These beef gravy-filled, deep-fried croquette balls are the most amazing Dutch snack to have at Happy Hour or as a main meal with mashed potatoes or vegetables. They can also be shaped into an oblong shape and served in a slice of bread with mustard. There is quite a bit of preparation involved, but they are worth the effort for that special occasion or simply to treat yourself. At this stage, there is only one gluten-free bitterballen frozen product available in Holland’s major supermarkets- Jumbo and Albert Heijn. With limited gluten-free choices out there, I hope this blog is welcome news for those looking for a gluten-free bitterballen recipe.
Although I am married to a Dutchman who loves bitterballen, my first introduction to these addictive snack delights was by my very good friend from secondary and catering schools – Dutch buddy, Nicole – who introduced them to me at many rendezvous at the notorious Dutch Club in Singapore, the only place on the island that served bitterballen. After my first sample, I was hooked and from then on forever looking for them during my travels in Europe. Oddly enough, it was easier to find frozen, pre-prepared bitterballen in Australia than Austria. Of course, Holland and Belgium have a healthy supply, whether it is served at their many coffee shops, restaurants, train station self-service vending machines or supermarkets. Naturally, there are many dedicated cooks out there that make their own fresh bitterballen – gluten or gluten-free – Big respect!
For the slow cooked beef:
- 500g stewing beef, cut in 3cm cubes
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 500ml water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp juniper berries
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cloves
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the bitterballen:
- 100g butter
- 100g store-bought or homemade gluten-free plain flour
- 750ml store-bought or homemade beef stock
- 500g slow cooked beef, shredded
- 1 onion, very finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, very finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the coating:
- 200g cornflour
- 3 eggs, beaten well
- 200g store-bought or homemade gluten-free breadcrumbs
- Vegetable oil, for deep-fat frying
- Toothpicks, for serving
3. Add the stock, spices and vinegar and bring to the boil. I like to put the whole spices in a tea sieve that can stew in the pot. Alternatively, tie them up in a muslin cloth.
4. Lower the temperature to the lowest setting, cover the pot and leave to slow-cook for at least 4 hours.
7. Add the sieved meat juices to the beef stock to add more flavour.
8. Make the roux/sauce by melting the butter gently in a large saucepan.
9. Add the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes.
13. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, until a thick gravy-like sauce has formed.
15. Allow the mixture to cool down and store in the fridge until the gravy becomes semi-solid. This usually takes 2 hours.
18. Roll the bitterbal first in the cornflour, followed by the egg and finally the gluten-free breadcrumbs.
22. Turn the bitterballen constantly in the hot oil to ensure even frying.
Bitterbal * Singular for Bitterballen in Dutch