KO’s Yiouvarlakia (Meatball Soup with Rice) is one of my mum’s recipes. This is a recipe she learned from her mother and one that I took with me, when Eugene and I moved to Seattle, almost 30 years ago. It is a wholesome and hearty soup that nourished and comforted us while we lived there and has nourished and nurtured our children since our return to Australia 7 years later.
It’s a soup that I would make when we stayed in accommodation that had a kitchen, when we travelled, and I would feel satisfied that my children had at least one nutritious and satiating meal that day.
It’s a soup that my beautiful thia Vanggio would make, and have ready for us to eat, when we arrived after 30 hours of journeying from Melbourne, Australia, to Kastraki, Greece… In fact, my aunt would also make a large batch of the meatballs and freeze them uncooked. I would then take out as many as I needed and turn them into soup, for an easy dinner for my children, when they were tired after a long day touring around the Meteora.
Just writing this makes me see how this soup for me, for my family, expresses connection, continuity and commitment to life and each other… and the fact that real food isn’t just food, it’s so much more…
KO’s Yiouvarlakia is a wholesome, hearty soup of herb-loaded meatballs and rice. The soup can be enjoyed as is, or with an avgolemono (egg-lemon) wash, for an added frothy-zing!
For the meatballs you will need…
- 500 g beef mince
- 1 brown onion grated
- 1 egg
- ½ cup medium grain rice
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 20 g mint leaves finely chopped
- 60 g parsley leaves finely chopped
- 60 g dill fronds finely chopped
For the soup you will need…
- 4 litres water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil EVOO
- Meatball mixture
Preparing the meatballs…
Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a bowl and mix well
Preparing the soup…
Place the water, salt and EVOO in a large pot and heat on high
Form the meatball mixture into balls, about 5cm in diameter, and gently drop the meatballs into the boiling soup
Return the soup to a rolling boil, before reducing to a gentle boil for 20 - 30 minutes
Skim the foam from the top of the soup if you wish
Add 1 ½ cups medium grain rice to the pot and stir through well
Continue to boil gently until the rice is almost cooked through (just before it reaches al dente – see Key Points)
Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to sit for 10 minutes before serving
Serving the yiouvarlakia…
You can enjoy the soup as is, or you can add an avgolemono (egg-lemowash to it, for some extra frothy-zing
For the avgolemono wash…
Separate 3 eggs, juice 3 lemons and reserve 150ml of stock from the pot
Allow the stock to cool a little, so that it’s warm rather than hot
Beat the egg whites till they form soft peaks
Gently fold in the egg yolks, the lemon juice and the warm stock, in turn, to create the avgolemono wash
Slowly add the avgolemono wash to the yiouvarlakia pot and mix through
Serve and enjoy!
• I usually start heating the water in the pot just before I start preparing the mince meat mixture. That way I can form the meatballs and drop them into the pot as soon as the mince meat mixture is ready
• Skimming the foam from the boiling broth is optional. The foam is actually cooked blood, which is full of nutrients. It may not look pretty, but it’s good for you!
• It is really important not to undercook or overcook the rice in the soup. If you undercook the rice, it will have a crunchy texture. If you overcook the rice, the rice grains will ‘split’ and have a soft, mushy texture. Neither is good! The mouth-feel of the rice when you are eating the soup should be distinct grains of rice, with a little firmness to the tooth (al dente). To achieve this, you need to keep your eye on the rice and test it. As the rice grains begin to enlarge, pick out a grain of rice and bite on it to see how cooked it is. Keep doing this until it is almost al dente As the soup rests and begins to cool down, it will continue to absorb water from the broth and reach al dente. This is when you serve it and enjoy it at its best! If you leave the soup to rest for too long, the rice will continue to absorb water, expand and reach the softer, split stage
• If you are making and adding avgolemono to the soup, start preparing it as soon as you take the soup off the heat. It should take about 10 minutes to make the avgolemono, the same time the soup is left to rest. If you wait too long to make and add the avgolemono to the soup, the rice will reach the split stage
• The stock you add to the avgolemono should be warm, not hot; otherwise the heat will scramble the eggs. You may want to reserve the soup stock used in the avgolemono 10 minutes before you take the soup off heat. That way the reserved stock has enough time to cool down, yet still be warm enough, to temper the eggs, rather than cook them
• If you have any leftover soup it will likely reach the split stage, but it’s not the end of the world if a bowl or two are eaten this way
• This recipe and the quantities assume you are using a vented lid on your pot. If you are not using a lid, you will need to add a little bit more water to account for the extra loss of water due to evaporation