Croquette potatoes

Makes 8-10

A very Seventies potato dish. They seemed to take up a lot of space in the frozen food section in the supermarkets. But why were they always covered in such orange breadcrumbs? Made well (and without colouring) they can be delicious, and I think they deserve a revival. Spanish croquettes are similar - at least they look it - but are made with a thick béchamel sauce with ham and cheese folded in.

A very Seventies potato dish. They seemed to take up a lot of space in the frozen food section in the supermarkets. But why were they always covered in such orange breadcrumbs? Made well (and without colouring) they can be delicious, and I think they deserve a revival. Spanish croquettes are similar - at least they look it - but are made with a thick béchamel sauce with ham and cheese folded in.

Classic croquettes are just mashed potato, which should be made with good floury potatoes such as King Edwards or Cara, and well seasoned. To this base you can add various ingredients, such as cheese and ham, a cheese such as Stilton, or herbs and even chopped up smoked salmon and horseradish. What you flavour them with will determine whether you serve them as a starter or side dish. If you're serving them as a starter it's a good idea to offer something to go with them, such as a mayonnaise-based sauce, a relish or chutney.

500-600g floury potatoes for mashing
2-3tbsp flour
2 small eggs, beaten
50-60g fresh white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Bake the potatoes in their skins until soft, about 1 to 11/2 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 until smooth. A potato ricer is designed for just this and is an invaluable kitchen gadget, so put it on your shopping list if you haven't got one.

Season the potato and mix well, or add any other ingredients at this stage (about 60-70g of cheese if you're using it - you're aiming for a ratio of about one-third added ingredients to two-thirds potato). Mould the potato into cylinder shapes about 5-6cm long and a little fatter than a wine cork. You can make them larger or smaller.

Have the flour ready in a dish and carefully roll them in it, holding them carefully with your fingers and shaking off any excess. Next roll them in the beaten egg, and finally roll them in the breadcrumbs.

Pre-heat about 8cm of oil to 160-180°C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep fryer. Fry the croquettes a few pieces at a time for 3-4 minutes until golden and drain on some kitchen paper. Serve immediately.

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