This easy Macedonian recipe for gluten-free beef and feta rissoles is perfect for dinner, cocktails, or just as a snack. Best of all, it is gluten-free, made with simple ingredients, and global. It is known in one form or the other and loved all around the world.
Gluten-Free Macedonian Rissoles with Ajvar Gravy
Back when eating was a detested chore (pun intended), I looked forward to rissoles. All the solid food I'd consider eating was first slowly deconstructed (at my parents' disapproval) in order to remove suspicious-looking substance and soups were strained through a double gauze.
Even the tiniest speckle of ground pepper floating in my soup was a red flag and my appetite (if I had any to begin with) would be extinguished.
However, rissoles were OK. I can't explain it even if I try really hard to crawl back into the mindset of my seven-year-old self. Why a piece of baked plain chicken breast didn't pass my detailed test but rissoles were OK.
There were onions, parsley, garlic, milk-soaked bread, Vegeta (with bits of dried vegetables, yuck! - which I now use in everything), etc., but for whatever reason, my stomach tolerated rissoles.
Most of the recipes from my childhood I follow religiously, without questioning the process or the ingredients. I honestly thought mom was adding bread to the ground beef to stretch the meal. It was cheaper than buying more beef.
All my young life I watched her soak a slice of bread or a day-old bun in milk and then give it a gentle squeeze before mixing it with meat. I never asked why.
Macedonian Gluten-Free Beef & Feta Rissoles - Koftinja
When I found out that everyone is using bread or breadcrumbs in rissoles, I thought it must be to keep them from falling apart. Still, I didn't confirm. That was the way of making the patties and so it must be. Following mom's recipe, I also used to roll them into flour before frying.
Much later in my life while Macedonia, as well as Bosnia, still belonged to former Yugoslavia, I discovered koftinja. To my surprise, their rissoles are made without the onions, garlic, Vegeta, and bread. I was even more surprised when they didn't fall apart while frying. What is keeping them together, I do not know. I know only that they are deliciously perfect. Nothing else matters much.
The star ingredient in these gluten-free beef rissoles is feta cheese and the gravy is the icing on the cake. Made with ajvar, my favorite spread in the whole world, this gravy is also gluten-free and an ideal condiment for the meat patties (you can use tomato paste instead).
Ajvar is a pepper-based condiment made principally from red peppers and contains eggplant, garlic, and sometimes hot peppers for a spicy version. My mom's recipe for ajvar is the best! To make it though, it takes almost a whole day. Luckily, Macedonian brand Biljana makes ajvar (ajver) that tastes almost like mom's (see ESSENTIALS box below).
Although I'm no longer an anorexic picky eater and I still love rissoles the way mom makes them, this gluten-free Macedonian recipe is much more agreeable with my attempt to eat healthier. Serve them with a side of oven-roasted cabbage wedges or boiled potatoes.
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for Beef and Feta Rissoles with Gravy
Macedonian beef rissoles with feta and ajvar gravy
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 egg
- 2 oz. crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the Gravy
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons Macedonian-style ajvar relish substitute with tomato paste
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients for the rissoles. Blend it with your clean hands or using a wooden spoon. Don't over mix, it'll make your rissoles tough. Use wet hands to form six patties.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add rissoles. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Flip them a few times for even cooking.
- Transfer the rissoles to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. To the pan, add the ajvar or tomato paste and whipping cream. Stir and let simmer for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.