This blog is dedicated to the immigrants that came from Asia Minor to Greece a hundred or more years ago. As a result of war, the inhabitants of the coastal areas of Asia Minor were expelled and forced to find salvation by way of immigration. A situation that reminds us of the reality we are facing today.
Asia Minor Catastrophe
Many of these refugees, due to the hardship while travelling, died or drowned. Those who survived were found not only in Greece, but also in other countries such as Syria, Egypt, the USA and Australia. In Greece alone about a million people arrived! I have read many books related to the Asia Minor Catastrophe. In Greece we have grown up with such readings, referring to real stories describing how they left on foot, and all the hardships that they endured.
In the early 20th century Smyrna in Turkey – today known as Izmir – was a cosmopolitan city on the East coast of the Aegean, opposite Chios. The highest percentage of its inhabitants were Greeks that excelled in trade, mainly tobacco. Smyrna was famous for its cuisine. After the invasion of the Turkish army in Smyrna in 1922, the entire Greek population was expelled and forced to escape to Greece and other countries.
Refugees brought wonderful recipes to Greece
The expelled people from Smyrna not only brought with them their manners and customs, habits and culture, but as well their gastronomy and food, much more aromatic and influenced by the Asian cuisine with smells and flavours from the East. Today’s recipe Soutzoukakia Smyrneika is one of the many wonderful recipes they brought with them.
Soutzoukakia Smyrneika are spicy meatballs, first fried and then cooked (baked) in tomato sauce. They are very popular in all the houses and taverns, even my Dutch husband has fallen in love with them. He eats the meatballs with pasta or rice. My mother taught me this recipe, that she herself had learned from one of the women from Smyrna that had come to Poros with her family.
Making Soutzoukakia Smyrneika
Soak the bread in water for 10 minutes and discard the crust. Squeeze the water from the bread and mix with the mince, egg, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper and 1 small glass of the wine. The best results for mixing are always achieved by using your hands.
When properly mixed make long thin shapes, like fat cigars, about the length of your finger (around 15 of them).
Roll them in the flour or sprinkle the flour over the meatballs.
Fry the meatballs in the vegetable oil on medium heat, making sure that they are crisp all over. In the meantime, put the olive oil in a saucepan and when it’s warm, add the tomatoes and the rest of the wine. Cook slowly for 5 minutes, stirring and ensure it does not stick.
Add the Soutzoukakia as they come out of the frying pan, covering them with tomato sauce, add a little more water if needed, cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley. With its rich sauce it can be served with plain white rice or mashed potatoes as a main dish. They also make great starters for a dinner party!