Croquetas are one of the most popular dishes in José Tapas; we make around one hundred and fifty every day. I spent ages perfecting this recipe. Usually the roux is made with butter, but I use olive oil because I think it gives a better flavour.
In Spanish delis you can often buy cubed Ibérico ham (left over from carving the legs), which is ideal for this recipe – meat from close to the bone has the best flavour. If you cannot get hold of Ibérico ham, use Serrano ham instead, or indeed other cured hams such as speck or Parma ham.
Croquetas are a bit of a fiddle to make, but they can be frozen and make great party food, so have a go.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan until it starts to shimmer, then add the leek and sauté until soft but not coloured. Stir in the ham, fry for another minute, then stir in the flour and fry over a medium heat until the mixture is golden but not burnt. This will take about 5 minutes. It is important that the flour is cooked properly otherwise the croquetas will taste of flour.
- Combine the stock and milk in a small pan and heat until hot but not boiling. Season the liquid with a few scrapes of nutmeg. Gradually add the liquid to the roux, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring the mixture all the time. Once you have incorporated all the milk, continue to cook the sauce for about 5 minutes until it thickens and leaves the sides of the pan when you stir it. At this stage, add a couple of turns of the pepper mill, taste the roux and adjust the salt if necessary – the ham can be very salty to start with. The sauce is now done: it’s got to be really thick because you don’t want the croquetas to turn into pancakes! Smooth the sauce on to a baking tray (30cm x 20cm is fine) then cover with clingfilm to stop the mixture drying out. Leave it to cool before putting it in the fridge for an hour.
- When you are ready for the next stage, line up three bowls: one with flour, the other with beaten egg, and the third with the breadcrumbs. Dust your hands with flour, take a ball and roll it between your palms. The size of the croquettes is up to you, but the easiest is a walnut-sized ball. Next, dunk the croqueta into the flour – you want more of dusting than a coat – followed by the egg and then the breadcrumbs. Put the croquetas on a tray and when you’ve used up all the mixture, put them all back in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- If you have a deep fat fryer, heat the oil to 175°C/325°F and fry the croquetas for a couple of minutes. If not, heat the oil in a frying pan until it starts to shimmer, then add 3 or 4 croquetas at a time and fry until they are golden all over. You don’t want them to cook too quickly otherwise the centre won’t be hot enough.
Makes 15 to 20 croquetas
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ small leek, diced as small as possible – 3mm pieces
- 70g Ibérico or other air-dried ham, diced very small
- 60g plain flour
- 75ml ham or vegetable stock
- 325ml whole milk
- freshly grated nutmeg
- sea salt and freshly ground
- black pepper
- 75g plain flour
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 75g breadcrumbs
- oil, for frying