Spain 2024

We've taken this week's race cookery to a new level. 4 weeks ago, Heidi and I went to Madrid for research - and tried out every savoury snack we could find.

Heidi didn't allow me any influence on this choice, not even which recipe version to follow. Once again she led the cooking, but required me only to do the hour-long continuous stirring!

And so we made croquettes with Serrano ham.

To be enjoyed in the sun

Before our trip, I had always understood croquettes to be cylindrical hash browns, but I was so wrong (a.k.a. British). 

The inside is actually carefully manipulated bechamel sauce, which can be accompanied with ham or other things. Ideally, we'd have used Iberico ham, but it's just not available in our supermarket. Iberico/Serrano/Palma/Sec hams are virtually the same anyway (at this point I take cover for having offended multiple nations).

Making these, involved a butter-heavy sauce with onion, smoked pancetta and Serrano ham, seasoned with nutmeg and simmered while constantly stirring for an hour to make it only slightly thicker! Chilled overnight the mixture becomes like playdough for shaping, before coating in egg and breadcrumbs, and like many of our snacks this year, fried to finish.

Heidi and I always knew we were going to love these. Tally quite liked it, but preferred to just eat the spare ham slices. Siân refused to try it, as the smoky smell which has filled the kitchen since the previous evening, put her off. Another good one (at least for some of us). 

If you choose to follow us and make these for yourselves, I suggest you time it well, like Heidi did, so that you go to bed and leave your Dad to do the tedious stirring bit.

Onions and pancetta cooking

Any extra milk, Heidi will drink

Adding milk

Adding more milk

And more milk

Eventually it thickened

Balls must be arranged in strict lines on the work surface


Frying to finish

Serve with the spare ham

If we ever feel like making too much effort for a dinner party starter, this could be it.


For the insides
50 g butter  
½ small onion, super finely chopped 
100 g Serrano ham torn into shreds
100g dry cured smoked pancetta chopped
800 ml full-fat milk 
60 g plain flour, and a sprinkle more to roll it in later
Some (not sure how much we actually put in) freshly grated nutmeg 
pinch of ground white pepper 

For coating
A sprinkle of plain flour for the work surface, when rolling
2 eggs  
2 left-over hotdog rolls, toasted under the grill to go crispy and then whizzed in the blender to crumbs

Deep fry in
1 ltr vegetable oil

  1. In a saucepan that could do with being a bit bigger than the one we chose, melt the butter. Add onion and the pancetta, cooking gently to soften the onion.
  2. In a separate pan (though certainly not the milk pan because, as Siân points out, it isn't going to be big enough) warm the milk to nearly boiling.
  3. Pour in the flour; cook for 5 minutes, stirring continuously.
  4. Add the milk to the butter/flour in small amounts. At this point determine that you need Dad's help, so make him do the stirring.
  5. Now decide to go to bed, leaving Dad to continue the stirring for 1 hour, until it eventually thickens. Your Dad may use this time to: watch the football, finish the bottle of gin, contemplate the meaning of life, regret being roped into this etc.
  6. Line a brownie tin with greaseproof paper. Spread the mixture in. Cover with clingfilm, touching the surface, to prevent a skin forming. Cool at room temperature and then in the fridge overnight.
  7. Tip out the gloop onto a floured surface and cut into nearly 25 equal pieces.
  8. Roll into balls (though in Madrid we only saw these in cylindrical shape) without warming it in your hands.
  9. Dip in eggs, followed by bread crumbs
  10. And of course, deep fry for about 2 minutes to lightly brown.
  11. Beware, they stay hot on the inside for a while.
Did I mention, it took an hour to make the sauce thicken?! 

A big thanks to Christian, Vicky, Raquel and Maria for hosting us in Madrid and introducing us to croquettes and many other delicacies.  


Popular Posts