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Hachee is a type of stew or gravy from the Netherlands that is based on minced or diced meats. The Dutch have prepared and eaten this food since at least the Middle Ages of Europe. The word is of French origin; hacher means to chop, mince, or grind, so hachee was adopted as a way to describe the way the meat for the dish was prepared. Today, hachee is one of the simplest and most common recipes in traditional Dutch cuisine.
The exact origin of hachee is unknown. Some people, however, theorize that it came to existence when people used the meat they had already cooked in thick-walled cooking pots made of cast iron called Dutch ovens with some vegetables. Also, they added liquids that have a high amount of acidity, such as vinegar and wine, to the meat to further tenderize it.
It is believed that the recipe originated in North Brabant, which is a southern Dutch province that shares its southern borders with the neighboring country of Belgium. The earliest evidence of the existence of the stew can be found in descriptions of medieval European meals placed in public arenas for self-service. There is no record, however, of how hachee during the Middle Ages was made.
The typical hachee recipe involves cubed or minced beef or steak, which is seasoned with salt and pepper, then browned in an oil- or butter-greased pan. Cut onions can be introduced into the pan a few moments later to be browned with the beef. Flour is then added. When that turns brown as well, stock is added to the mix, followed by vinegar or wine, bay leaves and cloves. The heat is then turned down for the stew to simmer for a little over an hour.
The resulting gravy has a thick constitution and dark-brown color. Hachee is typically served as a condiment with lightly fried and slowly stewed red cabbage, boiled potatoes, apples or applesauce, or rice. Another food that usually goes with the stew is hutspot, which is Dutch for hotchpotch, or a dish consisting of boiled and mashed potatoes with carrots and onions. Also of medieval origin, hutspot’s rich background rivals that of hachee, as it is said to have originated during France’s unsuccessful 1574 siege of the southern Dutch city of Leiden during the Eighty Years’ War.
Despite the standard ingredients for making hachee, cooks are free to swap some of them for others or make additions. For example, some people use fish or chicken instead of the customary beef. Others might add ingredients such as soy sauce or raisins.