It's been a while since I've posted a recipe but when I heard about the cheddar croquetas my friend Gen cooked for her supper club the other day I begged her to tell me how to make them.
Gen's a very talented food stylist and writer whose blog ‘An Egg a Day’ charts her adventures in urban hen keeping and egg cookery. She recently started an occasional supper club with a menu that includes as many eggs as possible. This is how she describes it:
"Saturday night saw the second ‘egg supper’, planned as an early autumn feast of fruit, cheese and meat. On the menu was a rabbit and prune pate, served with spiced apricot chutney, Keen’s cheddar & wholegrain mustard croquetas, pork & pears braised in cider, a mojito sorbet and a plum, almond & amaretto crumble served with glorious homemade custard.
Undoubtedly one of the stars of the show were the croquetas. The recipe started out as a germ of an idea, constructed in my mind as an anglicized version of the gorgeous Spanish jamon croquetas I love so much. I used Keens cheddar for this recipe as it's one of my favourites. I knew it would be smooth enough to melt gorgeously but robust in flavour with a strong earthy taste that wouldn’t be overpowered by the mustard. If you can’t get hold of Keens, substitute any other extra mature cheddar.
I was so pleased with the result, they were quite delicious - rich, crunchy and deeply savoury - just as I imagined them to be in my edible daydreams!"
Cheddar & wholegrain mustard croquetas
Makes 28-30, enough for 4-6 generous helpings.
1 small onion, peeled & cut into quarters
1tsp whole black peppercorns
2 sprigs rosemary to infuse in milk
150g plain flour
200g extra mature cheddar, grated
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
200g fine dried breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
Vegetable oil for deep frying
In a heavy based plan, bring the milk up to boil along with the onion, peppercorns and rosemary. Reduce the heat to as low as possible and simmer gently for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse.
In a clean saucepan, melt the butter, then add the flour and stir together to form a roux. Strain the milk and pour onto the roux and whisk until combined. Cook until thickened, stirring all the time to prevent lumps or sticking. You will end up with a rather unappetizing thick and gloopy white sauce - have faith. Add the cheese and mustard mix throughly until combined, scrape into a flat dish and spread out to cool, pressing down a layer of cling film to prevent a skin forming. Once cool, chill in the fridge for an hour or two to firm up.
When you are ready to begin shaping the croquetas, set yourself up a production line with the beaten egg in a small bowl and the breadcrumbs on a large plate. Take a generous dessertspoonful of the chilled mixture and shape into a little rugby ball. I found it easiest to do this with a combination of the scoop of the spoon and the palm of my hand. Drop gently into the egg then lift out and roll in the breadcrumbs until coated all over. Transfer to a clean plate. Repeat with the remaining mixture then chill again for at least 30 minutes. They will rest quite happily in the fridge for 24 hours making it a good fiddly job to do ahead of time.
To cook, heat a deep fat fryer to 180°C and fry in batches for 3 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Alternatively heat a litre of oil in a large saucepan. When a cube of bread dropped in takes 60 seconds to turn a deep golden brown the oil is hot enough to cook. Cook in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pan as this will result in a dramatic drop in temperature.
These croquetas are really rich and great served with something a little crisp and sharp, like a peppery watercress salad. As an added bonus, the croquetas, shaped and rolled, freeze really well. Cooked from frozen - they will take a little extra time to fry - they make a gorgeously indulgent and quick supper. Lovely with a glass of chilled dry sherry, or even an icy cold beer straight from the fridge.