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KEFTEDES (GREEK MEATBALLS) with Lemon Sauce | Jacky’s Kitchen


In the meantime, all I had was one camping gas stove. Hey ho, I thought, loadshedding be damned! I can do this. Then I remembered that not only would my chosen recipe have to a) not include time in the oven and b) require only one pan and one gas ring, but it would also not have to require blending in case the meal preparation coincided with loadshedding. Hmmmm! Tricky. Finally, I settled on Keftedes because, well, who doesn’t love a meatball? (Or a veggie meatball?) Also, having investigated a few recipes, and having made Italian meatballs a few months ago, I realised that the flavour of these Greek meatballs would be quite different.

Traditionally, keftedes are served as a starter on their own with dips, in gyros with salad as a snack or main, or atop rice or pasta in a sauce. The recipe I liked best put them in an avgolemono (egg and lemon) sauce, and best of all, while the sauce could be made quickly in the same pan used to cook the meatballs, these could be incorporated into the sauce at the end, making everything the right temperature and in just one pan. Circumstances dictated that the only practical way of serving them was in gyros with salad, so that’s what we did. And I have to say, they were a spectacular success, far beyond what I had hoped for. The sauce, tangy, lemony, exploded in the mouth, while the herbs and spices used in the meatballs came through to leave an exotic, lingering impression on the palate. 

I won’t pretend that these did not require some work. The different stages needed to construct the meatballs took time for one person working alone, but if all the chopping is done in advance, it would be very straightforward.

The recipe I used can be found here.

First some notes:

1. I had 450g of mince and the recipe calls for 11/2 lbs, which is 680g. I used the same quantities of herbs and spices, and they were delicious, so you could add a little more to the standard recipe if you like.

2. The recipe calls for a mixture of beef and pork. I only had lean beef mince, and this was fine. You could use a mix of beef and lamb or plain lamb or even plain pork if you wished, the results would not be very different.

3. To make a vegetarian version of these meatballs, you could simply substitute the meat with cooked brown lentils or a mix of lentils and cooked black beans, and up the herbs and would also work fine with Quorn or any textured protein meat substitute minced/chopped.

4. The recipe calls for chicken stock, but I only ever use Ina Paarman’s vegetable stock and it tastes great in everything.

5. I used an electric chopper on the onion and garlic (before the power went off) instead of grating/mincing the onion and garlic. I just pulsed for a few seconds and got the same sort of texture. Cooking the chopped onion/garlic mixture first is not something I had previously done with meatballs, but it gave a beautiful flavour.


Makes approx. 32 meatballs



  • ⅓ cup (80 ml) whole milk
  •  1 slice day-old bread, cubed
  •  1 medium yellow onion, grated
  •  3 garlic cloves, minced
  •  ¼ cup (60 ml) + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  •  1 pound (500g) lean ground beef
  •  ½ pound (250g) ground lamb or pork
  •  1 large egg PLUS 1 egg yolk, divided
  •  ¼ cup (4 tbsps) chopped fresh mint leaves
  •  1 tablespoon organic ground coriander 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  •  1 teaspoon organic ground cumin 
  •  ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg 
  •  Salt and black pepper
  •  3 lemons, zested and juiced
  •  Flour for dredging
  •  1 ¼ cups (300 ml) chicken/vegetable broth
  1. Add the cubed bread to a bowl with the milk and let it soak for about 5 minutes.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until golden and translucent, stirring regularly. Transfer the onions and garlic mixture to a large mixing bowl to cool. Set the skillet aside for later.
  3. Wring the excess milk out of the soaked bread. Add the bread to the mixing bowl.
  4. To the mixing bowl add the ground beef and pork (or lamb), 1 egg, fresh mint, spices, salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon lemon zest. Mix by hand until until mixture is fully incorporated.
  5. Form the meat mixture into balls (each the size of a heaping tablespoon.) Roll meatballs into the flour to lightly coat and place them on a large tray for now.
  6. In the large skillet you used earlier, add ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil. Heat over medium-high. Turn heat to medium and add the meatballs to cook (do this in batches if you need to). Cook meatballs for 10 minutes or so, turning occasionally, until fully cooked and well-crusted on all sides.
  7. With a slotted spoon, remove meatballs from the skillet onto paper towels to drain any excess fat. Meanwhile, carefully discard most of the cooking fat from the skillet (best to dump into a tin can until cooled). Return the skillet to the stovetop over medium heat.
  8. Whisk the egg yolk with chicken/vegetable broth and lemon juice. Add to the skillet with the remaining lemon zest, then add the meatballs back in. Cook over medium heat for another 5 minutes until the lemon sauce thickens.
  9. Serve in pita or as a starter with tzatziki dip and salad.

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