Thursday, 8 September 2011

Cheddar & wholegrain mustard croquetas

These croquetas started out as a germ of an idea for the next supperclub, planned as a luscious early autumn feast of fruit, cheese and meat. I adore the Spanish Jamon Croquetas and wanted to try and create an anglicized version. Anything crisply fried and deeply savoury is a big hit in my book. In anticipation of testing the recipe I treated myself to a shiny new deep fat fryer, something I have been toying with getting for ages. Now there really is no excuse for not trying Heston’s infamous triple cooked chip. It may well be steak & chips Friday in our house tomorrow. But in the meantime, the croquetas, I’m pleased to report, worked like a dream. Rich and super cheesy thanks to Keen’s marvelous extra strong cheddar, and packed with plenty of mustard punch. Just what I imagined them to be like in my edible daydreams. What a treat you have in store supper-clubbers! And if you can’t make it, do try the recipe and let me know what you think.

You'll need:
800ml milk
1 small onion, peeled & cut into quarters
1tsp whole black peppercorns
2 sprigs rosemary to infuse in milk
100g butter
150g plain flour
200g extra mature cheddar (I used Keen’s Extra Mature), grated
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
200g fine dried breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten 
Vegetable oil for deep frying
What to do:
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 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 gorgeous & indulgent quick supper. Lovely with a glass of chilled dry sherry, or even an icy cold beer straight from the fridge.
Makes 28-30, enough for 4-6 generous helpings.

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