Ham croquetas is a typically Spanish snack that makes great party or picnic food. Well worth the effort, these crisp, golden brown bites have a creamy Ibérico ham and leek filling. With their unique combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients, the allium vegetables like leek belong in your diet on a regular basis. There’s research evidence for including at least one serving of an allium vegetable in your meal plan every day. So try ham croquetas if you want to introduce leek to your kids or other family members in the most delicious way possible.
- 75g plain flour
- 2 large free-range eggs, beaten
- 75g dried breadcrumbs
- sunflower oil, for frying
For the filling
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ small leek, diced as small as possible
- 70g jamón Ibérico or other air-dried ham, diced very small
- 60g plain flour
- 75ml ham stock or vegetable stock
- 325ml full-fat milk
- freshly grated nutmeg
To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a pan until it starts to shimmer. Add the leek and sauté until soft but not colored. Stir in the ham with a wooden spoon, fry for 1 min, then stir in the flour and fry over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is golden but not burnt – this will take about 5 mins.
Meanwhile, combine the stock and milk in a small pan and heat until steaming but not boiling. Season with a few scrapes of nutmeg. Gradually add the liquid, a few tbsp at a time, stirring constantly.
Once you’ve incorporated all the milk stock, continue to cook the filling over a medium heat for about 10 mins or until it thickens and leaves the sides of the pan when you stir it.
Season with black pepper, taste and adjust the salt if necessary – the ham can be very salty to start with. The filling is now done: it has to be really thick because you don’t want the croquetas to turn into pancakes.
Smooth the mixture onto a baking tray (30 x 20 cm is fine). Once it has stopped steaming, cover with cling film to stop it drying out. Leave to cool before putting it in the fridge for 1 hr.
When you’re ready for the next stage, line up three bowls: the first filled with the flour, the second with beaten egg and the third with breadcrumbs. Take the ham mixture out of the fridge. Put a little bit of olive oil on your hands to make it easier to roll the croquetas.
Roll a spoonful of the mixture between your palms. The size and shape of the croquetas is up to you, but the easiest is a walnut-sized ball. Then begin coating as follows.
Dunk the croquetas into the flour – you want a dusting – followed by the egg, then the breadcrumbs. Put them on a tray and, when you’ve used up all the mixture, place in the fridge for 30 mins.
If you have a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil to 180C and fry for a couple of mins. If not, heat the oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan until it starts to shimmer. Then add 5-6 croquetas at a time and fry until golden all over. Once cooked, drain on kitchen paper and eat straight away.
Tip: Do you know how to prepare leek? Cut off green tops of leeks and remove outer tough leaves. Cut off root and cut leeks in half lengthwise. Fan out the leeks and rinse well under running water, leaving them intact. Cut leeks into 2-inch lengths. Holding the leek sections cut side up, cut lengthwise so that you end up with thin strips, known as the chiffonade cut, slicing until you reach the green portion. Make sure slices are cut very thin to shorten cooking time. Let leeks sit for at least 5 minutes before cooking.