Posts Tagged ‘soup’


Youvarlakia is a Greek soup dish made of  lamb and rice balls in an egg and lemon broth.  This is one of my favourites.  For me, it is true comfort food.  Not the most attractive of dishes but as they say, never judge a book by its cover.  What it lacks in plate appeal it certainly makes up for in taste.  The avgolemono broth has a combination of lemon which gives it an acidity with the eggs softening this by creating a creamy richness.  These go together beautifully with the lamb and rice meatballs.  Many Greeks add potatoes and carrots to cook with the broth, but I prefer mine plain or with some wilted spinach.

I can still see my mother at the kitchen table pushing meat and onion through the mincer clamped to the table.  The minced ingredients would then be placed into a large mixing bowl where she would  knead them with her hands for all she was worth.  I am sure looking back that this was a way to get out all her frustrations – and early form of de-stressing.  I now realise that I spent an awful lot of time sitting at the kitchen table watching her cook, learning to judge when to interject with offers of help and when to just keep quiet.  When it came to the task of mincing, I was always desperate to turn the handle, but the occasions that I was honored with this task were few and far between.  When my chance came my fear that if I turned the handle too quickly there might be a nasty accident meant that the turning was painfully slow.  After a couple of minutes my mothers patience ran out and I was relieved of the task for being too slow and sent back to my perch on the kitchen stool!

When I make this dish I am reminded so strongly of my brother.  We knew those little meatballs as hedgehogs because of the spikes of rice that stick out of them.  We both loved them and would always ask my mother to cook them.

Later in life when we returned home for visits there was always the  prior discussions with my mother on what we wanted her to cook for us.  Youvarlakia and Lahanodolmades (the same meat mixture but wrapped in cabbage leaves) were the two favourites that I remembered asking  for – the usual reply back was that they were a lot of work but instead she would cook me something else much nicer.

Except, that was, when I went home and my brother was there.  Then we would get Youvarlakia or Lahanodolmades.  They were his favourite and obviously the importance of pleasing the eldest son was a very big factor for my mother.  When I complained at the table that she never made these for just me, my brother would laugh resting his hand on my arm to demonstrate he meant no malice but silently saying ‘well what do you expect’.  I soon made sure that any future visits coincided with his!

Some recipes call for a little oil or an egg to be added to the meatball ingredients, supposedly to lighten them and perhaps bind the mixture.  I find this makes the broth a little greasy and I feel do not add to the dish.

Youvarlakia Γιουβαρλάκια

450g/1 lb minced lamb

1 onion grated or very finely chopped

35g/2oz long grain rice

1 tbs mint dried

2 tbs parsley finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

flour for coating (to make this gluten free, leave the flour out)

stock (either a stock cube or homemade)

3 large eggs

3 tbs lemon juice

Mix together the meat, onion, rice, mint, parsley and season with the salt and pepper.  I find that it’s best to use your hands.  Knead until very well combined.

Now take a slightly larger tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball.  Roll in the flour to coat.

Put the stock in a pan and bring to a  gentle boil.  Gently drop the floured balls into the stock, cover and lower the heat.  The liquid should just cover all the balls.  Gently simmer for 45 minutes.

Remove from the heat and pour a little of the stock into a cup.  This will be used for the sauce.

Avgolemono broth

Separate the eggs.  Whip the egg whites with a little salt until soft peaks are reached.  Continue whipping while adding the yolks, continue to whip, add the lemon juice and then the saved cup of  the now cooled stock a little at a time – the stock needs to have cooled and added a little at a time as you don’t want to curdle the eggs.  I tend to add a little more stock from the pan to the egg and lemon mixture before adding this to the pan with the meatballs.  Once added give the pan a good shake to incorporate the avgolemono broth.   You could use a wooden spoon to mix but the meatballs are prone to breaking.

Place the balls into a soup dish and spoon over the broth, serving with some extra lemon.

The downside of the avgolemono broth is once made it doesn’t like to be reheated.  The way to get round this is to make the meatballs and remove them from the stock.  The meatballs can be refrigerated separately.  If you are planning on making the meatballs last two meals then it is best to reheat half the meatballs with half the stock, making fresh avgolemono broth each time.

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Celery Soup - Copy

Soup to me never looks appealing – it’s all in the taste.  Celery and Stilton are not two ingredients I would rush to eat on their own but together they go very well.  This is often a soup I make after Christmas as there is always a piece of Stilton left in the back of the fridge which I am not going to eat on a cracker and I am too mean to throw out.

My father was a huge fan of Stilton.  Whenever he came to stay he would ask if there were any moldy bits of cake or Stilton lurking anywhere?  If so he would be only too happy to finish them off for me as a favour – no gain whatsoever for him.  He also had the same selfless attitude to any open bottles of spirits.

I always did have both, something we both knew I would have and neither of which were ever moldy.  His favourite way of dispatching the Stilton would be to toast a French Stick sliced in half and then covered with slices of Stilton which were then placed under the grill until bubbly.  This soup made a near perfect lunch for him as long as there was a generous slice of fruit cake to follow.

Stilton Cheese

The piece of 85g/3oz Stilton cheese I used

Celery &  Stilton Soup with Stilton Croutons


60 g butter

1 head of celery (whole celery trimmed, I don’t use the leaves)

2 medium onions

850 ml/1 ½ pts vegetable stock

salt and pepper

85g/3 oz Stilton

double cream (optional)

For the Croutons

French bread cut into thin slices

extra Stilton


Trim, wash celery and chop finely.

Chop onions finely.

Melt butter in a saucepan.  Add celery and onion and leave to sweat with the lid on for ten minutes.  Stir a couple of times just to check that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.

Once vegetables have softened add 850ml/1 ½ pt vegetable stock, stir and replace lid and simmer gently for 30 minutes.   Check that the vegetables have cooked. To test, push a piece of celery against the side of the pan and it should crumble.  At this point you could add salt and pepper but I prefer to season after I have added the Stilton.

Liquidise while still hot.  At this point you have a choice, either to leave it as a celery and onion soup which tastes good or to add the Stilton which will change the flavour totally.

If adding the Stilton there is no fixed measure to add, just the left over bits in the fridge will transform the soup.  About 85g/3oz is just about enough for me.  Crumble the Stilton as you add it to the hot soup and stir, it will melt with the heat.  Taste and season if required.

If re-heating do not boil but bring slowly to a gentle simmer.

It is ready to serve.  Cream for decoration can be added at this point.

Stilton Croutons

Slice the French bread into 1 cm slices.  Any thicker and you lose the toasted crispness.

Toast the French bread on both sides.  Slice some Stilton and place on top of the slices and put back under the grill, it will only take a few minutes for the Stilton to melt.

Place on top of the soup and serve.

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