Tag Archive for Beef

Dutch food: meatballs

The cornerstones of the old-fashioned, traditional Dutch meal are cooked potatoes, jus (pan gravy), a piece of meat and cooked vegetables. For potatoes, the (slightly) floury ones are the best, because of the practice of “prakken”. There is no good translation for this word, since it is a typical Dutch activity, in which potatoes are crushed and mashed with your fork on your plate together with the jus to make a coarse or smooth purée (depending on preferences). Some people also add in the vegetables, or “prak” everything on their plate (so also the meat, and sometimes even some apple sauce). This is definitely an at-home behaviour, it is seen as not done to do it in public/in restaurants, and often people are incredibly specific about how to make their “prakje”. The jus is made by adding a bit of water to the pan in which the meat was cooked, but sometimes a jus cube or jus granules are used. The meat can be a lot of things, luxury things like steak or pork chops, but also less expensive things made with mince. One of those is the large meatball, for which I give the recipe below. The veggie can also be anything, for example carrots, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, green beans, etc.

I must say that I’m not a big fan of the traditional “prakje” plate, but I do like meatballs, and you can serve them perfectly well with mashed potatoes or fried potatoes, and a nice salad. Do remember to add a dollop of mustard on your plate to dip the meatball in, which is the tradition in my family. My recipe is non-traditional in the sense that I only add a small amount of dried breadcrumbs, and no egg or bread soaked in milk. Adding those things is a practice from poorer times, when meat was expensive and there were many mouths to feed, so it was a good thing to stretch a small amount of meat further. But I think it messes up the flavour and the texture, I rather have the meat pure and eat a day vegetarian to compensate (for sustainability reasons). It is also important to start with the mince cold, and not knead it to much, otherwise the fat will melt, which messes up the texture as well.


Meatballs (serves 4)
500 g mince (either beef or half beef half pork)
1 tbsp dried breadcrumbs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp mace (or nutmeg)
1/2 tsp majoram
50 g butter

Mix mince, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, mace and majoram in a bowl, only knead until mixed and not more. Divide in 4, form a ball from each piece. Make sure to roll them quite tight, to prevent them from falling apart when baking. Melt the butter in a pan, place the balls in it, and carefully turn them over when the bottom has browned. Repeat until most of the outside is brown. Don’t worry if your balls are not perfectly round any more after this, keeping them round is a fine art (that I don’t master). Add a splash of water to the pan, place a lid on top and turn down the heat. Braise about 25 minutes, then take the balls from the pan. To make a jus, add another splash of water to the pan (if necessary) and stir to dissolve all the sticky bits. Serve the balls with a potato dish and vegetables of your choice, and a dollop of mustard.

Cambodian marinated beef

I’ve been a few times to those wok restaurants, where you can choose all kinds of ingredients and give them to a chef, who woks them together with a sauce for you. Unfortunately, they don’t really work that hygienic (lots of cross contamination of products), so I can’t go there any more due to food allergy. But I’ve kept longing to taste one of those sauces again, the one that is dark, savoury, slightly spicy and salty. I did not exactly know what was in there (and you can’t really ask the chefs, because they generally don’t speak English), so I’d lost hope of tasting it again. Until I made this recipe. It was completely different than I expected, but it tastes just like that sauce of the wok restaurant!
It is quite a strong sauce, so I suggest to serve loads of plain rice with it to soak up the sauce, and a refreshing cucumber salad. On the photo you also see homemade chapatis, but I didn’t like those much with this recipe.

Cambodian marinated beef

Cambodian marinated beef (serves 2)
Adapted from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey

200 g beef that is suited for fast preparation (steak of some kind), in cubes and at room temperature
oil (coconut or vegetable)
1 tbsp sambal badjak or oelek
15 g garlic, pureed
25 g ginger, pureed
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp palm sugar
3 tbsp dark soy sauce or ketjap manis
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp ketchup
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the beef cubes and fry until preferred done-ness. Set aside. They will sit for a while, and will be reheated in the sauce, so I would advice to cook them a bit more rare than you would normally do.
Meanwhile, mix all the other ingredients together and taste for balance. Not all garlic and ginger are the same, and the taste of sambal/soy/ketjap differs per brand, therefore tasting is really necessary.
Pour the sauce into the pan that you used to fry the beef. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the beef back in, heat through, and serve.

Stuffed courgette

It’s courgette-time. The courgette plants in our garden are not that productive unfortunately (or luckily?), but they do tend to grow courgettes simultaneously, so you always have more than one, or none. So new recipes that use a lot of courgette are always welcome, and this is my new star.
I usually grill courgette or eat it raw, so when I ate a dish with courgette that was cooked in bouillon in a restaurant when I was on vacation, it was a big inspiration. Courgette can be a bit bland, so flavouring it with a flavoursome bouillon helps a lot. And cooking gives the courgette a completely different texture than when you grill it or eat it raw, it is juicy but firm. Usually with filled vegetables you put them in the oven to cook, but that takes a long time and tends to make the vegetables dry, so lightly cooking the courgette was a great alternative (and also nice to not have to turn on the oven in hot weather).
Couscous spice mix was something I turned to as a shortcut: one of my go-to superfast to cook and not to heavy on the stomach meals is couscous cooked with bouillon, with a “sauce” of beef mince, a bag of precut Provençal vegetables and a packet of couscous spice mix. It’s on the table in 10 minutes max, and is delicious too. And I keep couscous, stock cubes and couscous spice mix in my pantry, and Provençal vegetables and beef mince in the freezer, so it’s a backup dinner as well. But because I like the spice mix, I use it in other dishes too.

Stuffed Courgette

Stuffed courgette (serves 2 generously, or 2 + leftovers for lunch)

3 courgettes
1 vegetable stock cube
150 g couscous
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
250 g beef mince
3 tbsp couscous spice mix (amount necessary may differ with the kind of spice mix you use)

Remove top and bottom from the courgettes and half lengthways. Scoop out most of the flesh, chop this up into cubes and set aside.
Bring 250 ml of water to the boil in a pan that can contain the courgettes. Dissolve the stock cube in the water. Add the courgettes and place a lid on the pan. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain, but reserve the stock.
Place the couscous in a bowl or small pan. Reduce the stock to 150 ml, make sure it is boiling, then pour over the couscous. Cover the bowl or pan and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onion, sauté on low heat until soft and translucent. Turn up the heat, add the garlic and mince, and fry for a few minutes. Add the spice mixed and the chopped up courgette flesh, fry until fragrant and the courgette is cooked.
Scoop the filling into the courgette halves (you will have generous) and serve.

Nacho Chips with Cheese, Mince and Vegetables

This is a bit of a pseudo-Mexican dish. Almost certainly people in Mexico don’t eat something like this (or do they?), but in the Netherlands, this is what people think is Mexican. But what matters is that it is a very tasty dish. Crunchy, salty nacho chips with lots of gooey molten cheese, combined with a spicy mix of mince and vegetables. Perfect comfort food!

Nacho Cheese

Nacho Chips with Cheese, Mince and Vegetables (2 generous servings)

1 bag plain nacho chips (150 gram)
200 g grated cheese

1 tbsp olive oil
300 g mince (half pork, half beef is what I like to use)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 tsp sambal (I use sambal badjak, add more if you like it spicy)
1 beef stock cube
1 tsp paprika powder (or use half normal and half smoky if you have it)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1 paprika, in cubes (colour doesn’t matter)
250 g mushrooms, sliced
1 small tin of corn

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the mince and onion, fry on high heat until the meat is browned and the onion is soft. Add the garlic, sambal, stock cube and spices. Fry for a minute until fragrant. Then add the paprika, fry until soft. Add the mushrooms, fry until soft. Add the corn, fry until warm.
Meanwhile, place the nacho chips into an oven dish, sprinkle the cheese on top and place in the oven until warm and the cheese is molten and gooey. Or if you like, leave it a little longer until the cheese gets crispy bits. Serve together with the mince-vegetable mix.
Variation: scoop the mince-vegetable mix in an oven dish, spread the nacho chips on top and sprinkle the cheese over; then place the whole thing in the oven, instead of serving it separate.

Beef stew

The weather is turning cold again, and that means that is time to make wintery stews again. Perfect for a lazy sunday afternoon, prepping it bit by bit, letting the delicious smells scent your house, ending with a delicious, comforting meal. The great thing of this recipe is that it makes quite a lot, so you can spend one relaxed afternoon chopping and cooking and reheat the leftover portions (they freeze perfectly) on days that you really need a comforting meal like this, but don’t have the time to make it. It is delicious eaten with rice or mashed potatoes, and serve with braised red cabbage or brussel sprouts to make your meal complete. You can also add browned baby onions and mushrooms the last 20 minutes of cooking.

Beef Stew

Beef stew (serves 8)
Adapted from Great British Chefs

1 kg of braising beef, in chunks
olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
4-6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
140 g tomato paste
350 ml of beef stock
750 ml red wine
6 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 150C.
Heat some olive oil in a heavy, oven-proof pot on high heat. Brown the beef chunks in portions, only adding enough to just cover the base of the pan (otherwise it will not brown nicely). Add a little extra olive oil when the pan gets dry. The beef should get quite dark brown to give the most flavour. Set aside the beef.
In the same pan, heat some olive oil and add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Saute on medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the tomato paste and fry a little longer (this will sweeten the tomato by getting rid of some of the harsh acids in the puree). Add the browned beef (and its juices) back in, add the stock, red wine, thyme, bay leaves and pepper. Stir well and place the pan in the oven. Cover partly with a lid. Stew for 2-4 hours, checking occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan and adding a little more water if necessary (the meat should be covered). Don’t add to much extra water at the end of cooking, you want the sauce to thicken slightly.
Serve with side dishes of your preference and/or scoop into freezer containers and leave to cool before placing in the freezer.

Stuffed paprika

Paprika’s are the perfect vehicle to fill. When you use courgettes, tomatoes, aubergines or onions (other vegetables that are commonly filled) you always end up with the flesh that you took out and either use in the stuffing (with less space remaining for the other stuffing ingredients) or find another dish to use it in. With paprika’s, you don’t have this problem, since they are already hollow. I like this dish a lot because the stuffed paprika’s look pretty, are a complete meal and are very juicy/self-saucing and flavoursome. They are also great to use up leftover rice and mince. It is also a great dish to make for a large amount of people and/or in advance. I like to use red paprika’s, but you can also use yellow or orange ones, or a mix to give the dish some more colour variation. I would not use green paprika’s, because they tend to get bitter after cooking them for a while.

Stuffed Paprika's with rice, mince and egg

Stuffed paprika’s (4 paprika’s)

4 paprika’s (red, yellow, orange or a mix)
2 cups cooked rice
100 gram mince (I like a mix of pork and beef)
4 eggs
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
1 beef stock cube
1 tsp worcestershiresauce

Get an oven dish large enough to fit in the paprika’s, but small enough to have the sides of the dish supporting the paprika’s. Preheat the oven at 180C.
Prepare the paprika’s. Slice of the top, remove the seeds and set aside (this will be the lid). Take out the seeds from the paprika. Check if the paprika will stand up, if not, slice a tiny bit of the bottom to even it out, but make sure you do not get a hole in the bottom, otherwise all the jummy juices will leak out. Do the same with the other 3 paprika’s. Place the paprika’s but not the lids in the oven dish and place it in the oven for 10 minutes. This will pre-cook the paprika and will make sure they are tender after the second time in the oven.
Prepare the filling. Heat a frying pan and add the mince (it will be fat enough on its own, so no oil needed). Fry until it starts to brown, then add the onion and garlic. Fry until the mince is brown and the onion and garlic soft. Crumble the stock cube over it, add the worcestershiresauce and season with pepper to taste. Fry a little longer, then add the rice and mix well.
Stuff the paprika’s with the rice-mince mixture, press it down well with a spoon and leave room on top for the egg. Break the egg, carefully let it slide in the paprika, then place the lid on top. Cook in the oven for 10 (runny egg) to 20 (quite firm egg) minutes.
You can do everything in advance, except adding the egg and cook the stuffed paprika’s. If you make them longer than an hour in advance, store in the fridge, and either let them come to room temperature before cooking, or add an extra few minutes to the cooking time.

Mushroom and cream sauce

This sauce is a pan sauce, which means that it is made in a pan after a piece of meat was fried in it. It uses all the juices that came out of the meat and the bits that stuck to the pan to create something delicious very fast. Sometimes I leave my sauce very plain, I just add a little water to the frying pan to make a lovely jus, but you can also make it into something a bit more special: mushroom and cream sauce.

Not all kinds of meat are suitable for pan sauces. I have the best results with all kinds of beef steaks or pork chops/fillet/loin, so basically all cuts that can be cooked fast in a hot pan. For this, I start with removing the smoke alarm from the kitchen as it tends to go off when I prepare something like this, it can get a little smoky. And you’ll have to take the meat out from the fridge 30-60 minutes before cooking, it should be at room temperature. And slice the mushrooms, you will not have time for that later on. For an extra luxurious version, use wild mushrooms.
Heat a thick bottomed frying pan on high heat, it should be very hot, you should not be able to hold your hand above it for more than 2-3 seconds. Add a little oil (use something that can withstand the high heat) and place your meat in the pan. Leave it for about 1 minute (do not fuss around with it!!) then turn it over (it should be nice and brown), fry for another minute. Turn the heat down, season with salt and pepper and add a knob of butter to the pan. This gives the meat a nice caramelized flavour and glossy finish. Turn over the meat once again, season this side as well. The time on low heat depends on the kind and cut of meat, a steak will need less time than a pork chop. Unfortunately I cannot give times for this, it really comes down to experience, I smell, hear and feel (cooked meat is less springy) if the meat is ready. Rest the meat between two plates to keep it warm, usually 10-15 minutes is enough, this is also the time necessary for making the sauce.
Use the same pan as frying the meat in, don’t clean it and don’t pour anything out. On medium heat, add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes, or until soft and a little coloured. Then add few tablespoons of cream, stir well and take off the heat. Check for seasoning. If some of the juices came out of the meat, add these to the sauce too. It gives extra flavour. If you like, you can add some herbs like parsley or tarragon to the sauce. Serve directly with the rested meat, oven baked potatoes and a mixed salad.

Mushroom and cream sauce

Ragu alla Bolognese

The classic Italian bolognese meat pasta sauce. Many different (authentic and less authentic) recipes can be found on the internet, all of them contain more or less the same ingredients, this one is my version. A good bolognese can’t be rushed, to obtain the rich, meaty flavours it needs a few hours to cook and to reduce the liquids down, to intensify all the flavours. And making a small portion doesn’t work either. Luckily it freezes well for a few months, so I cook this in bulk and freeze portions for later, to use on busy (or lazy) days. I usually serve this sauce with spaghetti, which is very un-Italian because the pieces of meat don’t adhere well to the pasta, or with penne or tagliatelle as the Italians do. And of course a good sprinkling of Parmesan to add even more flavour and richness!

Ragu alla Bolognaise

Ragu alla bolognese (serves 6, or serves 2 with 2 extra portions for the freezer)
Adapted from the Conran Cookbook

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 large carrot, chopped finely
1 celery stick (with leaves), finely chopped
500 g mince (half beef, half pork)
3 large, ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped (a can of tomatoes works well too)
a large sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
150 ml chicken stock
a wineglass of red wine
Parmesan, for serving
Pasta, for serving

few rashers of bacon (add together with meat)
rind of a piece of parmesan (add with liquids, fish out before serving)
splash of cream or a knob of butter (when serving, adds richness)

Heat the olive oil in a pan (I always use my Dutch oven for this). Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and sweat until softened. Add the minced meat to the pan. Turn up the heat and brown the meat, stirring to crush the lumps. Add the tomatoes, thyme and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Cook until most of the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated. Add a little of the stock and the red wine and stir. Leave the sauce to simmer gently for about 1.5 hours, adding more stock and wine as it is needed, using water if you run out of these. When ready the sauce should be thick and smooth. Check for seasoning and serve immediately or leave to cool for freezing.

Cottage pie

There is always confusion about cottage pie and shepherd’s pie. People call a pie with beef shepherd’s pie and a pie with lamb cottage pie. But actually it is quite easy to remember: a shepherd herds sheep, not cows. When I realized that it was so simple, it wasn’t difficult any more to remember which pie contains which meat.

Cottage pie is real comfort food, it is a dish you want to eat on a cold day, cozy in a warm sweater. Some cottage pies contain stewing meat, but I love this quick version with mince. I use half pork half beef mince, not traditional, but it gives a good, hearty flavour together with the herbs and flavourings. The creamy mashed potatoes complement this perfectly, and the crispy top finishes it all. I use my trusty ovenproof Le Creuset Dutch oven to prepare the meat, so that I can top it with the mash and place it in the oven, instead of having to use another dish for this (less cleaning this way).

By cutting the potatoes in cubes they will cook faster than when leaving them whole. But take care not to cut them too small, as they will absorb a lot of water, which is not pleasant to eat. You can make this dish very well in advance, it will only get more tasty. If doing so, reheat the cottage pie on 150C in the oven, then turn it up to brown the top.

Cottage Pie

Cottage pie (2 generous servings)

500 gram mince
olive oil
1 big onion, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme (or rosemary)
1 small can of tomato puree
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
splosh of red wine
1 beef stock cube

600 gram potatoes, peeled and cut
knob of butter
splash of milk
salt and pepper
nutmeg (optional)
egg yolk (optional)

Cook the potatoes in salted water until soft, drain.
Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in an Dutch oven. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Then add the mince, fry until browned. Add the other ingredients and cook until the acid of the tomato puree is cooked of and the mixture starts to caramelize and stick to the bottom of the pan. Add a drop of water to dissolve the sticky bits, stir this through the mixture and turn of the heat.
Make the mashed potatoes. First, mash the potatoes, working of the heat to prevent burned bits on the bottom. By mashing before adding liquid you get rid of the lumps easily. I like to do this part with a masher. Stir in the knob of butter and some milk, using a fork. Then gradually add some more milk, while stirring, letting it absorb by the potatoes, until you have the consistency you like. Still using the fork, beat the potatoes vigorously, until you get a light and fluffy mash. Good mash needs some effort. Season with salt and pepper, and nutmeg if you like. Taste if you seasoned the mash enough, because underseasoned mash is really not nice to eat and hard to remedy after finishing the dish. If you are using the egg yolk, add it now. This adds a nice richness to the mash, but only use this trick for dishes with mash that go into the oven. Pile the mash on top of the mince, decorate with a fork (stop here when preparing in advance) and place in a preheated oven of 200C to brown the top of the mash.

Pasta with tomato sauce or lasagna

Simple pasta with tomato sauce, mince and vegetables, and a simple lasagna are quite similar to make. The pasta is a little faster because it does not have to go into the oven, but I do like the lovely cheese crust you get on the lasagna. Both dishes are not the real deal, not real ragu alla bolognaise and not real lasagna al forno, but they are great dishes filled with veggies and much faster and lighter than their original versions.
You can make the pasta sauce in advance and store it in the fridge or the freezer, I personally like to cook my pasta fresh, but even cooked pasta can be frozen. Ideal for last minute healthy food on busy days. Lasagna can be stored in the fridge as well (uncooked or cooked), freezing I never tried.
Because of their hearty taste, ease, vegetable-richness and filling properties, these dishes can be found often on our diner table.

Pasta with tomato sauce or lasagna (2 generous servings)
penne/lasagna sheets (the ones you don’t have to precook)
olive oil
300 gram minced meat
1 can of tomatoes
1 onion, cubed
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bell pepper (red, orange or yellow), cubed
100 gram mushrooms, sliced
1/2 courgette, sliced
1 stock cube
1/2 tbsp paprika
balsamic vinegar (1/2 tsp lasagna, 1/4 tsp pasta)
soy sauce (1/4 tsp lasagna, not in pasta)
sambal (1/4 tsp lasagna, not in pasta)
1 tsp dried oregano
cheese (gouda or mozzarellla)

Cook pasta/preheat oven to 200C. Fry the onions and garlic until soft in some olive oil, add the minced meat and fry until loose and slightly cooked. Then add the mushrooms and the bell pepper. Add the can of tomatoes, spiced and condiments and let cook for a while. This is especially important for the pasta sauce, since canned tomatoes are quite acidic and you need to cook them for a while to get the sweetness out. Add the courgette at the last moment, so it will keep a nice bite. Serve with the pasta, or make layers with the lasagna sheets in an oven dish and cover the top with cheese. The lasagna will have to cook for about 35 minutes in the preheated oven (but check the package of your lasagna sheets, some will have to cook shorter or longer). Enjoy!