I married into a Dutch family (and no, it’s not entirely like spending every holiday meal at the table with Goldmember). Decades here since immigrating over have certainly tempered the “American” side of their personalities, though the delft and tulips are still quite strong in their customs. Especially when it comes to food.
One of the really amazing things about Dutch cooking is how fluidly it marries European cooking techniques with Asian flavors. Surely a walk down the memory lane of high school world history recalls that, at the height of the colonial era, the Dutch inhabited many Southeast Asian countries. The flavor profiles of areas now called Taiwan and Indonesia are quite popular with the Dutch today (in layman’s terms, they put peanut sauce and curry on everything).
My husband came home the other night craving a dish his grandmother used to make for him that he kept calling gehaktballen, which I’m told are Dutch-style meatballs that his Oma used to spice heavily with nutmeg. We ended up with this incredible hybrid of a satisfying Italian Minestrone kicked up with curry’s spicy undertones of cumin, clove and mace. Like most other Dutch dishes that at first leave me saying “Huh? Put what in what now?”, I had to forcibly stop myself from shoveling this soup into my face after my second bowl. It’s seriously that good.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons curry powder
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry sherry, optional
2 quarts chicken stock
5 to 6 small red potatoes, chopped
1 bunch kale, stemmed, leaves chopped
1 pound ground beef
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 (15-ounce) cans small beans (such as pinto or kidney), drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, to garnish, optional
Place a large pot over medium heat with the olive oil. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, carrots, garlic, thyme and curry powder to the pot. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and sweat until tender, 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the sherry, if using, to the pot and cook for 1 minute to reduce. Add the chicken stock, potatoes and kale to the pot and bring the liquids up to a boil.
While the soup is coming up to a boil, in a medium mixing bowl combine the ground beef, nutmeg and some salt and pepper. Mix together to evenly incorporate the seasonings and then portion the beef into meatballs about 1 tablespoon in size. When the soup has reached a boil, add the meatballs, beans and mustard to the pot, then season the broth with salt and pepper and place a lid on the pot. Simmer the soup, gently stirring occasionally, until the meatballs and potatoes are cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Serve the soup garnished with Parmesan cheese, if using.
This is absolutely one of those fabled grandma heritage recipes that is 1,000 times better the next day. Be sure to save some leftovers!
NOTE: There are lots of different kinds of curry powders out there. I think this dish is best made with a garam masala-type blend, which tends to be heavier in pepper, cinnamon and clove, flavors that give this soup an amazing depth.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars like Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest tweets on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.