Brussel sprouts – love them or hate them, they are almost bound to figure in your life over the next few weeks, so here is an inspirational and different way to cook them. I studied Spanish at University and spent a lot of time in Madrid where my friend's mother used to make croquetas de jamón. I've been in love with them ever since, and I've developed this Spanish twist on an old favourite.
If you want to try this dish for yourself without any of the hassle, just come along to our pop-up at Spike Island Café next Thursday! The link to book is at the bottom…
12 - 15 sprouts
1 white onion, medium
2 cloves garlic
5 rashers streaky bacon
For the bechamel:
25 g butter
25 g flour
125 ml milk
The end of an onion
1 bay leaf
Croquetas are essentially a very thick béchamel or white sauce with finely diced ingredients, in this case, sprouts! The mixture is then breadcrumbed and deep fried so that the crispy outside gives way to a gooey, sprouty deliciousness. A good way of achieving a béchamel with a depth of flavour is to infuse the milk. So, heat the milk with bay leaf, thyme, black peppercorns and onion. You are going to dice an onion finely for the croquetas, so chuck the end of the onion into the milk when you infuse it.
Cut the sprouts in half and then shred them finely. Put them in a pan of boiling salted water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and discard the water.
Finely slice the white onion, and fry in a pan until soft and browned with the finely diced bacon and garlic for about 10 minutes.
Make the béchamel by melting the butter and adding the flour, cook for 5 minutes over a low heat. Pour the infused milk through a sieve little by little, stirring after each addition. You should end up with a very thick béchamel. Cook it gently for about 5 minutes. Then add the browned onion, bacon and garlic and the blanched sprouts. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook for about 30 minutes over a low heat. This can be made in advance and re-heated the next day, so it’s great for getting ahead.
When the mixture is completely cool, roll it into small cylinders. Coat with flour, a mixture of egg and a splash of milk, and breadcrumbs. Then fry in very hot oil until browned.
Romesco sauce is optional but it's so good with these croquetas and it's one of my favourites, so have a go at making it and you won't look back. It's so rustic, it's easy.
100 g whole blanched almonds
50 g shelled hazlenuts
1 roasted red pepper
½ a dried chilli
3 cloves garlic
6 tablespoons olive oil
50 g stale white bread, cubed
150 g piquillo peppers
1 – 1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon tomato purée
½ teaspoon saffron strands (soaked in water)
½ teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
salt and pepper
Roast the almonds and hazlenuts in the oven until golden brown. Fry two of the garlic cloves in the olive oil, remove them and fry bread until golden. Reserve the oil. Pound the nuts, bread, garlic and peppers in a pestle and mortar til you achieve a coarse paste. Remove to a bowl and add vinegar, saffron strands and water, tomato purée, olive oil, paprika and the remaining garlic clove. Season to taste. This sauce keeps well in the fridge for a few days, in fact, the flavours get better with time!
Romesco sauce goes really well with roast beetroot, green beans, purple sprouting broccoli, baby leeks or asparagus (in the spring). It’s also the base of a Romescada, which is an absolutely delicious Catalan style fish stew at any time of year, especially now when it’s so cold.
If you want to come to 'Eat Christmas with us!' at Spike Island on Thursday 7th December, please book a ticket on Eventbrite.