The Croqueta is a very typically Spanish tapas and for good reason one of the most common and popular! Usually you will find them containing 'Jamon' but it is possible to add any flavour you want. This time around I am adding 'Hake', write up there with my favourite fish, it is from the Cod family but a more sustainable alternative to 'Cod' itself. With it's nice milky flesh, beautiful delicate flavour and flakey flesh once cooked, it lends itself perfectly for this recipe. It is a fish that is used widely throughout Spanish cooking and one I would like to see more of everywhere.
The key to making the perfect Croqueta is all in the base sauce. The Spanish Croqueta is made by using a thick 'Bechamel' sauce, unlike the French 'Croquette' where they will use a base of mashed potato. I prefer the Spanish Croqueta because that Bechamel base gives it a smooth creamy texture when you pop the outer layer of fried breadcrumbs, making them addictive as...........
The Bechamel must be thick, very thick, so that when it cools down it is firm enough to mould into shape with your hands or a couple of spoons. Add too much liquid when you make this and you might as well save it for the next Lasagne you make.
- 200g - Salted Butter
- 200g - Plain Flour
- 150ml - Milk
- 100g - Hake (Skinned and Boned)
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 - Egg
- 50g - Plain Flour
- 50g - Breadcrumbs
In a small pan bring the milk to a simmer and add your Hake, cook it for a couple of minutes until you are able to flake the flesh apart. There are two reasons for this, the first is to cook the fish but also it is to flavour the milk which will then help flavour the whole Croqueta when it is mixed through the Bechamel. Strain the milk into a jug or bowl so that it contains no remains of the Hake. Set the milk aside ready for use to make the Bechamel. Once the Hake is cool enough to handle flake it down into very small pieces, this will be folded into the Bechamel mixture towards the end.
Melt the butter in a saucepan on a low heat, once melted add the flour and stir until the mixture looks grainy like wet sand, in the beginning it will look smooth, it will take a couple of minutes to change from smooth to grainy looking. Once you can see the change this means that the flour has cooked out and is now ready for you to begin adding the milk. You need to add it gradually, not adding the next drop until the first has been completely combined. If you stick at this until the milk has ran out you should end up with a completely smooth but very thick Bechamel sauce. Season this with the salt & pepper and add the flaked Hake, give it a good mix to make sure there are no untouched parts to the sauce and spread into a flat tray or place in a bowl and leave to cool in the fridge.
After an hour in the fridge, maybe less, the bechamel mixture should be nice and firm, firm enough for you to roll small balls in the palm of your hand without making a sloppy mess. Do this with all of the bechamel mix until you have a plateful of naked Croquetas just needing their breadcrumb coating.
In 3 individual dishes place the remaining egg, flour and breadcrumbs into their own separate dish. Now working down a line place the balls firstly into the flour (season the flour with salt & pepper first), then from the flour into the egg, then from the egg into the breadcrumbs. Now you are ready to roll! If you have a fryer that's great but if not take a small frying pan and half fill it with cooking oil on a mid to high heat, around 170oc if using a fryer. When you think the oil is hot enough one by one drop in the balls and cook until they are golden and crispy. Take them out and try to eat them when they are still warm because that is when the bechamel will be working its magic, still creamy and runny from the heat of being cooked, trapped inside the crispy coating of the breadcrumbs.
It is so easy to do this with any flavour you want. You don't need to use milk either, if you were using Jamon like the typical way you would boil your ham in water firstly leaving you a stock which you would use rather than milk. It is also great with 'Salt Cod' where you would again poach in a bit of milk first before flaking. Or you can go vegetarian and maybe put a Squash puree through the bechamel base to give a fantastic orange colour and amazing flavour, or fry down a load of Mushrooms to mix through the bechamel. The options are endless and completely up to you!
Have a crack...