What's Cooking: Dutch Meat Balls

"Woensdag, gehaktdag!" ("Wednesday, minced meat day!") That is how it used to be up until the 1960s: on Wednesdays, virtually every Dutch housewife would serve minced meat for dinner. Even today, more traditional families and elderly people eat minced meat on Wednesday. Now why would a whole country eat the same food on the same day?

That has to do with the fact that butchers used to slaughter the animals themselves. They usually did so on Monday. On Tuesday, they would process the meat into high quality steaks, chops and the like. Finally, on Wednesday, the butcher would take the leftovers and turn them into minced meat that he would sell at a special low price.

The slogan "Woensdag, gehaktdag!" was introduced by the butcher association to promote their products and industry. The slogan took on and is still known today. Along the way, it even got new meanings. Today it is also used to refer to the third Wednesday in May. On this day, the Dutch Minister of Finance presents and defends the State expenses over the last year in parliament. If the defense is flawed or the State has spent her money unwisely, the Parliament will "make minced meat" of the minister (figuratively spoken of course).

In 2007, a very controversial book was published in the Netherlands with the title "Woensdag, Gehaktdag". It was written by the convicted killer Richard Klinkhamer and in it, he describes how he fantasized about killing his wife and how he ultimately lived his fantasy in 1991.

Personally I prefer the original meaning: simply eating some nice meat balls on Wednesday (or any other day for that matter). Below you can find a simple recipe for Dutch meatballs "just like granny made them".

Ingredients
400 gr minced meat
2 slices of white bread
some milk
2 tbs sweet soy sauce
2 tbs mustard
50 gr bread crumbs
50 gr butter
salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Take the crust off the slices of bread and soak the bread in some milk.
  2. Mix the meat with the soaked bread, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of mustard, the bread crumbs and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Form four to six balls from the meat.
  4. Heat the butter in a casserole or a deep skillet until brown.
  5. Add the balls and bake them until they get a nice brown crust on the outside.
  6. Lower the heat and add water until the balls are half submerged.
  7. Add one tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of mustard to the water. Stir gently until they have completely dissolved into the water.
  8. Put the lid on and let the balls simmer for about half an hour.

Tastes great with boiled potatoes and cauliflower or green beans. Enjoy!