Having lived in Ireland for a good number of years now, it’s really become apparent that the potato has a place in everyday Irish life that is second to none. It’s served in some form or other – roasted, boiled, steamed, fried, hot and cold – with the majority of meals, it forms the basis of jokes, and not unlike the weather it is a great source of conversation at the dinner table. Then of course there are the important historical ramifications associated with the potato and the Great Famine of the 1800s.
One form of potato that I don’t see too often in Ireland though, outside of the frozen pre-prepared variety, is the potato croquette. This seems a little strange to me as making croquettes is a great way to use up left over mash, and kids seem to love them – perhaps with a little tomato ketchup on the side as a dip.
So, what is a croquette exactly? Essentially it’s a small roll of mashed potato (meat can also be used) coated in breadcrumbs and then fried. Potato croquettes are usually shaped into a cylinder, disc or oval shape. The croquette (from the French ‘croquer’ meaning ‘to crunch’) has gained worldwide popularity as both a delicacy and in a lesser form as a fast food.
Mashed potato-filled croquettes are often served as a side dish with hot meals – especially with roast meats and on special occasions such as Christmas, but they also make for a great snack. In fast food outlets, varieties exist that use ingredients other than potatoes – e.g. cheese, beef, or goulash – and often in conjunction with a filling based on béchamel sauce (a rich white sauce made with milk infused with herbs and other flavourings).
You can buy potato croquettes frozen from your local supermarket, but I really recommend that you try making them yourself. There is little better than a well-prepared homemade potato croquette. I absolutely love these little gems, and if they are done properly they make a great snack – maybe even with a glass of wine! Have a go at the recipe (with a little twist) below – you won’t be disappointed.
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Bacon & cheese potato croquettes
4 rashers of middle bacon, trimmed, finely chopped
2 cups of cold mashed potato
1 egg yolk
2 green onions, finely chopped
Three quarters of a cup of plain flour
40g of mozzarella cheese, cut into 1cm cubes
1.5 cups fresh breadcrumbs
A quarter cup of milk
Cooking oil, for shallow-frying
1. Heat a medium sized non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Cook bacon for three to four minutes or until crisp.
2. Combine mashed potato, egg yolk, onion, bacon and quarter cup of flour in a large bowl. Roll heaped tablespoons of mixture into 20 balls. Push one cheese cube into the centre of each ball. Mould mixture around cheese to enclose.
3. Place remaining flour on a plate. Place breadcrumbs on another plate. Whisk egg and milk together in a shallow bowl. Roll croquettes in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg mixture. Coat in breadcrumbs.
4. Heat oil in a deep frying pan over a medium-high heat. Cook croquettes, in batches, turning, for three to four minutes or until golden. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Serve with salad.
Replace the bacon with chorizo – it’s really tasty!