Greek lamb meatballs in egg/lemon sauce "Greek Cooking for the Gods"
Soupa Avgolemono is the latest discovery of my new New England born daughter-in-law, a serious baker and adventurous cook. With New York winter's bitter cold and snow, a repertoire of quick, delicious hot soups is truly life enhancing.
This one was a favourite of my Queens' childhood, thanks to my mother's close friend Toni (for Antonia), an extraordinary home cook who introduced us to the delights of Greek food. So many amazing things I tasted first at Toni's table (she taught me how to make dolmades, the little finger shaped bites of rice wrapped in vine leaves, then simmered in broth) and her baklava is still famous among her friends and extended family.
Basically chicken soup with rice, enriched and thickened with a blend of lemon juice and egg whipped to an airy foam, Soupa Avgolemono is pure heaven, whether served hot or (in summer) at room temperature. Its perfection depends very much on a last minute finish, however, the lemon juice and eggs beaten into into the hot soup just before it goes on the table. (Find the recipe earlier in this blog under Chicken and Egg Soup).
Its close sibling, Avgolemono Saltsa (egg/lemon sauce), is a staple of Mediterranean cooking; Claudia Roden gives an excellent recipe for leeks in egg/lemon sauce in "Arabesque", her collection of Turkish, Moroccan and Lebanese dishes, and you can find this delicate, foamy saltsa poured over lamb, chicken, fish or vegetables (as above) and combined in the sauce of stews all over the region. Note: best used the same day, as the bubbles vanish when kept overnight. Still tastes luscious, though.
It is particularly wonderful with tiny, tender, lamb meatballs. Flavoured with finely chopped parsley and fresh mint, mixed with plain raw rice, then simmered in chicken or meat stock (not fried), these little walnut sized balls almost melt in your mouth. Covered with foamy egg/lemon sauce, they are truly food of the gods.
Youvarlakia - lamb meatballs in egg/lemon sauce
adapted from "Greek Cooking for the Gods", published October, 1973 by 101 Productions. (A gift from wonderful Toni)
1 lb (approx 500gr) ground lamb
1 medium onion, finely chopped or grated
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint - or more if you like
1 egg, beaten
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
Egg/lemon sauce - avgolemono saltza
Makes 2 cups:
3 eggs separated
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Beat egg whites until stiff. Add egg yolks and continue beating; add lemon juice very slowly, beating constantly so the sauce does not curdle.
Thicken hot chicken stock with cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water. Slowly add stock to egg mixture, beating constantly until thick and creamy.
Make meat balls:
Combine ground lamb, onion, parsley, mint and beaten egg; season with salt and pepper; knead well, then form small, walnut sized balls. Melt butter in a shallow casserole and arrange meatballs in a single layer on the bottom. Add broth, bring to a simmer, cover and cook on very low heat (the broth barely bubbling) for about 35-40 minutes.
Pour egg/lemon sauce over the top and serve.
The suggestion in "Greek Food of the Gods" is to serve this with slice of feta cheese and Greek olives, with crusty bread to soak up the juices. I like to add something green on the side, like peas or those very thin French beans.