Parma Ham Croquettes

Thinking back to our wonderful holiday in Spain last summer and all the delicious tapas we ate in Seville, I decided to have a go at making croquettes and try to recreate that lovely holiday feel. The croquettes had to be 'make ahead' as no one wants to be deep frying at the last minute. I finally got there with this recipe. It really is a genius idea. The panko crumbs are fried before coating the croquettes, so you get a fried taste without a big frying job. It really does work well. They are a bit messy to make, but I think they are worth the effort. They are perfect as a canapé or as part of a tapas meal for friends. Just add some Spanish Tortilla and Prawns with Chorizo and perhaps a platter of Spanish charcuterie and open the Rioja. Delicious.

Ingredients - makes approximately 24

60g onion, chopped

25g butter

50g plain flour

250ml whole milk

90g Parma ham, finely shredded

50g mature cheddar cheese, grated

50g gruyere cheese, grated

2 tbs creme fraiche

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Pinch hot smoked paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

50g panko crumbs

1 tbs olive oil

1 egg, beaten

25g plain flour


Aioli

6 tbsp mayonnaise (home made or bought)

1 small garlic clove

Salt

1 tsp lemon juice (to taste)

Method

Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the onion until soft, but not brown.

Add the flour and stir to mix and cook the flour.

Slowly add the milk and stir until it thickens. It needs to be a thick sauce.

Stir in the creme fraiche, Dijon, cheeses, paprika and seasoning and stir until the cheeses have melted.

Leave to cool, then stir in the Parma ham. Cover and chill overnight.


To prepare the crumbs for the coating: Brush a non stick frying pan with 1 tsp olive oil and heat. Sprinkle in the panko crumbs and trickle over the remaining oil. Cook on a medium heat, turning constantly, until the crumbs are golden in colour. Tip onto a plate and cool.


Put the flour, beaten egg and panko crumbs in separate dishes.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dampen hands and take a teaspoonful of the Parma ham and cheese and mould it into a small round or oval shape and put this on the baking sheet. Repeat until all the mixture is used up. This is a very messy exercise, followed by an even messier exercise:

Roll each ball firstly in the flour, then the egg and finally the crumbs. Place on another covered sheet and chill for at least an hour or open freeze.


To cook: heat oven to 190c. Place croquettes on a baking sheet and spray with olive oil. Cook for 10 minutes if chilled and 12-15 minutes from frozen. Check they are piping hot before serving.

Serve with aioli: mash garlic clove with some salt until it is paste-like. Mix into the mayonnaise with a few drops of lemon juice.

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