Forthcoming partner at law firm Dechert, wife of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg – and instinctive cook – Miriam González Durántez shares her croquetas recipe with Stylist
“A love of good food is in my blood; everyone in my family cooks. I grew up in the kitchen, watching my aunt getting her hands dirty making hundreds of croquetas and it’s a recipe I’ve passed on to my children. I love it because you can create something totally delicious from leftovers such as chicken or spinach and serve them as a meal or as tapas in the evening. That’s how I eat them in Spain; it’s a very social dish. When I’m at home, I serve them in summer with a glass of cold beer and a big green salad and in winter with a bottle of Spanish red wine.
I’ve made this recipe so many times, I can do it with my eyes shut. It’s a very traditional Spanish dish but every family has their own variation. They are too fiddly to do when I get home from work, so me and the kids [sons Antonio, 9, Alberto, 7, and Miguel, 2] make them on weekends. You have to shape them like meatballs and the children love getting their hands dirty, dipping them in breadcrumbs. They make a terrible mess but it’s worth it!
That’s the kind of cooking I’m used to, slightly chaotic, with no rules, just going on instinct. That’s why when I first met Nigella in May, I’d never really baked properly. I had all her books of course, but when we met by chance at a dinner and talked about the art of baking, she converted me!”
3 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, very finely chopped
100g of plain flour
1 litre milk
300g of ham – such as Spanish jamón serrano or Italian Parma ham – chopped into small cubes. You can replace this with chicken, prawns, spinach or boiled eggs
A pinch of nutmeg
100g grated cheddar cheese
To coat and fry the croquetas:
2 beaten eggs with 1/2 glass of milk
Breadcrumbs, approx 300g
Step 1: Heat the olive oil in a deep heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat. Add the leek, turn down the heat and cook until it turns translucent. Stir in the flour and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly.
Step 2: Meanwhile, warm the milk and add it to the pan. Take the mixture off the heat and blend with a handheld blender.
Step 3: Add the ham and the nutmeg to the pan. Put the mixture back on the heat andkeep stirring it until you have a thick béchamel sauce (another four to five minutes). As you take the pan off the heat, add the cheese. Stir and pour into a shallow dish. Cool for at least an hour or overnight if you prefer.
Step 4: To coat and fry the croquetas put three dishes in a row: one with the flour, another one with beaten egg and milk, and the last one with breadcrumbs. Pick up a spoonful of the mixture (it should not be wet) and with your hands mould it into a cylinder shape. Keep doing this until you’ve used up all of the mixture.
Step 5: Roll the cylinders of croqueta mix into the flour, then into the egg and milk, and finally into the breadcrumbs. Put the croquetas in the fridge for an hour so that they become firm before frying them. They are even better if you freeze them – they last up to three months in the freezer.
Step 6: Fry them in small batches with lots of olive oil in a small deep frying pan until they are golden. Take them out and drain them on kitchen paper (to soak up excess oil) before serving.
Photography: Nato Welton