Cumin-Spiced Meatballs in Rich Tomato Sauce
Soutzoukakia is a dish of Turkish origin, brought over by the Greek refugees of Asia Minor in the early 1900s. The word soutzoukakia is a combination of the Turkish word sucuk, which means sausage, and the Greek diminutive –akia, translating to “little sausages,” something their oblong shape is indeed reminiscent of.
Apart from their odd shape, what makes soutzoukakia different from other meatballs is the liberal use of garlic in their preparation and their distinct aroma of cumin. Some versions also have a hint of cinnamon hiding in the background. Two teaspoons (10 g) worth of mild garlic paste in this recipe could be considered lightweight to some, so I must admit I let my personal preference interfere. Feel free to load up on more, or use minced garlic for a stronger taste, if that is your thing.
- For the meatballs
- 1 cup (100 g) bread crumbs, tightly packed (about 3 slices of stale bread—I use multigrain)
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) red wine
- 1 1/2 pound (680 g) ground beef
- 2 teaspoons (10 g) mild garlic paste, or 1–2 minced cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon (2 g) dried parsley
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) powdered cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- For the sauce
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, no salt added, with liquid
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) butter
- 2 teaspoons (2 g) dried onion flakes, or 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- Rice, mashed potatoes or French fries, to serve
Toss the bread crumbs with the red wine in a small bowl using your fingers. They won’t become very wet.
Place the ground beef in a large bowl. Add the moist bread crumbs, garlic paste, parsley, salt, cumin, black pepper and cinnamon. Using your hands, knead the mixture well for 4 to 5 minutes, then let it rest for about 10 minutes.
Stir all the ingredients for the sauce in the slow cooker insert.
Shape 3 level tablespoons of the mixture into long, oval-shaped meatballs. You should get about sixteen meatballs. Place them on top of the sauce in the slow cooker without mixing. Cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, or until the meatballs are fully cooked and the sauce is slightly thickened. They can be stirred or flipped gently toward the end of cooking if desired.
Serve over rice or mashed potatoes or home-cooked French fries, with a generous helping of sauce.