I love sitting at the bar at Barrafina, Sam and Eddie Hart's Spanish tapas place in the West End, people-watching while munching on these savoury little morsels. They're great for entertaining – with some padron peppers, cheese and sliced cured meats, who needs anything else?
40g/1¾oz unsalted butter
1 small leek, thinly sliced
100g/3½oz sliced cured Spanish ham, chopped
55g/2¼oz plain flour
400ml/14fl oz milk
1 litre/1¾ pints light-flavoured oil for deep frying
For the breadcrumbs
75g/3oz plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
150g/5oz fine dried white breadcrumbs
Heat the butter in a shallow saucepan over a medium heat. When the butter starts foaming, add the leeks and ham and cook for 6 to 8 minutes until the leeks are soft.
Add the flour and stir for 5 minutes until biscuit in colour. Slowly pour in the milk, beating as you go.
Cook, stirring, until the mixture is thick and leaves the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cover and, once cooled, chill for at least 2 hours.
Once the mixture is chilled properly, put the flour on a plate, the beaten egg in a shallow bowl and the breadcrumbs in a baking tray. Shape the croquette mixture into walnut-sized balls then roll them in the flour, dip in the egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Chill for a further 30 minutes, or up to overnight.
Heat the oil in a large, high-sided pan to 180C/350F/Gas4, or until a piece of bread fries golden in 20 seconds. Fry the croquettas in batches for 3 to 4 minutes until golden, turning them occasionally so they cook evenly.
Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with a little salt before serving with padron peppers (see related links).
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