Euro 2012 Football food – Bitterballen

All football fans the world over will know that Euro 2012 kicked off yesterday (this football tournament is second only to the World Cup in the football world) and you may or may not know this but I am Dutch. Yes, from Holland, country of canals, tulips, windmills, cheese and FOOTBALL. And there is absolutely nothing else in the world that makes me more patriotic than watching the Dutch football team compete in the Euro or World Cup’s.

During these games I usually laugh (often hysterically), swear (a lot), cry (usually when we lose, a Dutch player gets injured or sometimes because a particular shot or pass was just sooo beautiful) and drink a lot of beer. Often I will dress up in orange and attempt to paint the Dutch flag on my face. I have also been known to hide behind the sofa or simply walk out of the room because I couldn’t bear to watch anymore.

So tonight is Holland’s first game in Euro 2012 against Denmark. I am nervous. Not just because Denmark are quite a strong team but also because some members of the Holland team were subjected to racial abuse during a training session in Krakow, Poland and I fear some of the players may have lost some of their morale. Still they are professionals so fingers crossed they take it in their stride and play their hearts out tonight.

HUP Holland HUP!
HUP Holland HUP!

A typical Dutch snack is bitterballen, which are golf ball size meat croquettes popular in bars and pubs across Holland. The name bitterbal, literally “bitter ball”, does not indicate that its taste is bitter, unlike the fabulous bitter gourd I posted about earlier. They were originally meant to be served with a “bittertje” (a small glass of Dutch Jenever (like the famous Bols), similar to but not quite the same as Gin).

They can be quite time-consuming to make (3 hours to stew the meat then letting the meat mixture chill overnight in the fridge etc etc.) but I will give you a simpler and quicker version today.

Dutch Bitterballen


  • 5 tbsp. butter or margarine
  • 250g (half a pound) minced (ground) beef or veal – veal is preferable but use beef if you’re funny about eating veal. Sorry there are no real vegetarian alternatives for this dish.
  • 1 or 2 small carrots, very finely diced
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 celery sticks, very finely chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp of nutmeg (this is the key ingredient here to get that bitterbal taste!)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon (or lime) juice
  • 2 tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
  • 5 tbsp. flour
  • 11/2 cup beef stock (1 cup for the roux but have a little extra beef stock available to fry the meat mixture)
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • Oil for deep frying


  1. Heat two tablespoons of the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat and fry the meat, carrots, onions and celery with some beef stock until the meat is cooked and the carrots are tender. Add water if the mixture becomes too dry or starts to crisp.
  2. Drain the meat mixture in a colander, then place in a mixing bowl. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, lemon juice, and parsley and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat and stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook this for 2 to 3 minutes, and then add the beef stock. Continue heating, stirring constantly, until the sauce boils and becomes quite thick.
  4. Combine the sauce with the meat mixture, stirring to combine them thoroughly, and chill this mixture for at least two hours in the refrigerator, until it has become solid.
  5. When the mixture has solidified, roll it into balls about 1 inch in diameter, using your hands.
  6. Roll the balls in the bread crumbs, then in the beaten eggs, then in the bread crumbs again.
NOTE: You can freeze the bitterballen at this point for frying at a later time.
  1. Fry a few at a time in a deep fryer or a wok with at least 2 inches of oil until golden (about 2 to 3 minutes).
  2. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with some mustard.
Bitterballen - courtesy of
Bitterballen – courtesy of


3 thoughts on “Euro 2012 Football food – Bitterballen”

    1. Hi David – my thoughts EXACTLY! I am doing some research into the Dutch influences in the Sri Lankan cuisine at the moment so look out for a post soon 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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