Holland's cuisine knows many soups, from the sturdy thick split pea soup to a brothy, light, appetite-arousing groentesoep, or vegetable soup, like today's recipe. A standard item in groentesoep are, besides the vegetables, these so-called soup balls, or soepballetjes. Not the big softball-size meatballs, or gehaktballen, that the Dutch serve for dinner, but bitesize balletjes the size of marbles.
The meat used for these fleshy globes is "half-om-half", half pork and half beef. The fattiness of the pork makes sure that the meatballs stay juicy and tender, and the beef adds body and flavor. Omas, or grandmas, usually had a "pannetje soep" on the back of the stove, simmering, and many of us associate soup with Sunday afternoon visits to grandma's house. Soup is still a favorite starter for an evening meal or a Sunday lunch, and an easy and affordable dish to feed a family with.
Practically any kind of soup will benefit from these soepballetjes, whether they're stock-based or thick, puréed soups. You may consider rolling enough to freeze so you can have them at hand at any moment. Just a thought!
Today's soup is a simple vegetable soup: use either store-bought bouillon cubes to make the eight cups of stock, or make your own. Select a variety of chopped vegetables (typical Dutch soup vegetables are leeks, cauliflower, carrots and celery) or, if you're in a pinch, even a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables will do.
Groentesoep met balletjes
8 oz of ground beef
1 tablespoon of panko or breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
8 cups of bouillon stock
2 cups of vegetables
Mix the meats with the breadcrumbs, the salt, pepper and nutmeg until well blended. Roll small meatballs the size of a marble.
In the meantime, heat the bouillon stock to a slow boil. Add the fresh vegetables and simmer for a good twenty minutes. Put several soepballetjes at a time in the bouillon, wait ten seconds, then add some more, until they're all in the soup. The meatballs are done when they start to float, within a minute or two.
Taste the soup, adjust seasonings as needed and serve warm. This is one of those soups that improves with time, so feel free to make a large pot!