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.
MEATBALLS WITH WHITE SAUCE
5 small handfuls of short grain rice
2 small handfuls of oat bran
cayenne pepper, to taste
juice of 1½ lemons
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.
Shape the mince into meatballs.
Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and brown the meatballs on all sides. In the meantime boil a pot of water.
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).
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.
Add this frothy mixture to the meatballs, shake the pot and sit for a couple of minutes to allow it to set.