Welcome to Weathercraft Winery Kitchen. With vintage 2020 lost to bushfire smoke and everyone now in isolation, we have a lot more time on our hands! So, we decided to get creative and think of ways to share our vineyard and winery with you at home. In this cooking series, Raquel will share some of the Spanish dishes she grew up with. The recipes will be presented in super simple ways for you to try at home.
Croquette hails from the French word “croquer”, meaning to ‘crunch’. These tasty morsels were believed to have been the design of a man called Antonin Carême. In the mid-Eighteenth century, Carême (known as the “king of chefs and the chef of the kings”) first served a dish he called ‘croquettes à la royale’, at a banquet for French aristocracy.
Born from a time of famine – when flour was in abundance, and other ingredients were scarce – the humble croquette remains one of the best ways of using up leftovers, so that nothing goes to waste! There are endless variations and manners in which to fill these tasty tidbits. Served in bars across Spain, the main flavours are salt cod, chicken and jamón – with Croquetas de Jamón being the ‘Queen of the Croquettes’.
This is my recipe using a fail-safe (‘backward’) béchamel sauce to ensure success EVERY time! I hope you enjoy making these parcels of pleasure as much as I do!
Recipes will feature a video, troubleshooting tips and recipe variations including plant-based options where possible. I will also offer ideas for matching wines to your dish!
Generally, Spanish recipes use simple ingredients and simple steps, I have gone a step further though and made the recipes in this series even more simple by sharing tips and cheats with you for successful Spanish cooking at home. Your family (and you!) will be applauding your efforts. Let’s begin…
Recipe: Croquetas de Jamón (Ham Croquettes)
Yields: 30 oblong croquettes or 60 balls
Vegan-Friendly option, Gluten-Free (when made with GF flour and rice crumbs)
- 75g unsalted butter (use vegan alternative is desired)
- 1 medium brown onion, finely chopped and sautéed with a pinch of salt until soft and translucent
- 250g finely chopped jamón, briefly fried (1 min) in a hot, dry pan to rendered the fat a little (use 125g coco-bacon as vegan alternative and 1/2 cup fresh/frozen peas)
- 3 cups full-fat milk (use soy as vegan alternative)
- 3/4 cup plain flour (GF flour can be used)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional)
- 3-4 large eggs (substitute 3 tbsp of veganaise for vegan version)
- approx 200g fine bread crumbs (use rice crumb or GF crumbs, if desired)
- approx 200g panko crumbs (substitute rice crumb or GF crumb, if desired)
- approx 600-700ml olive oil or vegetable oil, for frying
Part 1. Filling
- In a medium-sized pan melt butter over medium heat, then add flour and cook for 5-7 mins stirring every so often.
- In a high-powered blender, add flour-butter mix, onion, jamón, milk, salt and nutmeg. Blend on med-high for about 30 seconds to properly combine (check for flour lumps, if any, mix for 15 seconds more)
- Pour contents back into pot on stove and heat liquid over medium flame.
- Gently stir the sauce (with wooden spoon) regularly for 7-10 minutes until mixture begins to thicken. The sauce is ready when it begins to come away from the base of the pan when you run your spoon along. Note: do not walk away from the pan, as sauce will thicken quickly and can catch on bottom of pan – stir gently, but do stir.
- Transfer to an oven/baking dish (I use one approx. 30cm x 20cm, use whatever you have)
- Allow to cool slightly, before covering and refrigerating for at least 2 hours, if not overnight.
Note: At this point you can leave mixture in refrigerator for up to 5 days before proceeding to next steps.
Part 2. Shaping, Coating and Frying
- Take out your dish with filling from the fridge and cut your filling into pieces.
- For 30 pieces: Roughly measure and cut to make 10 vertical lines (roughly 3cm wide). Then cut 2 horizontal lines (roughly 6.5cm wide), making a total of 30 evenly sized rectangle pieces.
- Prepare your dipping station by setting out three shallow bowls.
- One with fine bread crumbs, one with lightly whisked eggs and the third with panko crumbs.
- Squeeze and mould all rectangle pieces of filling into somewhat long oval shapes in your hands and line up on a flat tray or surface.
- Take one moulded piece and roll in the fine bread crumbs, coating evenly.
- Shake off excess crumbs and dip the piece in egg, coating evenly.
- Shake off excess egg and roll in panko crumbs, coating evenly.
- Place finished croquette back on tray and repeat Steps 4-7 until all 30 pieces are finished.
Note: At this point you can freeze the breaded croquettes in a freezer safe container for up to 2 months. Simply defrost in fridge overnight before proceeding to next steps.
- Fill a medium-size frypan halfway up with oil (approx. 600-700ml). Note: You want the oil to cover croquettes at least 3/4 if not fully.
- Heat oil to medium-high temperature. (You can test the temperature by dropping in a bit of batter. If it sizzles and froths gently it is ready, if it froths too vigorously turn heat down a fraction and wait a few minutes)
- Place a maximum of 6 croquettes at a time into the oil.
- Fry croquettes for about 5 mins (turning mid-way if needed) until beautiful and golden brown (Not too dark!)
- Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towel.
- Continue to fry remaining croquettes.
- Serve immediately.
- Alternatively, you can reheat just before serving in 160° fan-forced (180° non fan-forced) oven for approximately 15-20 minutes, depending on how long you let them cool.
Serve as is or alongside some aioli or tomato chutney (if desired).
My croquettes are splitting when I fry them:
Your oil is too hot, it should be medium. Lower the heat and allow the oil to cool slightly and try again.
I’m having trouble with the shape:
If the football shape is too difficult to achieve, cut each rectangle in half again and shape/squash into balls instead!
Typically in Spain, you would have this dish alongside a dry sherry. I have also enjoyed this dish with a refreshing sangria (my recipe for sangria is yet to come, so stay tuned!). Our dry, 2019 Rosé is a marvellous pairing. As is our medium-bodied, fruity 2018 Shiraz or our lighter style 2019 Tempranillo.
You can fill your croquetas with different fillings such as:
- Leeks (substitute half a leek for the brown onion)
- Mushrooms (dice mushroom and fry with onion as an alternative to jamón)
- Chorizo (substitute diced pieces of chorizo for the jamón) ***
- Chicken, Pork, Beef (use leftover meat that has been pre-cooked. Either shred or dice and add before blending) ***
- Salted Cod (let cod cool and then break up a little with your hands and add prior to blending) ***
- Tuna (Substitute a can of tuna, mashed for the jamón and onion – just add before blending)
- Cheese (Substitute 75g of grated manchego or parmesan for the jamón or with jamón!) ***
***Please mind how much salt you add when using these filling variations. Leave out salt and test filing mixture once all ingredients have been blended – add salt if required at this stage.
Don’t forget to share your photos and comments! Email them through to: [email protected]
I will be sharing some of the photos I receive on social media 🙂 Happy cooking! Raquel x