These ham hock and pea croquettes are made from a stiff béchamel, rather than mashed potato that so many versions of croquettes seem to be bulked out with. They need to be eaten hot – so hot you burn your fingers on the crisp breadcrumb exterior as you rush to bite into the oozing, cheesy, molten centre. The smoky ham and tangy mustard make the perfect accompaniment to a cold beer or cider.
Makes about 40
75g plain flour
500ml whole milk
100g mature cheddar, grated
1 tbsp mustard
Salt and white pepper
200g cooked smoked ham hock, shredded into chunks
100g frozen peas, defrosted
flat-leaf parsley a handful, finely chopped
3 eggs, beaten
150g panko breadcrumbs
groundnut oil for deep frying
Melt the butter in a pan and then stir in the flour to make a thick paste. Gradually stir in the milk until you have a smooth sauce. Simmer over a low heat for 10-15 minutes. Add the cheese and mustard and stir until melted, then add the ham, peas and parsley and season. The mixture should be quite thick and paste-like. It will thicken a little more once chilled too.
Scoop into a tray or dish, cool, then chill completely in the fridge. (This can take 2-3 hours, or you could make it the day before.) Scoop out large tablespoons of the mix and roll each into small logs, around 5cm long and 2cm thick. Flouring your hands slightly will help prevent the mix from sticking to everything.
Put the beaten egg on one plate and breadcrumbs on another. Roll the croquettes in the egg then the crumbs. Repeat so you have two layers of egg and breadcrumbs.
Fill a pan no more than 1/3 full with oil and heat to 180C (or until a cube of bread browns in around 30 seconds), then deep fry the croquettes in batches for 3-4 minutes until crisp and golden. Scoop out and drain on kitchen paper (you can keep the cooked croquettes warm in a very low oven). Serve with English mustard and cold beer.
Arancini, named after the little oranges that these fried rice balls are said to resemble, are best known in the UK as a handy way to use up leftover risotto. You can use any risotto you have made, fill it with anything you like and coat it in what you fancy too.
I had leftover mushroom risotto, stuffed it with some chorizo and coated it in a sage and pistachio breadcrumb coating but you can use whatever you have or fancy.
Some ideas could include:
Risotto: Butternut and sage, chicken and bacon, saffron, tomato and basil
Take 1 heaped tsp of leftover risotto and flatten it slightly in the palm of your hand
Place a little of your filling in the centre and gently cup your hand to encase the filling within the risotto mix. Form into a compact ball and repeat until the risotto is used up.
Place the flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Coat the risotto balls in the flour, then in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs.
Heat the oil in a pan over a high heat until it reaches about 180C or until you drop a few breadcrumbs in and they sizzle and turn golden.
Fry about 4 arancini balls at a time so the temperature of the oil does not drop as this will make the balls soggy. When they are deep golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Keep in a warm oven while you cook the rest.
Serve with a tomato sauce to dunk them into… and maybe a glass of wine too 😉
These delicious joints of chicken are crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside. They are my idea of perfect sharing food, especially if men and TV are involved. The flavours are clean and simple and the cooking process is easy. I like to serve these fresh from the oven but they are also amazing cold the next day. The green chilli is hot but it is the flavour that is really important here, so scrape out the seeds and cut off the membranes, if you wish, to minimise the heat. You can leave the chilli out altogether if you want and you will still have a fantastic subtly spiced and crispy, succulent treat.
800g chicken joints, skinned and pricked all over
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin powder
4 slices white bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs
1 large egg, beaten
1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve
10g fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
25g garlic, peeled
24 green chillies, seeds and membranes removed, if wanted
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Blend all the marinade ingredients into a paste and place in a non-metallic bowl. Add the chicken and coat well in the paste. Leave in the fridge to marinate for a couple of hours or overnight. Bring back to room temperature before cooking.
Preheat the oven to 225°C. Pour the oil into a foil lined roasting tin large enough to accommodate the chicken in one open layer. Place the pan on a high shelf in the oven to heat up for 15 minutes.
Mix the salt, black pepper and cumin powder into the breadcrumbs. Take the chicken out of the marinade, letting the excess drip off, and roll in the spicy crumbs, ensuring an even coating on all sides. Dip into the egg and add a second coating of crumbs.
Place the chicken in the oiled roasting tin and cook for 20 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 200°C, turn the chicken over and cook for another 15–25 minutes (depending on the size of the joints) or until cooked through. Serve with lemon wedges and salad.
These beauties are surprisingly easy to make and taste way better than anything you’ll find from your local take away. They are gluten free and if you omit the butter, dairy free too.
As with many of my recipes you can adapt them to your liking by adding different spices, aromats and herbs. Why not use the batter to turn other meat and vegetables into bhajis too?!
I have mixed gram flour with rice flour to give a little extra crunch to the batter as well as wholesome, subtle nuttiness. In the images shown, I have used 1 red and 1 brown onion to give a mix of acidity and sweetness.
(Makes 8-10) Ingredients:
60g gram flour
30g rice flour
1 Tbsp ghee or butter, melted
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp each turmeric, garam masala
1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
½ tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1 tsp curry paste (I used madras)
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely minced
2 tsp root ginger, finely grated
2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
Small bunch of coriander, chopped
2 onions, halved, core removed and thinly sliced
Vegetable oil, to cook
Sift the flours into a mixing bowl then stir in the ghee and lemon juice and just enough cold water to bring it to a consistency slightly thicker than double cream. Stir in the spices, aromatics and herbs and add salt to taste. Stir in the onions so they are well coated.
Fill a large pan a third full with oil and heat to 180C– a drop of batter should sizzle as it hits the oil, then float. If you have a digital thermometer, use it here for far more accurate results. Meanwhile, put a plate lined with kitchen paper next to the hob. Put the oven on a low heat.
Once the oil is up to temperature, shape tablespoon-sized amounts of the mixture into balls with two metal spoons. Drop into the oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan then stir carefully to stop them sticking. Cook for about four minutes, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden, then drain on the paper and put in the oven to keep warm while you cook the next batch. Serve with chutney or pickle and lemon wedges.