Meatballs are one of the most often eaten dishes in the Netherlands. We even have a special day for it: Wednesday is ground beef day! Rightfully so, because nothing is as versatile as ground beef. An honest, basic meatball—or “gehaktbal“, as we call it here—is plain delicious. Do me a favor; video yourself trying to pronounce ‘gehaktbal‘ and post it here, okay? :)
You have meatballs and meatballs. The standard Dutch version would include some salt and pepper, a little nutmeg, an egg and breadcrumbs. And if people are feeling particularly adventurous, they just might throw in some minced onion as well. That’s about it. Not all too exotic, is it? Not trying to put our traditional meatball down in anyway—they are really tasty in all their simplicity! Especially when served with lots of gravy.
I’ve created a slightly different meatball, though. In fact; it’s so different it hardly qualifies as a Dutch meatball anymore. I’ve put my people to shame… but in a good way, if I say so myself!
1 pound ground beef
2 small shallots
1/3 bell pepper
1 garlic clove
1 chili pepper
1 tsp dried oregano (x2)
1/2 tsp sweet paprika powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (x2)
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp oil
Start out with 1 pound extra-lean ground beef.
I said I’d do something about my onion addiction. Okay, so I lied. As a matter of fact; I have no intention of doing anything about it! Finely mince 2 shallots (or 1 small onion). Keep the minced shallot seperated.
I’ve also washed and finely minced 1/3 bell pepper. Color is irrelevant.
Grate or finely mince a large garlic clove.
I’ve de-seeded and finely minced a small chili pepper.
Where would I be without my spices? Is this pretty or what! Here, you see 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp sweet paprika powder and 1/2 tsp curry powder all piled up.
Add all the ingredients (1 minced shallot) to the ground beef.
tip: if you want to take these meatballs to a level higher, crumble in some feta as well!
Add 1 tsp salt and a heaping 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon as well.
The best way for me to store my flat-leaf parsley is to wash it, dry it, put it in a Ziploc bag and store it in the vegetable drawer of my fridge.
Grab a good handful and finely chop it. Add it to the ground beef as well.
Break 1 egg over the meat mixture.
Spoon in 4 tbsp breadcrumbs. They sell seasoned breadcrumbs here, I usually go 50/50.
Knead everything together and form the meat into 4 evenly-sized meatballs.
Heat 1 tbsp oil (or butter) and quickly brown the meatballs on all sides. Remove the meatballs from the pan, pour in 1 more tbsp oil and cook the other minced shallot, over low heat, for about 3 minutes.
Transfer the meatballs to an oven dish. Don’t be like me; don’t use an oven dish that’s too small. Your oven will not be happy. Mine was way too small. I knew it would be so I’ve placed some aluminum foil on the bottom on the oven to catch the juices that would overflow! Just make sure the oven dish is not too big either.
After you’ve cooked the shallots for about 3 minutes, it’s time to make the sauce. Add another heaping 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, the remaining 1 tsp oregano and plunge in a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes. Season with salt to taste (I’ve added about 1/2 a tsp). You can also add a little pepper if you like.
Pour in 1/3 cup of water and bing the sauce to a boil.
Pour the sauce over the meatballs—make sure to also leave some sauce on top of the meatballs as well. I wasn’t kidding; my oven dish was really too small. It was either that or an oven dish so big they would have needed a navigation system to find each other.
Put the meatballs in a preheated oven and bake at 400F (200C) for 30 minutes.
These are crazy good and can be served with just about anything you can think of… and then some!