredients, skills in their preparation, combination of flavors, levels of creativity, value for money and consistency of culinary standards. The Michelin Guide which awards these stars is a hotel and restaurant guide created by the Michelin brothers. Yes, of the Michelin tire company!






It's so funny how a tire company is connected to high-end food, right? Well, in France in 1900 these two brothers being incredibly business-savvy, decided to publish a guide for car owners- which were no more than 3,000 at that time in France- listing gas stations where they could find petrol, places where they could change or buy those all-important tires and a list of decent eateries where they could have a good meal. Nowadays, this guide is a revered little book for foodies all over the world in which they can find the best restaurants to dine in. For chefs on the other hand, seeing a star next to their restaurant in this guide is one of the highest accolades they can ever receive.






The guide can award up to 3 stars to a certain establishment and chefs go absolutely crazy over them, especially European chefs. Getting a star means putting their restaurant on the culinary map, more money, status, but sometimes losing a star can have devastating effects, the closing of one's restaurant being the least of them. I was watching a documentary about the Michelin stars and I was shocked to hear that in 2003 one of the most famous and accomplished 3-starred chefs in France, Bernard Loiseau, fearing that he was going to lose one of his stars, ended up taking his own life.






I've never eaten at a Michelin starred restaurant so I can't tell you what a Michelin starred dish tastes like, but sometimes I wonder if there should be a Michelin star for home cooks. Given to us by our loved ones, the ones we cook for and share our passion for food with. Perhaps they would be more lenient than an anonymous Michelin star inspector who gets paid to eat but hey, I don't mind. When my boyfriend tasted this tartlet he said it was worthy of a Michelin star and I believed him.






Oh, this glorious tartlet. Isn't it a sight for sore eyes? Wait till you get a taste of it! I have one word for you, well actually two words: caramelized onions. I don't know about you, but I'm craaaazy about onions. I have a special place in my heart for them. Caramelized onions for me might even be the best part of a meal.






You take a simple yellow onion, you slice it, you put it in a pan with a little olive oil and you just let it slowly and gently fry. You can see its progress, from white it becomes pale and translucent, then yellow and then it starts taking on a golden color and the aromas start filling your kitchen and after a while the caramelization is in full swing. Golden brown onion sizzling in the pan, you scraping away bits of it and finally the time comes. You get to taste it. What a flavor, what a sweet flavor. Adding it in these phyllo tartlets surely elevates the quality and savor of those beautiful flower-like edible creations, but try topping a juicy steak with it or adding it on top of toasted slices of baguette. The taste will blow you away.






Back to the tartlet though where besides the onions, I give you sweet leeks, woody pine nuts, earthy thyme, tangy blue cheese and Roquefort in particular, a luscious cream-egg mixture and phyllo. Phyllo (or filo) pastry, the traditional Greek, crispy, thin pastry that is to die for! Combine everything and you get a tartlet made in heaven. One bite and your taste buds will awaken with these divine, elegant flavors. Don't be scared of the Roquefort, I assure you it does not overpower the other flavors, it rather complements them. The egg-cream mixture is light and the baked phyllo is just perfect, crunchy and buttery. Accompany this delicious tartlet with a leafy salad and a chilled bottle of white wine and you're set. It's wonderful for lunch and you can also serve it as a first course for a fancy dinner.











Phyllo Tartlets with Caramelized Onions, Leeks and Roquefort Cheese
Adapted from Delicious magazine

I used low-fat cream for these tartlets but you can use full-fat. You can also substitute the olive oil for the frying of the leeks with butter and even though Roquefort cheese was my cheese of choice, feel free to use any other blue cheese you prefer, like Stilton or Fourme D'Ambert.
I used both loosed-bottomed and regular tartlet tins although it is a bit easier to get the tartlets out of the loose-bottomed ones.








Yield: 4 tartlets (and 4 heaped Tbsp of caramelized onions)


Ingredients

for caramelized onions
1 large onion (250-270 g)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp dry white wine
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar

for tartlets
4 large sheets phyllo pastry
2 leeks (115 g) white and pale green part only, finely sliced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
3 medium-sized eggs, lightly beaten
100 ml low-fat cream
4 heaped Tbsp caramelized onions
2 Tbsp pine nuts
60 g Roquefort cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 Tbsp butter, melted
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Special equipment: 8.5 cm loose-bottomed or regular tartlet tins

Preparation

for caramelized onions
Cut onion in half lengthwise and then cut it into 0.5 cm-thick slices. The whole process of cooking the onions will take 50-55 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a wide (for maximum pan contact with the onions), medium-sized, heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat. As soon as oil starts to shimmer, add the onion slices and coat them well with the oil by stirring them around in the pan with a spatula. Then spread them equally around the pan and continue to stir occasionally. Lower heat to medium. After 10 minutes, season them with salt and black pepper and sprinkle them with sugar. Stir them around and let them cook. Stir every 7-8 minutes until they become translucent and slightly golden.

After about 30-40 minutes, begin to stir onions more frequently, every 4 minutes or so, so that they don't get burned or get stuck at the bottom of the pan. You might want to turn the heat down to medium-low at this point.
Once onions begin to brown, you need to stir them around every 1 minute with preferably a metal spatula, so that you can scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Continue to cook and scrape the bottom of the pan until the onions have taken on a rich, dark golden brown color, and at the end of the cooking process add the wine in order to deglaze the pan. Cook for further 2-3 minutes and place onions on paper towels to drain any excess oil.

You can store the caramelized onions in the refrigerator, in an airtight container for several days.






for tartlets
Toast the pine nuts by placing them in a small sauté pan and dry-frying them over medium-high heat, stirring them around so that they don't burn, for 3-4 minutes, until they take on a golden brown color.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

In the same sauté pan that you caramelized the onions in, pour the 2 Tbsp of olive oil and add the leeks. Sauté for 3 minutes until softened and any water that comes out of them is evaporated. Add the thyme, salt and black pepper and cook for further 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a bowl mix the eggs with the cream and beat lightly with a fork to blend. Sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper. Set aside.

Cut the phyllo sheets into 12 square pieces (15 x 15 cm each) and brush the tops with melted butter. Grease 4 tartlet tins with melted butter and then layer 3 sheets of buttered phyllo in each tin so that the phyllo creates a star-shape. Spoon the caramelized onions on the bottom of each tin, then follow with the sautéed leeks and thyme. Then sprinkle a few pine nuts and top with the crumbled Roquefort cheese. Finally pour the egg-cream mixture on top.
Place tins on baking tray, put on the lower rack of the oven for 15 minutes and bake until the phyllo is golden brown and crispy and the filling of the tart has just set.

Remove from oven and let tartlets cool slightly on a wire rack before removing them very carefully from the tins.

Serve immediately.

I'll let you in on a little secret. The next day I had one leftover tartlet so I reheated it in the microwave for half a minute. It tasted fantastic!





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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Food word association

Carl Jung, noted Swiss psychiatrist and one of the founding fathers of modern depth psychology, developed a clinical diagnostic tool, the Word Association Test, in which patients are presented with various stimulus words and asked to give responses to them. These responses are used to identify unconscious personality dynamics and the existence of underlying problems.

Let's combine it with a little free association and let's give it a try. Stimulus word: dessert. Go!






Dessert
Sweets
Chocolate
Cake
Whipped-cream
Coconut
Fruit
Honey
Sugar
Syrup
Cinnamon
Spices
Food
Greek

Well, you don't need a degree in Psychology, though I do have one, to figure out what my unconscious is saying. A dessert for me right now equals a Greek dessert.






That wasn't always the case though. A few years ago, my response to the stimulus word "dessert" in a word association test, would be a very specific one. Dessert = Chocolate. Not any more!
Even though I still love chocolate, I've come to appreciate the wonders of sponge cakes and fruity desserts. Most of all, I have come to love "siropiasta" desserts. "Siropiasta" is a category of Greek desserts that are drenched in syrup, like most traditional Greek desserts are. Take Baklavas, or Kantaifi, or Galaktompoureko, or Ravani which is one of the Greek desserts that have been a revelation for me.






Ravani or Revani is a buttery cake doused with syrup. I never used to like it, it always seemed too stodgy to me, so heavy with all that syrup, always wanting to reach for a glass of water as soon as I took one bite of it. But one day my mother called, sounding so excited, declaring that she had found the perfect Ravani. Yes, my mother is as crazy about food as I am. Of course she gave me the recipe and I was blown away by the difference this version of Ravani had in comparison to every other I've ever tasted. So naturally I'm going to share it with you. Because a good thing needs to be shared!






This Ravani is the best you'll ever have. I'm not exaggerating. It's true. It's so delicate, it's so fluffy, it's so moist, it's sweet but not overly sweet and there's a twist. The addition of desiccated coconut to the batter that makes it taste divine and that it gives a different, more luscious texture to the cake.






The syrup is lemon flavored and it permeates the cake giving it a delicious lemony taste that's prominent but not overpowering. This syrup is so light, "showering" the cake, balancing out its buttery and sugar notes.






Its pale yellow color with its golden brown top is a beautiful sight. It's mouth watering and the smell is incredible. As you bring a piece to your mouth you can smell the butter, the lemon and the exotic coconut and when you taste it, it fulfills every expectation.






You can serve it with a dusting of desiccated coconut, with a side of vanilla ice cream, accompanying your coffee or tea and it is guaranteed to satisfy your sugar craving after dinner.











Ravani me Indokarydo (Greek Cake with Desiccated Coconut and Lemon Flavored Syrup)

Most versions of Ravani contain semolina flour. Not this one. The recipe calls for all-purpose flour which is a far better choice for this cake. Semolina flour is one of the ingredients that for me make Ravani incredibly heavy.
I prefer using a 22 cm in diameter round spring-form pan for Ravani which yields a thicker cake but you can use a slightly larger pan (25 cm) or a square pan.






Yield: 1 cake

Ingredients

for cake
160 g unsalted butter, at room temperature plus extra for greasing the pan
230 g sugar
3 medium-sized eggs
160 ml whole milk
250 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
140 g desiccated coconut

for syrup
350 g sugar
360 ml water
20 ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Lemon peel from 1 medium-sized lemon


Preparation

for cake
Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius.

Grease the bottom and the sides of the spring-form pan with some butter.

In a large bowl, beat with a hand-held mixer the sugar and butter until fluffy. If you have a stand mixer, you may use that instead, fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs one by one, beating continuously, until they are incorporated into the mixture. Pour in the milk and beat well.
Add the flour and baking powder and beat until incorporated and then add the desiccated coconut. Mix in the coconut with a rubber spatula until the mixture is well blended.

Pour the batter in the spring-form pan and place it on the lower rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 35 minutes and then move pan to the middle rack and bake for another 15 minutes or until when inserting a knife in the middle of the cake it comes out clean.

for syrup
Meanwhile prepare the syrup. In a small saucepan, add the sugar, water, lemon juice and lemon peel. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and leave to infuse, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove the lemon peel from the saucepan and discard it.


When cake is ready, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. When it has slightly but not completely cooled, pour the warm syrup over the cake, a spoonful at a time, starting to pour always from the middle of the cake.
Leave the drenched cake on a wire rack to absorb all the syrup and cool completely. Then remove the interlocking side band of the pan and cut the cake into squares (while still being on the round base of the pan). Remove each square and place it on a cake dish.

Note: The cake will be almost stuck at the bottom of the pan and that is why you need to cut it into pieces first so that it doesn't crack while trying to remove it as a whole.


Serve the cake and keep in mind that it tastes far better the next day!!

The cake will keep for 4-5 days, covered, at room temperature.







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Thursday, March 4, 2010

A cautionary tale and the best meatballs you'll ever have

Yesterday afternoon, after S and I exercised our right to vote, we decided to go out to dinner. You may notice I use the word afternoon rather than evening referring to dinner, because that's the way things are here in The Netherlands. Most restaurants close their kitchens at around ten o'clock and well, they're empty by nine-thirty anyway. When I first realized this, I was stunned and thought I had moved to a geriatric community rather than an international European city. In Athens, Greece restaurants don't open until nine in the evening. You go out to dinner and you don't come home until one o'clock in the morning. Here though is a different story. The Dutch eat at six o'clock and they are in bed by eleven. How boring, and yet another thing I had to get used to living here.






We were in the mood for Italian so we picked a restaurant not far from our apartment that we haven't been to before, but that we heard through the grapevine that it does great food. I checked out their site and looked elegant and modern, and their menu had a good selection of pasta dishes and entrées. I was kind of excited.
When we got there though, we had another thing coming. First off, I didn't like the ambience of the place. Can't really put my finger on it, perhaps the lighting, the way they'd arranged their tables, it just didn't feel comfortable. Or maybe it was the fact that we were seated at the worst possible table in the restaurant, even though we'd made a reservation. A table right in front of the entrance door, where everyone was bumping onto us and we kept freezing to death by the constant opening and closing of that door.






Moving on, we ordered antipasti for starters that were fairly good, although I don't enjoy seafood like octopus and shrimp on the same plate as prosciutto and mortadella, but that's just me. The wine we had was an overpriced 2007 Chianti that was really nice, right amount of tannins there. Then the main course came, with a delay of 55 minutes! The restaurant had around twelve tables and eight or nine of them had two people sitting at them. How difficult is it to prepare main dishes for that amount of people? We didn't all come at the same time for God's sake! The poor waiter kept apologizing but that actually doesn't matter when you're hungry, does it?






Anyway, I got the veal scallopini with porcini sauce, roast potatoes and braised endive, and S got the pasta with prawns and arugula. Besides the fact that I found a plastic strand in my food that God knows where it came from, the veal was cooked well, the sauce was adequate, but I couldn't find any porcini mushrooms on my plate no matter how hard I looked. The potatoes were bland and not cooked enough, and the endive, even though it was cooked well, it seemed to have been braised in a tomato sauce which has nothing to do with a creamy porcini sauce. Two types of sauces on one plate? C'mon! The pasta dish was nothing special, as S proclaimed. The arugula was too tough, how can that be I have no idea but he kept spitting it into his napkin so that definitely wasn't good.






I have to admit the dessert was satisfactory, but I had a mocha ice cream and ice cream is always satisfactory. S had a créme brulée which I tasted and thought was fine, but he said he have had better. I believed him.
Oh, the highlight of the evening was the complimentary homemade limoncello drinks that were fantastic, but by then it was just too little too late. Our dinner experience was a big disappointment. I gotta tell you, I'm extremely surprised that this restaurant was full and that they were actually turning people away. I'm not gonna name (restaurant) names but I'm also not going there again. I know I'd probably make a rather harsh food critic but hey, I just tell it like it is.






We should've stayed home instead and enjoyed this great food! Greek meatballs (called "keftedakia" in Greek) with fennel seeds and a yoghurt sauce with fresh mint and lemon zest. Does that sound great or what? I assure you it not only sounds great it tastes great as well.





This is another Greek mezes that is a classic. We love meatballs in Greece and there are innumerable combinations for their preparation. The use of different kinds of minced meat like lamb, beef, veal or pork gives different taste and character to the meatballs. The addition of various herbs like mint, parsley or thyme, or the use of spices like cinnamon, allspice and cumin makes meatballs unique and adventurous. They can be eaten on their own, paired with roast or fried potatoes -which is one of my favorite meals-, they can be fried and then cooked in a rich tomato sauce, or served with a simple dipping sauce.






The ones I'm sharing with you here are made with both beef and pork meat which is a perfect combination. The addition of crushed fennel seeds and spices like cinnamon, cloves, ground coriander and cayenne pepper make these meatballs highly aromatic and pungent. They are accompanied by a Greek yoghurt dipping sauce which is both refreshing and luscious, bursting with the fragrance of the fresh mint and the lemon zest, complementing the rich flavors of the meatballs.






This mezes is perfect with ouzo as its aniseed flavor brings out the taste of the fennel seeds in the meatballs. You can also accompany them with white wine like a lovely bottle of Riesling. They're perfect for a dinner party, served as starters, or as part of a buffet, or prepared with a side of French fries and a tomato salad for a family lunch.











Keftedakia me Marathosporous kai Saltsa Giaourtiou-Dyosmou (Greek Spiced Meatballs with Fennel Seeds and a Yoghurt-Mint Dipping Sauce)
Adapted from Myrsini Lambraki

Frying these delicious meatballs will fill your house with the smells of Greece. I used olive oil to fry my meatballs but you can substitute with another vegetable oil like sunflower seed oil or corn oil if you want them to be a little lighter.
It's also important that you don't use very fatty meat because the meatballs will be heavy and greasy.






Yield: 40-45 small meatballs / 2 cups yoghurt-mint sauce

Ingredients

for meatballs
250 g minced pork meat
250 g minced beef meat
1 large onion, grated
1 medium-sized egg
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup very fine cornmeal
1 Tbsp olive oil plus 1 cup olive oil for frying

for yoghurt-mint sauce
2 cups Greek strained yoghurt like Total
2 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 tsp lemon zest, grated
1 Tbsp olive oil

Preparation

for meatballs
Using a mortar and pestle crush the fennel seeds until they become almost powder.

In a large bowl, place minced beef and pork meat, egg, grated onion, crushed fennel seeds, ground coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne pepper, salt and 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Mix well with your hands for about 10 minutes, until all the ingredients are well blended. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour so that the flavors "blend" and the mixture "matures".

Place the cornmeal in a bowl.

Using your hands, shape into small meatballs and roll them in the cornmeal. Put them in a sieve and shake them around, letting excess cornmeal escape through the sieve and into the bowl.

Heat 1 cup of olive oil in a large skillet on high heat until oil is really hot and put meatballs inside. Immediately turn the heat down to medium and let meatballs fry, turning them over once with tongs, for about 10 minutes or until cooked through and until they have taken a nice golden brown color on the outside.
Remove them from skillet with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to drain off excessive fat.

Place the meatballs in a bowl and serve immediately.

for yoghurt-mint sauce
In a bowl, mix yoghurt, chopped mint leaves, grated lemon peel, olive oil and salt with a spoon until the mixture is well blended. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate. You can prepare the sauce one day ahead.
Before serving just stir again with a spoon.

To serve, place meatballs and yogurt sauce in clean bowls. Meatballs must be warm when you serve them. They should be served straight from the frying pan.






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