For a while now I’ve been meaning to try and adapt this classic Greek recipe for preparation in the slow cooker. It’s one of those things I usually remember at the wrong time, like when I haven’t defrosted the minced meat. Finally, on Saturday I remembered to take the meat out of the freezer, buy parsley, and properly plan my experiment for Sunday. This had to be a weekend endeavour for me, as I knew the meatballs wouldn’t need all day in the slow cooker, and my working hours have me away from home for at least 9.5 hours on weekdays.
Giouvarlakia are meatballs made with rice in the mixture, cooked in water or stock and served (traditionally) in egg-lemon soup (Avgolemono). If you don’t fancy soup, this version makes the juice just thick enough to act as a sauce (albeit a runny one), ideal for being mopped up with fresh crusty bread. Chips (French fries) are also good vessels to use for plate cleaning in this case. The resulting meatballs are similar to the insides of these stuffed courgettes, but are much easier to make.
I started by prepping the veg, cutting it into fairly small pieces to cook quicker, and getting it going in the Crockpot. I then made my Giouvarlakia, slightly on the large side so as to delay cooking time a bit and allow enough time for the potatoes and carrots to soften. They were bigger than golf ball size, with about 3-4 level tablespoons of mixture in each one. The amounts stated below gave me nine meatballs. I used a 4 quart Crockpot and the meat, perched on top of the veg, was partially submerged in the 3 cups of water.
Slow Cooker Giouvarlakia
1 medium sized potato, cut into smallish pieces (approx. 3-5 cm or 1-2 inches)
2 small carrots, sliced
1 celery stick cut into chunks
3 cups of water or stock
500g minced meat (I used a mix of beef and pork, you can use just beef if preferred)
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 Tbs parsley, chopped finely
5 Tbs rice for risotto (Arborio or similar)
2 tsp salt, divided
¼ tsp pepper (I used white)
1 tsp olive oil
1 large lemon, juice
1. Place potatoes, carrots and celery in the bottom of the slow cooker insert and pour in the water. If you want to help things along and maybe shorten cooking time, you can use boiling water. I used 2 cups cold, 1 cup boiling. Sprinkle one teaspoon of salt over veg and water. Turn on slow cooker to low.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the meat, onion, parsley, rice, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and oil. Mix well with your hands till it comes together, but don’t over mix so the meatballs aren’t too dense.
3. Shape the mixture into meatballs and place on top of the veg in the slow cooker. Some won’t be completely submerged, that’s fine.
4. Leave them to cook for about 6 hours and check for doneness. You can use a thermometer or break one in two and take a peek. I find that the thermometer is best, as sometimes meat in the slow cooker keeps a sort of pinky colour, even if it’s well over the required temperature. Mine were in for 6 ½ hours on low and were done, as was the veg. During cooking (after about 3 hours) I also turned them upside down once, using barbeque tongs, but I’m sure they would have been fine even if I hadn’t disturbed them at all.
5. When the meatballs are ready take them out of the slow cooker with a slotted spoon (keep them warm as best you can, but don’t worry too much). In a mixing bowl beat the eggs and lemon juice till well combined. Place the bowl next to the slow cooker, and using a ladle, slowly add small amounts of hot juice into the egg mixture, beating continuously. Start with about one tablespoon at a time, and gradually increase the amount of juice added to the bowl. This is called tempering the eggs and it needs to be done so they don’t scramble. When most of the juice from the Crockpot has been transferred to the egg mixture, and the bowl feels warm to the touch, pour the mixture back into the insert. Take the insert out of the base and move it round a bit, so the sauce goes all round the veg, and place it back into the slow cooker.
6. Put the meatballs back into the sauce (or soup!), cover and leave for about 5 minutes till it’s all warmed through again. Keep an eye on it so the egg doesn’t misbehave!
7. Serve with fresh crusty bread and feta cheese.
Note: If you want to enjoy this as a soup, I suggest you use 4 cups of stock instead of the 3 cups of water.
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