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By far my most requested recipe, croquetas de jamón are utterly delicious. The jamón can be substituted for other meats or manchego cheese. Prepare the set bechamel filling the night before and they will be beautifully light and easy to shape.

croquetas de jamón

Makes about 25 croquetas

750ml whole milk

1 tsp black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

80g butter

1 small onion, very finely chopped

150g jamón serrano

50g jamón ibérico

1 tsp tomato purée

2 tbsp Spanish brandy

½ tsp ground nutmeg

150g plain flour, plus extra for shaping the croquetas

150g fine breadcrumbs

3 eggs

Olive oil for deep frying

Place the milk, peppercorns and bay leaf into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for around 30 mins. Strain to remove the peppercorns and bay leaf.

Melt the butter in a large deep frying pan over a medium heat, and add the chopped onions. Fry the onions gently for around 5 mins until soft. Meanwhile, chop the serrano and ibérico ham finely by hand, or use a food processor. Add the jamón to the onions and fry for 2 mins. Increase the heat slightly, add the tomato purée and nutmeg and fry for a further minute. Next add the brandy, and let it sizzle until evaporated, about 30 seconds.

Pour in about half of the milk, and gently bring to the boil. Meanwhile, whisk the flour into the other half of the milk. Once boiling, add the milk and flour mixture and season lightly. Turn the heat down slightly, and cook for 6-8 mins, stirring continuously with a wooden spatula until the mixture forms a thick paste and comes away from the pan cleanly. Chill the mixture overnight, covering the surface with clingfilm.

When you are ready to shape the croquetas, prepare three bowls with the ingredients for the coating: the first with seasoned plain flour, the second with the beaten eggs, and the third with the fine breadcrumbs.

Coat your hands in a little olive oil to stop the mixture from sticking (this may only help a little – it’s a messy job!) Take walnut sized pieces of the set mixture and roll into a ball between your palms. Then coat with the flour, dusting off any excess, before coating in the egg and finally breadcrumbs. Ensure that there are no gaps in the crust. Repeat the process until you have used all the mixture.

To cook, half fill a deep saucepan with olive oil and heat until a piece of bread sizzles when dropped in. Carefully lower the croquetas into the oil using a slotted spoon, frying for around 5 mins until golden brown and soft on the inside. It is best to fry them in a smaller batches, or around 5-6 croquetas at a time. Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.