A couple of weekends ago Geoff and I had a dinner party to celebrate my birthday with some friends. Apart from making a huge pot of glühwein using my recipe, which is a yearly tradition for me, I also made gingerbread snowflakes, tartiflette and bitterballen.
Unfortunately by the time the tartiflette was ready, we were all a little hungry so we did not take photos of it for me to post up the recipe, so I'll just have to make it again. It was divine - how could anything involving the combination of potatoes, crème fraiche, white wine, jambon, brie, garlic, onions and thyme not be.
I decided to also make bitterballen as they are something I loved to eat growing up, but I had been reluctant to make them due to stories of the ridiculous amount of time it takes to create them. This proved to be (relatively) untrue. They took two days to make, but don't be fooled - they were not two full days of cooking or I'd have served dips, Turkish bread, double smoked gypsy ham and cheeses like I did last year - just a couple of hours on both days.
I have used the recipe from the ridiculously amazing book 'Snow Flakes and Schnapps' by Jane Lawson, I took the idea of adding in ketjap manis from this gorgeous food blog, and of course called my mother 15 times to get tips and help from her, plus to check if the recipe sounded like how my grandmother used to make them - and as always changing things around a bit for my own entertainment.
Bitterballen and their longer, larger, more sausage shaped friends kroketten are scrumptious Dutch snacks that have a soft meaty filling surrounded by a crispy coating of fried breadcrumbs. Dip them in whichever mustard makes you happy and life can really not get much better, especially on a cold and rainy night, such was my birthday party (well as cold as Australia can get!).
As with many staple foods around the world, bitterballen were created to use up scraps of things lying around, in this case meat, and reformed into something new and tasty. As such, the cut of meat you use is unimportant, I just bought some diced beef from the butcher.
What you will need:
- Butter (I used salted)
- 1 small brown onion
- 400 g of beef (any old cut will do)
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
- 1 tsp of finely chopped thyme
- 750 ml beef stock
- 350 ml milk
- 1 bay leaf
- ketjap manis
- Plain flour
- 5 eggs
- Bread crumbs
- Vegetable oil to use to fry the bitterballen
- Your mustard(s) of choice
To begin add a tablespoon of butter to a large pot and fry the chopped up onion until it browns a little. Add in the thyme and the crushed garlic and stir together. Add in the meat and brown.
Add the stock, milk and the bay leaf and bring to the boil and then let it simmer happily away for about 2 hours. Have a glass of wine, read a book, contemplate the meaning of life, or do what I actually did in that time - make incredibly cute gingerbread snowflakes!
Once the meat is falling apart nicely turn off the stove and strain the liquid - making sure to save it in a separate bowl - and place the meat in a large dish. Pull apart the meat using two forks so there are no large pieces remaining.
Place 3 tablespoons of butter in a fry pan and melt. Add in 75 g (or half a cup) of plain flour and combine. Whisk in about 310 ml of the strained liquid and continue until the mixture is beautifully smooth and very thick - this happened so fast and easily for me I thought perhaps I had done something wrong!
Add this sauce to the meat and combine, along with 1 tablespoon of the ketjap manis. You may want to add in a little salt - but for me it tasted really good without adding anything more. Some recipes advocate adding in things such as parsley - which I hate with a passion and have omitted from this recipe - feel free to add this or nutmeg if you enjoy the added flavour.
Make sure the mixture is evenly spread out in the dish and then cover the dish in cling wrap and put in the fridge overnight.
By this point your mixture should be well and truly firm - but if it is not, don't stress, it is still not so hard to roll them into balls if it is a little soft - just put a little flour on yours hands first.
Start a production line - put some plain flour on a plate, whisk some eggs in a bowl next to it, cover another plate in breadcrumbs and finally an empty container in which to place the finished bitterballen.
Use a teaspoon to take small amounts of the mixture and roll them into balls - cover them first in flour, then dip them in the eggs, then cover them evenly in bread crumbs, dip them again in the eggs and again in the breadcrumbs. Make sure the bitterballen are properly coated and that the breadcrumb does not have cracks or they could fall apart when you fry them. Repeat for the remaning filling - you should get around 35 - 40.
I then placed the finished bitterballen in the fridge until the guests arrived a couple of hours later - you could also freeze any additional ones for another day.
To fry these tasty bites, use a little deep fryer like this one, or a heavy saucepan filled one third of the way up with the vegetable oil and heated to around 180 degrees Celsius. Fry the balls until they are golden brown and then transfer them to a paper towel covered plate to take off excess oil.
Serve with mustard and enjoy while they are still nice and warm.
Now, to finish packing for Sweden!