Meatballs in tomato sauce

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I am a bit homesick today. Which can sound strange to people that know me because I am lucky enough to call home both Kosovo and Bulgaria :-). I was raised in Bulgaria and created my own family in Kosovo…It may look that I am a bit overstretched I know but isn’t it wonderful to have two homes, just in case you grow bothered by one ;-)!

I guess I am homesick because I miss my parents. Might be the whether, its so grey and cold over here, and the rain doesn’t help at all. It is supposed to be spring but there is no trace of sunlight and the warmth of spring. But at least my kitchen is always warm and cosy..it is my little universe where I can savour memories, recreate flavours, have a culinary journey and treat my hungry boys with home-made hearty dishes.

Is there any particular dish that you remember vividly from your childhood? What is that flavour you’ve always associated with home? Is it me only or you also sometimes re-enact moments from childhood when mum was preparing your favourite dish?

 As a kid I loved the dish I am presenting today, and I still do. I remember getting back from school and being hit by the unmistakable, wonderful scent of tomato sauce in my mum’s kitchen. I adored the red fleshed, sweet and full of summer flavour tomatoes on the kitchen counter, waiting to be peeled and chopped. I would be frolicking around the stove, trying to taste the sauce and would always be smacked by my mum, telling me to be patient and wait until it was ready to eat. I am still that impatient… wink!

Sometimes my mum fried the meatballs (without adding rice) and served them topped with tomato sauce, other times she would just drop them in the boiling sauce. I am doing the second option today.

Ingredients:

500 g beef mince

1 onion

1 egg

100 rice

Plain flour for coating

3 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt and black pepper to taste.

2 x 240 g tins of peeled tomatoes ( The sauce is much tastier with fresh tomatoes, but the ripe sun-kissed ones are still not in season over here)

3 bunches of spring onions (here a bunch is made of 3 spring onions)

3 cloves of garlic

Parsley

To prepare the sauce start by chopping the spring onions and sautéing them with the olive oil in a large pan. Add the chopped garlic, stir for a minute or two. Chop the peeled tomatoes and add to the onions. Fill in one of the empty tins with water and add to the tomatoes. Season with salt to taste and stir. As soon as the sauce starts to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer.

In a large bowl mix with your hands the minced beef, finely diced onion, rice, the egg, salt and pepper until well combined. Wet your hands and shape the mince into medium size meatballs, then coat them lightly in flour.

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Add the meatballs, one by one, to the tomato sauce and cook on low heat for about 45 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Just before serving add some chopped parsley. Serve with cooked pasta or crusty bread. Note: the flour used to coat the meatballs will thicken the sauce so keep the pan on low heat, stirring carefully in order to avoid burning at the bottom.

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* All the pictures in this post are taken by me. I am now more confident to shoot my food 🙂
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Meatloaf Stephany

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I don’t know who Stephany is but if I see her some day I’ll thank her for coming up with this impressively looking and yummy recipe :-). Not only it is aesthetic and tasty but it also feeds a crowd. Ideal for dinner parties it saves time, you can wrap the roll earlier and let in the fridge, then bake it later and serve warm. You might ask who is Stephany? Well, that is the Bulgarian name of this meatloaf recipe, which is a steady presence in many Bulgarian households. I really don’t know why it has been named like this. What I know is that other national cuisines also have a variety of meatloafs but today I present the Bulgarian tradition with a little personal touch. That is about the topping, if not taken care of properly the top might burst and spoil the whole magic 🙂 Keep on reading!

Ingredients:

1 kg beef mince 

4 eggs-3 for the stuffing, the 4th will be used when mixing the minced beef

3 slices of dry bread

200 ml milk

1 onion. I also used scallions because I like their mild onion flavour. Besides their green colour contrasts beautifully to the redness of the meat. 

3 carrots

3 pickled cucumbers

½ teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon of your preferred mixed dry herbs. I used the traditional Bulgarian savory. 

Salt and pepper to taste

For the topping- the white of an egg, 1 tablespoon ketchup and 1 tablespoon mustard, breadcrumbs.

In a large bowl mix together the minced beef, the soaked in milk bread, the grated onion, one whole egg and the spices. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well by hand and leave the mixture rest in the fridge for 1/2 hour. In the meantime prepare the stuffing- boil the eggs and the carrots. When ready, cut the carrots into long stripes, do the same with the pickled cucumbers.

Spread out the meat over foil or parchment paper in a rectangular shape. Pat the mixture to make it even and line the stuffing.

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Starting at the short end wrap the roll tight to the middle, releasing the meatloaf from the paper as you keep rolling. Keep rolling up to the second short end. Patting gently you should come up with a form like a Swiss Roll. Make sure you seal the ends to enclose the stuffing. With the help of the parchment paper lift the meatloaf into a lightly greased loaf pan, seam on the bottom.  

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Whisk an egg white and brush the top of the meatloaf, this will prevent possible cracks. Cover with the parchment paper and bake for 45 minutes in preheated to 180 C oven. After that time, pull the pan out of the oven and with the help of the parchment paper place the meatloaf into another-wider and lightly greased-pan. It might seem a bit of a hard work but  the idea is to create a nice golden brown crust. The loaf pan helped to shape the meatloaf nicely but the crust is a must. Set the oven to 260 degrees and brush the top of the meatloaf with a mixture of ketchup and mustard (one tablespoon each) and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Return to the oven an bake for additional 15-20 minutes or until you get that golden crust. Let the meatloaf rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with your preferred side dish- rice, mashed potatoes, French fries, or salad.

Note: If you wish use the juices released while baking in the loaf pan to create a gravy, which could compliment nicely your side dish. 

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Moussaka

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Moussaka! Sounds familiar :-)? I love this traditional Bulgarian dish, the tender taste of baked potatoes, delicious beef ragu and a flavourful topping.

Now my Kosovo friends and the ones from other Balkan countries will jump—wait a minute we also have moussaka in our national cuisines :-)! And I am glad we all share this recipe—this means we all contributed to enriching it and making it an all-time favourite!

The Bulgarian cuisine is very influenced by centuries of interacting with Greeks, Romans, and Turks in the territories of what is today’s Bulgaria. So no wonder a fairly similar recipe can be found in the cuisines of these countries.

The difference between the Bulgarian and Greek moussaka is that the Bulgarian one uses potatoes and not eggplants. This recipe is defiantly worth a try. Its basic ingredients are fairly plain, but the yoghurt based topping gives it a unique, tangy taste.

Ingredients:

1kg potatoes for a baking pan with width of 40 cm

3 tablespoons of olive oil

½ kg ground beef

2 onions, finely chopped

1 fresh tomato, peeled and sliced thin

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

Paprika to taste

Dry oregano to taste

Vegeta to taste

3 large eggs

4 tablespoons of  flour

1 cup (250 g) of plain yoghurt

Fresh parsley, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 250 C.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes until soft. Add ground beef and stir fry until brown, then add the tomato, salt, black pepper, paprika, oregano and parsley. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid from the tomato is almost evaporated and the mixture becomes dry.

The peeled and washed potatoes need to be cut preliminary to small cubes as in the picture below.

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Put the potatoes in the pan, sprinkle with vegeta (or salt to taste) and olive oil. Add the ground beef mixture onto the potatoes and mix well with a spoon to ensure the meat has spread evenly. Pour water to almost cover the last level of potatoes. Bake for about an hour or until the liquid is evaporated.

In the meantime, beat the eggs in a bowl, add the yoghurt and flour and mix well. Add salt to your taste. Pour over the already dried moussaka and bake until the top is golden brown and crispy.

Serve warm with a salad of your choice or tarator aka Tzatziki 😉

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