Monday, 1 February 2016

Youvarlakia soup (Γιουβαρλάκια σούπα)

Youvarlakia is Greece's version of a meatball soup, most commonly made with white sauce, although you will also see it made occasionally with tomato. The dish basically consists of meatballs boiled in a light water-based broth, with egg and lemon juice beaten into it once the meatballs are cooked. I make youvarlakia about once a month in the winter period. Since the kids have become avid vegetable eaters, I now add a lot of vegetables to the soup, together with the meatballs, and our youvarlakia soup turns into a very hearty and less meaty meal. My recent youvarlakia variation turned out to be the most popular version of the dish to date.

For the meatballs, you need:
1 kg minced beef (or pork, or a mixture of beef and pork)
1 large onion, finely grated
2-3 garlic cloves, finely grated
1/2 cup rice
a few springs of parsley, finely chopped
a few sprigs of mint, finely chopped
salt & pepper to taste
a little olive oil
some flour for dusting

For the soup, you need:
3 litres of water (or stock - I prefer water for a lighter soup)
50g butter (you can also use olive oil instead - I prefer butter because I don't use stock)
a few sprigs of dill, finely chopped
1/2 small cauliflower (or broccoli), broken into bite-size florets
1 large carrot, cut in small chunks
1 cup of peas
These are the vegetables I used in this version of the soup. You can use any vegetables that will keep their shape when cooked - I try to use only seasonal vegetables, especially if we grow them ourselves.

For the sauce, you need:
2 eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice

Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs (except the flour) together very well by kneading them. Make golf-ball sized balls, and roll them in flour. Set them aside while making the soup.

Boil all the ingredients for the soup together. When you get a rolling boil, add the meatballs, one by one, and continue to boil the soup until the liquid starts rolling again. It may need more water if the liquids have evaporated too quickly (you can make it as thick as you prefer). Turn down the heat to the minimum, place a lid on the pot and continue to cook the soup until it becomes creamy, for at least 60 minutes. Turn off the heat, take off the lid and allow the soup to settle for a quarter of an hour.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and lemon juice together. Pour a tablespoon of the soup into the egg and lemon mixture and keep beating the sauce (otherwise the egg will 'cook', like scrambled eggs). Pour another tablespoon into the sauce and keep beating. Keep doing this until the bowl is nearly full. (Don't try to hurry this step - you will spoil the soup by cooking the egg.) Now pour the sauce slowly into the soup. Stir it in gently. The soup is now ready. Serve it hot.

Youvarlakia soup is hearty enough to be eaten on its own with some thick slices of toasted bread. If you like to add a bit more protein to it, try it with a thin slice of feta cheese on the side, or crumbled into the soup. This soup will congeal once it cools down, but when warmed up, it becomes runny again. It also tastes good the next day.

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