Keftedes are Greek/Cypriot meatballs, traditionally made with pork or beef, though there are many vegetarian versions. These are my interpretation: Vegan Keftedes with Broccoli and Lentils. Potato and breadcrumbs form the base in my version, with great flavour coming from the broccoli, lentils, vegan feta cheese and just a dash of ground cinnamon.
You will find a food processor very useful while making this dish, particularly one that has a grating attachment, which you can use to grate the potatoes. It is important to squeeze out as much water as you can from the potatoes once they are grated, in order to get them as dry as possible before mixing them in with the rest of the ingredients. This will prevent the final dish becoming too sloppy. You want to be able to roll firm balls that hold together, and there is enough moisture in the rest of the ingredients to do that successfully. However, don’t grate the potatoes too early as they will go brown if left uncovered. My advice is to grate them and squeeze them at a time when they can be mixed immediately with the rest of the dish.
Bread that is a day or two old is much better for turning into breadcrumbs, so this is a great meal to make when you’ve got the end of a loaf lying around that you didn’t get to finish. Again, the food processor is a life-saver here. Chop the bread up into bitesize pieces and then whizz in the processor for about 20 seconds. I have done this in a blender also, though you tend to have to do it in small batches, due to the width of the jug. Either way, you want to get as fine a breadcrumb as you can, as they will work through the rest of the mix much more evenly.
These vegan keftedes with broccoli and lentils are perfect when eaten straight after cooking, especially with a vegan Greek salad or with rice, but you can also chill them and have them cold the next day. They reheat nicely in the oven as well, so you don’t have to have them hot the same day.
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Vegan Keftedes with Broccoli and Lentils
Prep time: about 30 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling. Cooking time: about 30 minutes total.
Makes 27-30 balls.
For the Keftedes:
175g/5 oz day or two old bread
175g/6 oz broccoli (both heads and stalks can be used)
550g/1 lb 3 oz potatoes, skin on
1 x 400g/14 o can cooked lentils, drained
1 tsp baking powder
1 level tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp dried basil
4 tbsp vegan Greek style yoghurt
100g/3 ½ oz vegan feta cheese, roughly chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
About 50g/2 oz flour for dusting
Enough vegetable oil for deep frying
For the salad:
4-6 leaves romaine lettuce, sliced
½ red onion, sliced
2 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 clementines or tangerines, segmented
A small handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly cut
The seeds from a quarter of 1 large pomegranate
100g/3 ½ oz vegan feta cheese, diced
A drizzle of olive oil
The first thing to do is to make the breadcrumbs. Cut the bread into small pieces and then place in a food processor. Pulse, for a few seconds at a time, until you have fine breadcrumbs. Remove and set aside.
Now do the same with the raw broccoli, processing it until you have fine crumbs, then also remove and set aside.
Wash and grate the potatoes, leaving the skin on. If you have a grating attachment for your food processor you’ll be able to grate the potatoes in no time. Once they are all done, transfer the potatoes to a clean tea towel and squeeze them out over a mixing bowl. The reason we’re using a bowl and not the sink is because we want to catch the starch that comes out of the potatoes. Squeeze the towel until you can get no more liquid out, then transfer the drained potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Add both the broccoli and the breadcrumbs and mix will. Leave the potato water for 5 minutes to allow the starch to settle at the bottom.
Now put all of the other keftedes ingredients (apart from the dusting flour and frying oil), into the mixing bowl with the potatoes, breadcrumbs and broccoli. Gently pour out the potato water, until you are left with just the white starch at the bottom, and then add this to the keftedes mix also. Use your hands to thoroughly amalgamate the mixture, then cover and chill for 1 hour to firm up a little.
Once it has chilled, roll the mixture into balls approximately the size of golf-balls, then dust the balls all over with the flour.
Preheat the oven to gas 6/200C/400F.
Fill a saucepan, no more than half full, with the vegetable oil and bring up to deep-frying temperature (to test it’s ready, drop a small piece of bread into the oil. If it immediately bubbles and comes to the surface, the oil is hot enough for frying). Fry the keftedes, in small batches, in the oil for 6-7 minutes, until golden brown. Drain on some kitchen paper or a tea towel.
Now load the keftedes onto a baking tray and finish off in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes.
While these are cooking you can quickly make the salad by placing all of the salad ingredients into a bowl and mixing together.
Serve the hot keftedes with the salad and some crusty bread.