Kaasgehakt. Having lived in the oldest city of the Netherlands, Nijmegen, for me the name is inextricably linked with one place and one place only: Restaurant De Plak. I say restaurant, but it’s more of an ‘eetcafé’, a pub. I don’t mean that disparagingly in any way; it’s a nice, bustling place that serves good, affordable food. Although I doubt kaasgehakt was invented in De Plak, it achieved local fame there and has been on the menu for ages as one of their vegetarian dishes. Now, what is kaasgehakt? As I’m including it in the veggie burger Quest, you may have guessed that it is a meatless patty. You’d be right, but it’s more than that: I think it’s the closest thing to a meatball you could make without, well, meat. It’s incredibly savoury, it has a crispy outside and a soft core, and you can adapt it to your own liking by adding anything from fresh or dried herbs to onion, chilli, even oats.
I had spotted versions of the recipe online before (the ‘original’ recipe is, you guessed it, secret) but wasn’t really tempted to try it until I bought the Vegatopia Kookboek, where it’s part of the ‘Woensdag gehaktdag’ chapter. Vegatopia is the oldest and biggest vegetarian website in the Netherlands, which features recipes, reviews of cookbooks and restaurants and includes a forum. I follow them mostly through Facebook and am very happy I do, and not only because it brought me this kaasgehakt. If you read Dutch, get yourself the book, you’ll be glad you did. The recipe for these gorgeous fried cheese balls can also be found on the Vegatopia website and I’ve ‘combined’ the two recipes, in the sense that I use the quantities in the book but shape the patties like they do on the website, making two large ones. Although kaasgehakt has been praised for its ‘extreme greasiness’, it doesn’t really feel like stodgy or overly indulgent food. Having said that, I definitely wouldn’t turn one of these babies down if I had a hangover. 😉 I suspect the kaasgehakt at De Plak is deep-fried but these are pan-fried in a thin layer of oil, making them a bit healthier, but let’s face it: health food it ain’t. One tip: if you can, fit all your patties in one pan and fry them at the same time. The breadcrumbs go quite dark in the oil and might burn if they’re in there too long (if you fried a second batch, in other words).
serves 2 Ingredients – 1 slice of stale bread (I use whole-wheat), ripped up roughly. (If the bread is fresh, toast it until dried out.) – 100 g grated cheese (I use Gouda) – 1 clove of garlic, peeled – 10 g chives, chopped (the original recipe calls for parsley but I’m not a fan) – 1 egg – ½ tsp paprika – (freshly ground) pepper, to taste – 3 tbsp breadcrumbs – 2-3 tbsp oil Preparation – Blitz all the ingredients, except the breadcrumbs, in a food processor until you have a sticky, coarse mixture. – Shape into 2 patties. – Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on a plate, cover patties in them. – Fry the kaasgehakt in the oil until crispy and golden, turning every now and again. – Turn down the heat and fry gently for another 1-2 minutes, being careful not to burn the breadcrumb coating.