Mushroom Croquetas (vegetarian)
In February I gave a recipe for ham and smoked cod croquetas, as you might find in Spain if you are tapas-cruising in Malaga or Bilbao. Now I tried a similar recipe for mushroom croquetas, which have a very intense flavour and a lovely interesting black colouring. They are a perfect dish for a vegetarian lunch along with a side salad, or as part of a Spanish themed spread. They are a bit of a faff to make as the bechamel is soft and tends to stick to your hands, but you can do most of the work ahead of time and they are so satisfying to eat I can forgive them the slight hassle.
Makes 25 croquetas - which is enough for a party, as they are quite filling. Timings – 60 minutes on Day 1, 90 minutes on Day 2.
Fry the fresh mushrooms in a pan with some vegetable oil and butter – the liquid will start to come out. Keep cooking on a low heat. Put your dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. After 5 minutes take out the rehydrated mushrooms, cut up finely and add to the pan with the other mushrooms. Keep the soaking water. When the liquid has evaporated from the pan, chop or blend up the mushrooms to give quite a solid paste. Use 100ml of the soaking liquid (which will be dark brown and smell strongly of fungi) the bechamel but make sure there isn’t any grit in it.
Make the bechamel in a fairly heavy bottomed saucepan. Melt the butter and the oil together, add the flour and stir over a gentle heat, cooking the flour without letting it burn. Add the liquid and keep stirring. It will thicken as you stir. Keep adding the liquid to make a very thick bechamel sauce. You need to keep stirring and cooking for a while to make sure any flouriness is cooked out, and the sauce is creamy. Add the pureed mushrooms and taste for seasoning. A sprinkling of salt and a generous grinding of pepper lifts the flavour. It will be an interesting sooty black colour.
Line a container with cling film – I try to avoid using cling film these days but I have tried other things and the sauce sticks and you waste a lot, so I do use cling film for this. Pour the cooled flavoured bechamel into your container and wrap the cling film over the top to stop a hard skin forming. Place in the fridge for 24 hours to chill thoroughly and set firm.
Next day, prepare a flat bowl with beaten egg and another one with breadcrumbs. Working on a floured baking tray, take a dessert spoonful of the set bechamel mixture and roll it in the flour, using flour to stop your hands sticking too. Form it into a cylinder about as long as your thumb and a bit thicker. Then drop two at a time into the egg mixture, then into the breadcrumbs, firmly pressing the breadcrumbs onto the eggy surface. They should stick and make a firm dry coating. Put the completed croquetas on a plate to set again.
It is fiddly, and it takes a while – it might be easier if you have a production line of helpers assisting you with this.
When the croquetas have had a few minutes to set, heat 2cm of oil in a heavy pan, or fire up your deep fat fryer or your air fryer. Fry the croquetas quite briefly in medium hot oil – the filling is already cooked, so you just want to warm it up and brown the breadcrumbs. Remove from the hot oil or from the air fryer and serve as soon as you can – they do keep warm in the oven quite nicely but are best straight from the pan.
Serve with a little pot of mayonnaise mixed with crushed garlic and a simple green salad.
A Hug from the Kitchen
Healthy, hearty, happy food, for good times and bad. Cheer yourself up, or spread the cheer around your family and friends.