mother

Ejo #116 – My Mum’s Recipes: Meatballs With White Sauce

A couple of years ago, I thought it would be wise to ask my Mum how she made my favourite meal, meatballs with white sauce.  And I’m so glad I did because I don’t really think I could have ever reverse-engineered it.  There’s a sneaky little step at the end which turns a pot of boiling meat into something absolutely magical.  And the secret is avgolémono.  Avgolémono, which literally translates into egg-lemon, is a very Greek flavouring used in lots of different types of dishes.  But my absolute favourite (the best) is this one.

My whole life, whenever my Mum asked what I’d like to eat for my special birthday meal, the answer was always meatballs with white sauce.  And later on, after David and I moved to Dubai, Mum always cooked it as our welcome home meal, because she knew that’s what I wanted.  Sometimes we’d even have it as our farewell meal too.  I’m pretty sure that I have never, ever asked for any other dish.  Ever.  So of course she was never surprised with my answer.  She still asked, but she always knew.  Everyone knew.  This was my dish.  This will always be my dish.

I’m pretty sure meatballs with white sauce has a proper Greek name, but I don’t know what it is.  We always called it meatballs with white sauce, to differentiate it from another of Mum’s dishes which was meatballs with red sauce.  We kept things simple in my family.  This isn’t a dish that can be described.  It needs to be eaten, it needs to be tasted, it needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated.  This dish does take some time to cook, but it’s not difficult to make, so I do hope that you give it a shot.  And who knows, maybe it’ll become your favourite dish too.

Because she knew how much I loved it, meatballs with white sauce became a love letter between my mother and me.  She loved cooking it, and I loved eating it.  And we always shared a moment of gratitude/appreciation/acknowledgement when she served it at the dinner table.  Fittingly, it was the last thing my Mum ever cooked for me.  I had no way of knowing back then that it would be our last meal together but if I had known, perhaps I would have cooked it for her.  Either way, I’m glad it was meatballs with white sauce.

Kalí órexi.

MEATBALLS WITH WHITE SAUCE
INGREDIENTS:
500g mince
3 eggs
5 small handfuls of short grain rice
2 small handfuls of oat bran
cayenne pepper, to taste
olive oil
juice of 1½ lemons

METHOD:
Mix mince, one egg and rice in a bowl.  Add a splash of water if required.  Season with salt, pepper and cayenne, and add oat bran and a dash of olive oil.  Mix well, cover and leave for 20 minutes.

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My Mum used to use breadcrumbs but then she experimented a little bit and found that oat bran made the meatballs softer.

 

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Cover with plastic wrap and go have a glass of wine.

Shape the mince into meatballs.

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Measure each meatball by the very first meatball, rather than the last one you’ve made.  That way they will end up roughly the same size.

 

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One of these meatballs is not like the other.  Try to make them all the same size so they cook evenly but don’t forget that one of them will be sacrificed in order to make the dish so damn creamy and thicc and delicious.

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and brown the meatballs on all sides.  In the meantime boil a pot of water.

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Brown the meatballs in batches – but be sure not to cook them through.  You just want them to be a golden brown colour, all over

Place the meatballs and the oil from the frying pan into the pot of water and allow to boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until done (about 90 minutes).

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You just want a very low simmer.  Also, you don’t want too much water in the pot otherwise the whole thing will turn out too watery.  No-one wants that

When you are ready to serve, mix the lemon juice and 1½ cups of meatball liquid from the pot with an electric mixer.  Add one meatball and continue mixing until smooth.  In a large bowl, crack two eggs and a splash of water and mix until frothy.  Slowly add the meatball liquid.

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This is where the magic happens. And that magic is called avgolémono.

Add this frothy mixture to the meatballs, shake the pot and sit for a couple of minutes to allow it to set.

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Look at them!!!  I just want to put my whole face in there.  My Mum would be proud.

 

Ejo #112 – Dear Mum…

Sometime in mid-March I wrote a bunch of cards for friends and family around the world that would be celebrating their birthdays and anniversaries in April. One of those birthday cards was to my Mum. Sadly, I never got to give it to her. Not when she was alive, anyway. While I was enjoying a spur-of-the-moment long weekend in Tbilisi, my beautiful mother died in hospital, getting ready for emergency surgery. She’d been ill with an aortic aneurysm for a while but I guess I didn’t realise just how serious it was. Maybe she downplayed it, or maybe I just didn’t want to realise it. Whatever the case, her death hit me like a freight train.

This ejo is going to be a rambling rumination on the process of grief (mine anyway). As I said in my previous post, the last thing I feel like doing is writing and publishing my ejos, but I KNOW my Mum would have wanted me to keep doing it and so I will try. I can’t guarantee the next few will be any good, or that they’ll be about anything other than my deep love for my Mum and the profound feeling of loss I have now that she’s gone. But hey, it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to.

Grief is weird, it truly is. As most of you know, this isn’t my first rodeo. Oh yeah, grief and I go way back. I lost my Dad to cancer in 2003, so I’ve been around the block as far as losing a parent goes. But the thing you need to know about grief is that it isn’t an emotion, or a feeling. Grief is actually just a process. So you can’t define how it feels. It’s different for each person, and different each time. So yes, I was familiar with grief, but I wasn’t prepared for how I would feel when my Mum died. I actually had no fucking idea how much it would hurt. Losing my second parent has been exponentially more painful. I loved my parents equally, but in the fifteen and a half years since Dad died I’ve developed a deeper emotional relationship and bond with my Mum. Plus, she’s my Mum, you know. I still cannot fully comprehend what it means to be without the woman that gave birth to me (after 36 hours of labour – sorry!), the woman who gave me life and who loved me so fiercely, and so unconditionally. I still cannot really process a world in which that is a fact. I feel lost, and the feeling is awful and lonely and devastatingly sad.

Grief is weird. Part of the weirdness is that I judge myself quite harshly about how I’m actually grieving. Sometimes I feel like I’m not sad enough. I function enough to go to work (which requires a pretty high level of functioning) and I appear fine, but on the inside I am ashamed that I’m not a blubbering mess. I am ashamed that I am even able to function. Other times, it’s all I can do to remain standing when the waves of grief hit. And they hit hard. And I bawl and wail and curl up into a little ball and I miss my Mum so desperately that it physically hurts. It’s genuinely how I feel but part of me thinks that it’s all a bit melodramatic and over the top. That I should be better by now. That other people don’t carry on like little babies when their parents die. But you know what, maybe they should. And maybe we should expect them to. Because it sucks and it’s sad, and even though time heals, it doesn’t heal linearly. It heals like a fucking mess.

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I’ve had some well-meaning people tell me to be strong. But I’ve never understood that. I’m strong the rest of the time. When my Mum dies, I’m going to be destroyed. I’m going to be confused and bewildered and emotional, and I’m going to cry myself to sleep. Every single night. And that’s OK. Because the fact that my beloved mother is dead is absolute fucking agony. I recently discovered that I was capable of sounding like an animal while crying. A wounded animal. I forgot how visceral and guttural grief can be. How your heart can physically ache, as though it’s been punched. Sometimes I cannot breathe from the pain. It’s so raw, so intense, so monstrous. My Mum was my favourite person in the world, and now there is a big empty hole in my heart and in my life, where she used to be.

Sadly, I have so many regrets. The two saddest words in the world are, “If only…”. I try not to beat myself about it but there are so many things I wish I had done, or said, or asked. I try to be gentle on myself, but it’s not always easy. Regrets are sneaky little fuckers. On the other hand, I am grateful for so many things, and I try to keep my focus on that. I am grateful that she knew how much I loved her (oh, she knew). And I’m so, so grateful that I got to spend some time with her in February. I’m grateful that my sisters were with her when she died. I’m grateful that in the last couple of years she taught me how to make some of my favourite meals. Her best recipes. I’m grateful to have a couple of her rings, which I wear every day. And I’m grateful that I brought back her pink jumper, infused with her Mum smell. She might be gone, but her essence is still here, for now. And so, a part of her is still here. With me. It’s weird to get so much pleasure from something that leaves you with so much pain but I’m grateful that my brain can be tricked into thinking she’s still alive, even for just a second. I bury my face in the soft, pink cotton, close my eyes and inhale deeply, and her scent just brings my Mum back and I am there, hugging her and smelling her, and being enveloped in her warm embrace. And then I open my eyes and the only thing I’m holding is her pink jumper.

 

Ejo #111 – No Ejo

I wasn’t even going to publish an ejo this month because my Mum unexpectedly died a few days ago and I am experiencing tsunami wave after wave of indescribable pain and grief.  I figured, if there was ever a good enough reason to not publish – this was it.  I am absolutely fucking grief stricken.  My heart is shattered into a million pieces and the last thing I feel like doing is publishing my 111th ejo.

But….

My Mum was my biggest fan.  Hands down.  Each and every month she would read my rants and take the time to write back to me and tell me what she liked about what I had written.  And sorry to the rest of you, but my Mum’s opinion was the only one that mattered.

I feel empty now, writing this from my Mum’s study, knowing she isn’t in the other room.  Knowing she won’t ever read it.  Knowing I won’t get a response this time.  But still, I’m doing it for her.  All of my future ejos will be for her.

I love you Mum.

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