Hachee is a traditional Dutch beef and onion stew that's incredibly easy to make with just a few ingredients. It's pure comfort food, with tender meat and a gently aromatic sauce loaded with soft onions. Perfect for colder weather.
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I have to say that while I may not always like the feeling of being cold, I do love colder weather for the excuse to make comforting meals. Don't get me wrong, I love summer food too, but somehow I feel like I have more things to choose from that suit the cold.
All that said, we had this traditional Dutch dish in the Netherlands this last summer and were perfectly happy to enjoy it on a slightly warmer day, too. We took the kids to the Netherlands for their first time and made sure to enjoy as many traditional dishes as we could, from freshly made stroopwafel (so, so good), to Gouda cheese from the source as well as mains and breakfast dishes, too. They both came away fans of pretty much all of them.
What is hachee?
This stew is a really old fashioned dish, with origins as far back as the Middle Ages. Originally, it was a peasant dish and you might use various different meat and/or vegetables as it was a way to use things up. These days, you typically use beef as the base.
The name "hachee" comes from the French "hacher" meaning to chop, since this is the first step in the preparation.
You will find a few variations, but in essence it's a slow cooked beef stew with very simple seasonings, and an onion-heavy sauce. Some only use bay leaves and vinegar, while others also include cloves. But other than some flour to help thicken the sauce, and stock as the liquid, that's about it.
The large quantity of onions (and it really is a lot, but it cooks down) gives a gently aromatic sweetness, then the vinegar gives a slight tang. Since you leave it to cook for a few hours, the meat tenderizes and the onions melt into the sauce.
How to make hachee
As I say, this is a very simple dish with the majority of time spent leaving things to cook away. I'd recommend preparing everything first so start by slicing all the onions thinly and dicing the meat. While the meat becomes very tender and so will break relatively easily when cooked, you typically want it in small-ish pieces to start as you don't shred it up.
Then, toss the meat with salt, pepper and flour. You can, if you prefer, add the flour later but this way does help avoid getting lumps of flour, and ensures it is cooked a little. Next you brown the meat all over, working in batches so you don't overcrowd the pot. You can use either butter or oil, but butter is probably more traditional and adds to the flavor.
The next step is to soften up the onions, which brings out their natural sweetness. You can in theory leave the meat in the pot but there is a lot of volume in the onions at first, so I find it easier to take the meat out completely and just cook down the onions.
Once softened, add back the meat and add the bay leaf, cloves and stock as well as a little vinegar. You can use wine vinegar, white vinegar or cider vinegar as you prefer - I prefer cider or wine as they have a slightly more mellow flavor. Bring it to a simmer then leave to cook.
Tips for cooking this beef onion stew
While it's an easy dish, a couple tips to help it turn out well:
- Use a Dutch oven or other heavy based pot since for even heat distribution and since it will be cooking a while. You also need a reasonable amount of space to allow for cooking down the onion.
- Choose beef that has some marbling as this adds to the flavor of the dish - chuck stewing beef is generally good.
- Cook the meat in batches - this both gives space but also avoids the temperature reducing too much. You want to get a nice sear on the meat to build flavor.
- Don't rush cooking the onion, give it time to cook down as that is how you get the flavor and slight sweetness to come out. You don't want a raw onion flavor in there.
- Scrape the bottom! As you add the liquid, be sure to scrape off any browning on the bottom of your pot as this is all nice yummy flavor that you want in your dish.
- I typically cook this part covered, to get the meat tender while fully in the liquid, then part uncovered to help thicken up the sauce. But this may vary depending on how well the lid of your pot seals and holds in moisture. You can also cook this is a relatively low oven (around 350F/175C) if you prefer.
Other than that, this is as I say nice and easy. Plus, the cooking is really hands off and you can easily prepare it ahead and re-heat, as suits your schedule.
How to serve hachee
This stew has lots of lovely thick gravy with it so you want something to soak it up. The most traditional sides are mashed potatoes and red cabbage (similar to German Rotkohl) which pair really well. Another Dutch dish, stamppot, which includes mashed potato would also pair well.
If you are not a potato fan then other things to soak up the sauce like rice would work well, or even couscous as my kids like with it (not at all traditional, I know, but hey).
Hachee is a wonderfully comforting beef and onion stew that's such a classic Dutch meal. It's simple, with only a few ingredients, but has a lovely flavor and is so easy to eat. As I say, pure comfort food that's perfect for colder days.
Try these other comfort food favorites:
- Youvetsi, Greek beef or lamb and orzo stew
- Hünkar beğendi, Turkish lamb stew with a creamy eggplant base
- Aji de gallina, Peruvian chicken stew with a creamy gently chili-spiked sauce
- Plus get more winter recipes and mains recipes in the archives.
Hachee (Dutch beef and onion stew)
- 1 ½ lb stewing beef eg chuck
- ½ teaspoon salt approximately
- ½ teaspoon pepper approximately
- 1 ½ tablespoon flour approximately
- 3 onions medium-large eg yellow
- 1 ½ tablespoon butter
- 3 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cups beef stock
- 2 tablespoon cider vinegar or wine vinegar
- Cut the beef into bite-sized pieces (roughly 1 inch/2.5cm dice). Sprinkle the beef with salt, pepper and flour and toss together so that the beef pieces are evenly coated.
- Peel and thinly slice the onions - in general, half ring size is good though I would cut the larger outer rings in half so none of the pieces are too big, but you don't have to. If you like, use one of the end pieces and press in the cloves to try to keep them together as the stew cooks (they may fall out, though).
- Warm roughly half of the butter in a heavy bottomed pot (eg a Dutch oven) over a medium-high heat. Brown the meat in batches, so that you don't overcrowd the pot. Turn once the underside have a nice sear, brown the other sides then once brown, remove from the pot and set aside while you brown the next batch.
- Once all of the meat has been browned, add the additional butter, let it melt then add the onions. Cook, stirring regularly, so that the onions soften and start to caramelize slightly (this will take a good 5 - 10 minutes).
- Once the onions are soft, add back the beef, mix through, then add the cloves, bay leaf and beef stock. Mix well and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any of the browning and mix it into the gravy (t has lots of flavor!).
- Bring the mixture to a simmer then stir through the vinegar. Cover and reduce the heat so that the mixture continues to simmer. Leave to cook for around 2 hours, checking now and then and stirring as needed.
- Then, remove the lid or just have it part on so that the sauce reduces to become a bit thicker, but don't let it dry out. If you have already lost what seems too much liquid, add a little more stock as needed. Cook for around another hour so that the meat is very tender and the sauce is still gravy-like but not thin. Traditionally served with mashed potatoes and red cabbage.
I use my Le Creuset Cast-Iron Oval French Oven to make this dish which works well (affiliate link).
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.