Love ´em or hate ´em – my friends and family seem to be divided in their opinion of croquettes. I´m most definitely in the “Love” camp, as is one of my god daughters who can eat them non stop. Big Man sits in the other camp and every now and then I try a new batch on him to see if I can convert him. He loved the Falafel I made recently, which are pretty “croquettey” in my view, so I haven´t given up hope.
Croquettes in Spain are generally made with a béchamel base to hold them together, rather than potato, which is the way I´ve always done them. I´ve never tried to make them Spanish style, but after making a fish pie the other day I had a small bowl of béchamel sauce left over and I thought I´d give them a go. What with having dogs and chickens, it´s unusual now for me to have many leftovers in the fridge. The chickies get the sad vegetables, salad and fruit (if I haven´t already turned them into soups or jams) and the dogs get bones and scraps of meat. Anything else should go onto the compost heap, but there never seems to be enough left!
Croquettes can be made from any filling, but I really recommend searching through your fridge and using up any little scraps of leftovers. I had a small bowl of cubed jamon which hadn´t gone into the soup and a few leaves of chard which were looking a bit floppy, so my decision was made. Other suggestions could be cold veg, tuna, leftover chicken, cheese, hard boiled eggs…ooh, I could go on, but I´ll just get on with telling you how they were made.
Not a lot of photos today as my hands were getting mucky (despite wearing latex gloves) when making the croquettes and Big Man wasn´t around to take snaps for me.
Ingredients used were:
- About 2 cups of cold béchamel which had gone quite solid. If you need to make it from scratch, use about 250-300ml of milk for your béchamel and then leave it in the fridge to get really cold.
- About a cup and a half of filling – I had a cup of very finely chopped Spanish jamon and a cup of shredded chard which, when cooked, reduced to half its volume
- A tablespoon of plain flour
- Salt and pepper
- A beaten egg
- Dried breadcrumbs for coating the croquettes
- Oil for deep frying
- A pair of latex gloves if you don´t want to get too mucky and a couple of tablespoons
Start by mixing your filling into the béchamel and season to taste. Add the flour to bind together slightly.
Beat your egg in a shallow bowl and prepare another bowl with some breadcrumbs.
Take heaped spoonfuls of the mixture and shape either by hand or with the spoons into croquettes. I went for the traditional cylinder shape but this is really up to you. As soon as you start to work with the béchamel it will soften (hence my recommendation of using gloves!) but persevere as things will get easier once you get to the breadcrumb stage.
Roll your croquette in the beaten egg mixture. Using a spoon to lift it in and out and spoon the egg over seems to help here, then drop it into the breadcrumb mix. Roll it around and then put onto a plate.
When all your croquettes are ready, and I got eight pretty big ones from the above mixture, pop them back into the fridge for at least an hour or until you are ready to cook them.
Get your oil nice and hot, once it starts to smoke, turn it down a little and gently drop the croquettes in. They probably take less than a minute to cook – just enough time for the outside to turn a golden brown and the centre to warm up. Lift them out with a slotted spoon onto some greaseproof paper and then to a serving plate. You can make them in advance and then gently warm them up for a few minutes in the oven if you are not serving straight away.
Pour yourself a nice cold glass of white wine or dry Spanish sherry and imagine a hot Andalucían summer´s evening in a noisy tapas bar while you enjoy your Croquetas de Jamon!