Croquetas are a tapas bar staple and one of my favourite Spanish nibbles. Crispy on the outside, soft and luscious on the inside, you can make them with cheese, ham, tinned tuna, boiled egg, prawns … they’re all delicious.
I had some Christmas ham so that’s what I’ve gone with here, although in Spain they’d usually be made with Serrano scraps. Turkey and ham, used 50-50, would also be good. And talking of Christmas leftovers, while croquetas are usually made with a thick béchamel, you can use bread sauce. It sounds odd but it works brilliantly and half your work is done.
If using béchamel, it should be very thick, nearly stiff enough to stand up a spoon. If the finished mix is too runny it won’t set and your croquetas will explode messily when you fry them (cheese croquetas are particularly prone to this).
I’d like to take this opportunity to say thanks to everyone who reads Mrs P. The best compliment any food writer can be given is hearing that people have cooked and enjoyed your recipes. Whatever you’re doing this Christmas, I hope you’ll have a wonderful holiday. Now, where did I put that cooking sherry?
100-200g cooked ham, to taste, finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
For the bechamel sauce:
75g plain flour
450 ml whole milk
Salt and pepper
For the coating:
1 egg, beaten with 2 tbsp milk
3-4 tbsp plain flour
4-5 tbsp toasted breadcrumbs (panko are inauthentic but give extra crunch)
Oil for frying
Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour and cook on a gentle heat for a minute or two. Then gradually add the milk, stirring all the time to incorporate it and cook for five to 10 minutes, still stirring, until the sauce you have a smooth, thick sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
Take it off the heat and mix in the chopped ham and parsley. Spread in an even 2cm layer in a shallow rectangular tin or dish and cover the surface with cling film. Once it has cooled, chill in the fridge until set (about three hours; overnight is fine).
Line up your egg-and-breadcrumbing ingredients: a dish each of plain flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs. Using a knife to mark out the divisions, cut the set ham mixture into pieces about the size of a wine cork.
Gently roll each first in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. It’s a good idea to use one hand only to do the dipping so you have the other clean for picking up plates.
Once coated, you can keep the croquetas in the fridge up to for 24 hours, or freeze them, set slightly apart, for up to three months. If you freeze them and stack them up, put greaseproof paper between the layers or they’ll stick together. They can be cooked from frozen but they will take a little longer.
To cook, heat about an inch of oil in a deep frying pan until you can see a light haze forming. Fry your croquetas in batches, cooking until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
Eat while still warm with patatas bravas (fried potatoes tossed with sweet paprika and a little cayenne), good crusty bread or with another Catalan favourite, pa amb tomàquet: sliced baguette, toasted or not, rubbed with garlic and ripe tomato and drizzled with a little olive oil and salt. A tomato salad and some crisp lettuce will provide a nod towards healthy eating and make a nibble into a meal.
Good resolutions can wait a few more days.
Sounds delicious! Perfect for a New Year’s gathering!
Thanks, Cindy. Have a lovely Christmas!
Brilliant idea about the bread sauce. I always make too much. Happy Christmas Linda – hope you have a great time, with not TOO many hours in the kitchen xx
Thank you, you too. Warmest best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to all the family. Lxx
Good afternoon Linda. Do you think these would work with smoked salmon or perhaps non smoked salmon or am I going way too far off the farm? We don’t eat meat nor Asian farmed shrimp and our winter choices are extremely limited. We probably cross paths with your nice on a boat though would not know it!
Hi Chip, hope you’re well. Personally I wouldn’t use smoked salmon but you could use fresh poached salmon ….we often use responsibly fished tinned tuna. You can also make them with chopped hard boiled eggs and a handful of parsley, and/or eggs and cheese. You have to be careful with the cheese though, as I said in the piece, they sometimes explode! I’d advise double dipping them in the egg and breadcrumbs. Have a fabulous Christmas and New Year … are you near the BVI? That’s where Fran is. Linda xx
Thanks and best wishes for a Merry Christmas. Yes. We are in Virgin Gorda for six months and Rhode Island for six months. We go from the freshest seafood in the summer to all farmed from who knows where in the winter. So lots of beans, eggs and other plant protein as well during the winter. Check out Bloomberg News 12-15-16 article on seafood from China. Yikes.
Sounds like a lovely lifestyle! I’ll check out the report, thanks. All the best for the season. Lx
Lovely, lovely! Have a fantastic Christmas and NY and we will definitely catch up in 2017. x
Thanks, Jane, you too, and I’ll look forward to a catch-up. xxx
I adore croquetas. There’s a great tapas place not too far from home, and we often enjoy their ham croquetas, and also the chicken ones. Thanks for the recipe, will definitely be trying this out!
Thanks, Frank, me too! Hope you like them if you make them. Lx