Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Meatballs with parsley and mint: a tribute to the long-gone corner butcher shop.

Once upon a time, butcher shops had blue tiles on the outside, an inwardly slanting main window for easier viewing of the displayed product from the street, and sawdust on the floor.

The sawdust, combined with the smell of fresh meat, produced a curiously sweet aroma. The butchers used curly-leaf parsley to decorate the meat trays. The rich green of the parsley muted the sea of red meat and made it more appetising.

My mother's parcel of mince steak from R. J. Gilbertson in Puckle Street Moonee Ponds would often contain a few sprigs of the green herb, which would be cooked into the resulting patties.

Later, parsley was made obsolete as a garnish after the butchers invented those green plastic edging things. These days, the butcher's window itself has all but disappeared from the streetscape.

Greek-style meatballs with parsley and mint.

Put 600g of lean minced steak into a large mixing bowl with a cup and a half of finely chopped parsley, half a cup of finely chopped mint, a teaspoonful of oregano, two crushed and chopped cloves of garlic and a dash of salt and pepper.

Mix with wet hands and form into walnut-size balls.

Fry until done.

Squeeze plenty of lemon juice over the meatballs. Make a dipping sauce of Greek yogurt mixed with diced cucumber, chopped mint, dried oregano and paprika. Roll the meatballs up into fresh pita bread and serve with a salad of rocket, tomato, red onion, feta and balsamic vinegar.

Or cook them in a basic tomato sauce and serve over spaghetti.

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