The October Daring Cooks’ Challenge was brought to us by Andrea from 4pure. She introduced us to one of her family favorites which is soon to become one of yours, too. Welcome to the world of Dutch Bitterballen!
Bitterballen (otherwise known as Dutch Croquettes) are to the Netherlands, what fish and chips are to New Zealand. In Holland, they eat about 300 million of ‘em a year. It’s something I completely understand – thanks to a Dutch father, my family’s grown up on croquettes. So coveted are they, that if any one of us were on Death Row, it’s likely they’d be our preferred last supper, with a good smear of mustard on the side. Forget the salad.
My mum, who’s actually Kiwi but with a heart of a Dutch frau, has been the sole maker of croquettes for decades. She has always jokingly stated that she would never part with her secret recipe, that is until The Daring Kitchen handed it to me on a plate! And while I hesitate to say it, these croqs were every bit as good as hers. Okay, maybe I didn’t hesitate after all…
It’s quite a simple recipe, but does take some time to prepare and it’s best made over the course of two days, as per the recipe. I hope you give them a go – they’re totally worth the effort. After all, 16.8 million people can’t be wrong!
BITTERBALLEN (DUTCH CROQUETTES)
Makes about 30 bitterballen
For the beef filling
- 1-1/3 lbs (600 gm) soup meat (cubed beef)
- 4 cups (1 litre) beef stock (or water)
- 1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
- 1 onion
- 1 stick (4 oz) (125 g) butter
- 1 cup (140 g) flour
- Pepper, salt and nutmeg (optional), to taste
For the crumbed exterior
- Flour (roughly 1-2 cups)
- 3-4 eggs, slightly beaten
- Fine bread crumbs (roughly 1-2 cups)
- Oil for deep frying
- For the beef filling: Cook the soup meat (cubed beef) in the beef stock (or water) with 1 teaspoon salt for about 2-3 hours, until it’s fork tender. Let it cool to room temperature and finely slice the beef (cutting them with kitchen scissors makes this step a breeze). Take 2 cups (500 ml) of stock and set aside.
- Dice the onion. Make a roux by melting the butter and glazing (browning) the onion for about 2 minutes. Then add the flour all at once and stir on heat until the mixture comes together as a doughy ball. Add the stock, whisk well and let it come to a boil (keep stirring). Cook at a high simmer until the mixture combines fully and forms a smooth, thick paste. Add the cooked soup meat (cubed beef). Add the nutmeg (if using), pepper and salt to taste.
- Spoon the mixture onto a shallow dish or plate and cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool down for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator (preferably overnight).
- For the crumbed exterior: Take three regular dessert bowls and fill the first one with flour, the second one with the beaten eggs and the third one with bread crumbs. Have two forks sitting in the egg mixture, and two more forks sitting in the bread crumb mixture (these will help you avoid getting your hands in a sticky mess!).
- Take a spoon or ice cream scoop and scoop out some filling. Roll the filling in your hands to form a small ball. Place it into the bowl of flour and roll it around until the ball is completely covered. Place the floured ball on a large platter. Repeat this step until all the filling is used.
- Now, one at a time, put each floured ball into the bowl of beaten egg, using the forks to roll it around. Once covered in egg, pick up the ball with the forks and drop it into the next bowl of bread crumbs, replacing the forks back into the egg mixture. Using the second set of forks, roll each ball through the bread crumbs. Once covered in crumbs, take the ball in your hands and reshape it to ensure the bread crumbs are firmly adhering and the ball is nice and round. You can repeat the breading (crumbing) process if necessary (though I didn’t). Place the completed ball back onto the platter and repeat the steps until all the balls are breaded.
- Place the platter of breaded croquettes in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (cover with plastic wrap if you leave for longer). Heat your deep-fryer to 350°F/180°C (medium heat). Check the temperature by placing a small cube of bread in the heated oil – it should sizzle and brown in a minute or two. Deep fry the bitterballen for about 3 to 4 minutes or until golden-brown. (It pays to cut a croquette in half at this stage and check it’s heated all the way through – if not, cook the balls for a wee bit longer.)
- Serve immediately with a good dollop of your favourite mustard and a fresh salad. PS: You can eat these cold (bitterballen sandwiches are divine!), but generally they’re eaten hot.