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In the Kitchen With: José Pizarro’s Spinach Croquetas

by Kristina Gill

Spinach and Goat Cheese Croquetas by Jose Pizarro photo Laura Edwards

One of the chapters I loved most while working on Tasting Rome was the “Starters” chapter. Once I finished developing those recipes, however, I conveniently stashed the fryer at a friend’s place so that I wouldn’t be tempted to eat fried food all the time at home. After a year’s hiatus, I have my fryer back and I am super enthusiastic about the Spinach and Goat’s Cheese Croquetas from Spanish chef José Pizarro’s most recent cookbook, Basque: Spanish Recipes from San Sebastián & Beyond.

This is the perfect party food because you can form and freeze the croquetas ahead of time, then defrost and fry them when you’re ready. A note: If you are planning on serving these the same day you make them, be sure to leave yourself a couple of hours for the mixture to cool in the refrigerator before you roll them up. —Kristina

Basque cookbook cover (Hardie Grant)

Photography by Laura Edwards

Basque cookbook image by Laura Edwards

Spinach & Goat’s Cheese Croquetas

Croquetas, croquetas, croquetas. Many people tell me that they make a beeline to Spanish restaurants for the croquetas and the tortilla, and we are very proud of ours. This is one of the most popular flavors at the restaurant; they are so creamy and moreish. You can freeze them ahead of time, and then just defrost before frying.

Makes 32–34 croquetas

Ingredients

– 500g (1lb 2oz) baby leaf spinach
– 400ml (13 fl oz) full-fat (whole) milk
– 100ml (3½ fl oz) strong fresh vegetable stock
– 80g (3oz – 5½-6 tablespoons) butter
– 125g (4oz – 1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
– 80g (3oz) goat’s cheese, crumbled
– sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
– freshly grated nutmeg
– 2 large free-range eggs, beaten
– 125g (4oz – 1½ cups) dry breadcrumbs
– olive oil for deep-frying

Method

Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the spinach with a tiny splash of water. Cook for 3–4 minutes or until completely wilted, then run under cold water. Once cold, squeeze out all the water. Chop finely and set aside.

In a saucepan, heat the milk and the stock together. In another saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat, add the flour and cook for 2–3 minutes. When the mixture starts to turn brown, begin adding the milk and stock very slowly until you get a really silky-smooth mix. This will take approximately 10 minutes.

Add the cheese to the mixture slowly, then add the spinach and stir constantly until it is well combined. Season with salt, pepper and a grating of nutmeg.

Spread the mixture onto a shallow tray and press a sheet of cling film (plastic wrap) over the top. Cool down in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.

Put some oil in the palm of your hand and roll the mixture into 30g (1oz) balls. If they are a little soft, pop them on a tray in the freezer to firm up for 30 minutes.

Place the beaten egg and the breadcrumbs into two separate bowls. Dip the croquetas first into the beaten egg and then into the breadcrumbs.

Heat the oil to 180°C (350°F) and fry the croquetas for around 2 minutes or until golden. Drain on paper towels, then eat straight away.

Cafe scene from Jose Pizarro Basque cookbook

About José: Spanish-born chef José Pizarro has lived in the UK for 16 years working in some of London’s most prestigious Spanish restaurants, including Eyre Brothers and Brindisa. In May 2011 he opened his first solo venture – José – and subsequently Pizarro, and José Pizarro Broadgate, in the Broadgate Circle development. José has recently filmed a Spanish special for the newly launched Food Network series, The Big Eat. In May 2014, José was also voted one of “100 españoles” — a hugely revered award which showcases the top 100 Spaniards around the world. José is the author of two other books, Seasonal Spanish Food and Spanish Flavours.

Portrait of Jose Pizarro by Laura Edwards

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