Ham hock is an inexpensive cut of meat but it is melt in the mouth tender and high in briny flavour. When cooked, the meat pulls apart into fine shreds so it is perfect for this recipe for Spanish style croquetas and is a good substitute for jamón Serrano, the salty cured ham, which is traditionally used.
Croquetas have long been popular with Spanish home cooks as they are a good budget meal and a tasty way of using up any leftover cooked meat.
Timing: The most important thing to note is that the cooked Béchamel mixture needs to sit in the fridge for at least four hours before rolling it into balls and frying, so you need to allow plenty of time between the first and second part of the recipe.
I baked the hock at home but if you prefer less hassle or are short on time, supermarkets now sell pre-cooked and shredded ham hock in ready to use packs.
Making Béchamel is straightforward as long as you stir it continuously in order to stop it becoming lumpy during cooking.
If you roll the croquetas into round balls it is easy to coat them in breadcrumbs without getting your fingers too messy. Put bread into a small bowl and roll each egged croqueta in the crumbs until evenly covered.
You can use other cooked meats such as for example cooked chicken or a ham and chicken combination.
Cooked ham hock freezes well and defrosts quickly if shredded, prior to freezing.
If you have no breadcrumbs, use crushed crispbreads instead.
Makes 12 small croquetas
- 100g ham hock (shredded and chopped into small pieces)
- 1/2 small diced onion
- 300 ml milk
- 70g butter
- 50g plain white flour
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup of breadcrumbs
- grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
- ground white pepper
- olive oil
Stage 1. Make the Béchamel mixture :
- Melt the butter over a low heat in a frying pan and add the chopped onion. Gently fry the onion until it softens (around 5 minutes).
- Slowly add the flour to the pan and stir into the onion for several minutes before slowly adding the milk. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens.
- Add the ham hock, a generous pinch of grated nutmeg, Dijon mustard and white pepper and mix well.
- Remove mixture from heat and spoon it into a lightly greased pyrex dish. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least four hours.
Stage 2. Make the croquetas:
- Beat the egg in one bowl and put breadcrumbs in another bowl.
- Take Béchamel mixture out of the fridge and take around one tablespoon of the mixture and roll it into a ball using your hands. Put the shaped croqueta on a plate and then repeat with the remaining mixture until you have 12 similar sized balls.
- Dip each croqueta in the beaten egg and then roll it in the breadcrumbs, (as described in the Tips section).
- Heat olive oil in a frying pan and carefully lower them into the hot oil. (You want the oil to come up about half way up the height of the croquetas.)
- Fry until golden brown, turning each one regularly to prevent them burning. Drain on kitchen paper before serving.