Anyone for croquette? Mark Hix serves up his version of the delicious treats

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Why settle for the mass-produced variety, asks our resident chef – these tasty little numbers are so much better when made at home...

Croquettes are one of those delicious treats that we all love, but sadly these days we tend to settle for the mass-produced variety rather than making our own at home. As you may recall, I did a recipe for turkey croquettes over the festive season and they utilised all the leftover meat and trimmings from the Christmas meal. The great thing about croquettes is that they are perfect for making the most out of leftovers, so if you're trying to be a little more thrifty with your food in the New Year, take inspiration from these recipes for tasty snacks and starters.

Stilton croquettes with walnut and celery mayonnaise

Makes about 20-25

You may well still have some stilton taking up room in your fridge or larder left over from Christmas, so this is a great way to use it up. You can make these croquettes smaller or larger, depending on if you want them snack-size or as a starter.

1kg large floury potatoes, peeled and quartered
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
150-200g stilton, rind removed and coarsely grated or chopped into small pieces
2tbsp chopped parsley
2-3tbsp plain flour
3 eggs, beaten
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
Vegetable or corn oil for frying

For the sauce

2tbsp good-quality mayonnaise
20-30g walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
Half a stick of celery and some celery leaves, finely chopped

Put the potatoes in a pan, cover with cold water and a teaspoon of salt, bring to the boil and simmer until tender, then drain, return to the pan on a low heat for a minute or so to dry them out. Mash the potato through a potato ricer or as fine as you can with a masher then leave to cool. Once cool, mix in the stilton and parsley and season to taste.

You can mould the potato into a cylinder about the size of a 10p piece or just make odd shapes with a dessert spoon or little balls, then refrigerate them on a tray for a couple of hours to firm up. Have 3 dishes ready, one with seasoned flour, one with the beaten eggs and the third with the breadcrumbs and a tray for the finished croquettes. Carefully pass them through the flour, shaking off any excess, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Store in the fridge until required.

To serve, heat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Mix the mayonnaise, walnuts and celery together. Deep-fry the croquettes a few at a time until golden, moving them around in the oil as they are cooking with a slotted spoon, then transfer to a tray lined with kitchen paper. Serve with the sauce in a dipping pot or on the plate.

Cuttlefish croquetas

Makes about 20

I had this dish in a tapas bar in Seville and it was one of the best things I have tasted in a long time; in fact, I liked it so much that I put it on the menu at Fish House. It's a real surprise biting through the crisp breadcrumb coating and into a jet-black silky filling.

500g cuttlefish, cleaned weight, cut into 5-6cm chunks and lightly scored
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
130g butter
3 large shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
150ml white wine
500ml fish stock
100g plain flour
5 sachets of squid ink (about 20g)
A squeeze of lemon juice
2-3tbsp plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
50-60g fresh white breadcrumbs
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying

Melt a little vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan, season the cuttlefish and lightly colour on both sides, then remove from the pan and put to one side. Melt 30g of the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the shallots and garlic for a couple of minutes until soft, then add the white wine, fish stock and cuttlefish, bring to the boil and simmer very gently for about an hour or until the cuttlefish is tender. Check the cuttlefish at regular intervals as it may well take less time than this. Remove the pieces of cuttlefish and put to one side to cool.

In a clean, thick-bottomed pan, melt the rest of the butter, add the 100g of flour and stir on a low heat for a minute or so, then gradually whisk in the hot cooking liquor to avoid lumps forming, then add the ink, squeezing out as much as you can from the packets (you can swish them out in the stock first). Bring to a simmer and continue simmering very gently for about 20-30 minutes (a simmer plate is great for this), stirring regularly so it doesn't stick to the bottom. The sauce should be really thick and gluey, almost the consistency of mashed potato. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, finely chop the cuttlefish and mix in with the sauce; re-season if necessary and add a little lemon juice to taste. Place the mix in the fridge for a few hours then transfer to a piping bag with a 1½-2 cm nozzle and pipe in long lines on a tray lined with greaseproof paper or clingfilm. Place the tray in the freezer for an hour to firm them up then cut them into 2cm lengths.

Have three dishes ready, one with the 2-3 tablespoons of flour, one with the beaten egg and the third with the breadcrumbs. Pass the croquettes f through the flour, shaking off any excess, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Leave in the fridge until required or you can freeze them on a tray then transfer them to a freezer bag and cook them from frozen as and when you need them.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Fry the croquettes for 3-4 minutes, turning them as they are cooking with a slotted spoon, then remove and drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately.

Chicken and egg croquettes

Serves 4

This is a good dish to use up leftover chicken or you could simply boil some chicken legs or thighs and keep the stock for a soup. Serve this as a brunch or lunch dish or even as a tea-time meal with the kids. Also, you can save the potato skins and cut and fry them as a snack with sour cream and/or guacamole.

400-500g floury potatoes for mashing
200-250g cooked chicken meat, chopped into small pieces
2tbsp chopped parsley
3-4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
2-3tbsp flour
2 free-range eggs, beaten
50-60g fresh white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Vegetable or corn oil for frying

To serve

4 free-range hens' eggs
A couple of good knobs of butter
8 anchovies in oil, drained and cut in half lengthways
2tbsp large capers, rinsed

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Bake the potatoes in their skins until soft, about 1 to 1½ hours depending on size. Remove from the oven, cut in half and leave to cool for a while. Scoop out the flesh and mash it quite coarsely with a masher or fork.

Mix the chicken meat, parsley and spring onions with the potato and season to taste. Divide the mix into four and mould into round patties about 2cm thick.

Meanwhile, have three dishes ready, one with the flour, one with the beaten egg and the third with the breadcrumbs. Pass the patties carefully through the flour, shaking off any excess, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs; a fish slice is useful for this if they are a bit soft, or you can put them in the freezer for an hour before coating them. Leave them in the fridge until required.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook the patties for 3-4 minutes on each side on a medium heat until golden and crisp. Transfer to a tray with a fish slice; keep warm in a low oven. Lightly fry the eggs, seasoning the whites. To serve, transfer the eggs on to the patties, then on to warmed plates. Melt the butter in the egg pan until it is beginning to brown, then add the capers and remove from the heat. Arrange the anchovies on the eggs and spoon the butter and capers over.

Banana custard croquettes with dark chocolate sauce

Serves 6

Bananas and custard are a great nursery pudding and when made into croquettes like this it allows the grown-ups to have a taste of their childhood memories.

For the croquettes

One-third of a vanilla pod
400ml single cream
5 egg yolks
50g caster sugar
20g flour
20g cornflour
1 ripe banana, peeled and chopped
2tbsp plain flour
2 free-range eggs, beaten
20g fresh white breadcrumbs mixed with 20g desiccated coconut
Vegetable or corn oil for frying

For the chocolate sauce

120g good-quality dark chocolate
120ml single cream

Split the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds with a point of a knife. Put the cream, vanilla pod and seeds into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about f 10 minutes. In a bowl, mix the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and flour together. Remove the vanilla pod from the cream and pour the latter on to the egg mixture; mix well with a whisk.

Return to the pan and cook gently over a low heat for 4-5 minutes (a simmer plate is ideal for this), stirring and whisking constantly until the custard thickens, then remove from the heat, and give a final mix with a whisk and transfer to a clean bowl, covering the surface with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming. Once cool, mix in the bananas, then take six pieces of clingfilm about as square as the width of the roll itself. Spoon a sixth of the mixture into the centre of the clingfilm and gather up the edges and twist to form a ball. Place on a tray and freeze for about an hour or so to firm up.

Meanwhile, make the chocolate sauce by placing the pieces of chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl, place it over a pan of simmering water and stir every so often until the chocolate has melted into the cream and the sauce is hot. Turn the heat off and cover the bowl with clingfilm to stay warm until required.

Have three dishes ready, one with the flour, one with the beaten egg and the third with the breadcrumb mixture. Remove the clingfilm from the croquettes then pass them carefully through the flour, shaking off any excess, then the egg and finally the breadcrumb mixture. Leave them in the fridge for about an hour or until required.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Fry the croquettes for 3-4 minutes, turning them with a slotted spoon until golden, then remove and drain on some kitchen paper. To serve, spoon the chocolate sauce into warmed serving bowls and place the croquettes on top.

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