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Saltfish and Parsnip Croquettes

When I was wee, you saw croquettes on the menu quite often, usually involved leftover potato and tinned fish in luridly orange breadcrumbs and often oddly accompanied by chips for triple carbing. This rather British concoction has fallen out of favour, replaced by the rich bechamel filled croqueta of tapas bars as we become more cosmopolitan. I rather miss the old version and when I was picking up some saltfish in the market the other week, my mind went toward reinventing, and hopefully reviving them.

I love the firm texture of saltfish or salt cod and since discovering that it freezes well after soaking, often have some to hand since it is eternally versatile. I also often have leftover mash as I find it a kitchen staple. I just needed something else to lift the croquettes from their bland reputation and when rummaging in the fridge on a damp Bank Holiday and sincerely hoping I wouldn’t have to go outside, I stumbled across a parsnip and thought its spicy sweet flavour would go brilliantly with the fish. I suddenly had the perfect leftovers brunch!

Saltfish and Parsnip Croquettes (best as leftovers, slower to make from scratch)

  • 150g saltfish, soaked according to instructions. (I do a big batch and then freeze it for quick dishes)
  • 250g mashed potato (I use a ricer for super smooth mash)
  • 100g grated raw parsnip
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100g panko breadcrumbs
  • oil for frying

These are super simple and should take about 30 minutes to make including chilling. Peel and grate a large parsnip. Mix it into the mashed potato with your hands until well combined and then flake in the soaked saltfish, checking for any bones as you go. Season to taste (most of the salt will have soaked off the fish, but be cautious in case it hasn’t) and mix up well with your hands. Then take about a handful and roll into a ball, then out into a sausage shape. This amount should make six. Place on a slightly oiled plate and chill for minimum 20 minutes or until needed.

When you are ready for the croquettes, either heat a frying pan with olive oil for shallow frying. Crack the egg into a bowl and beat. Tip the panko breadcrumbs onto a plate. Then roll the croquette in egg and dip in the breadcrumbs and then into the hot pan. The panko crumbs which are made without a crust will become golden and crispy while the inside is hot and fluffy. Turn regularly giving each side about a minute. Drain onto kitchen paper. You could use a deep fat fryer if you prefer as this will do all sides at once. Serve with salad as a starter or with a poached egg on top as a main course. Chilli sauce is essential either way.

I like all the constituent parts of these so I expected to enjoy them. I was pleasantly surprised to adore them.  The breadcrumb coating was light and crispy and not at all greasy, giving way to a smooth filling crammed with firm flaky fish and peppered with still slightly crunchy parnsip that really came into its own, leaving behind its bland reputation completely. This was the best brunch I’ve had in a long time and I look forward to making them again and trying oven baking them as fishcakes. If you’ve ever wondered what to do with either saltfish or a parsnip, I can’t recommend these enough. If the croquettes of my childhood had been this flavoursome, they would never have fallen out of fashion!

*This post originally appeared over at Brixton Blog where those lovely Brixtonians let me have free run of their kitchen.

Pork brain nuggets in panko breadcrumbs

Zombie Nuggets: or Brainsss!!

Pork brain nuggets in panko breadcrumbs

 

As you probably know from reading the blog, we seem to have unofficially become offal crazy. For me it’s partly because I’m on a tight budget and offal is cheap and partly because there’s an excellent stall at Brixton Farmers’ Market that sells all kinds of bits of wild boar and pork and I can play offal roulette while picking up some sausages or a roast. In fact, this is where I buy nearly all my meat these days and the woman who runs the stall often encourages me to try weird and wonderful bits (possibly to liven up her Sunday mornings). At my last visit, she slipped a package out from under the trestle and whispered brains in my direction. Or the most challenging thing I’ve ever been offered to eat.

She’d got them for me specially and I didn’t have the heart to refuse the little pink filled pouch. I asked what on earth one does with a bag of brains (if you don’t have a dog) and she told me that her Irish granny breaded and fried them and told them they were chicken nuggets. Wondering why I’m probably less scared of eating mechanically recovered meat than certain parts of fresh offal, I took them home to nugget up.

I don’t eat much in the way of nuggets or goujons or other crumbed things, but on a recent trip to Hawksmoor, I had some of their shortrib nuggets and was blown away by the melting interior and crispy crumby exterior all bound together with a tangy garlicky spicy kimchi dip on the side. I decided to steal the dip idea for my homemade nuggets, blending up some shopbought kimchi with a splash of vinegar and some ketchup til I got the right dippy texture.

Then I tackled the brains, cutting out some weird bits that didn’t look very edible, chopping them into fairly bite sized pieces, but not too small so they would burn on the outside before the middles were cooked. They were floured, egged and breadcrumbed in panko and fried til golden in hot oil. They looked lovely. All glisteningly crispy and very appetising indeed.

Turns out that fried breadcrumbs can make anything alluring and brain nuggets are as nice as you expected them to be…chewy, bouncy and very very offally in taste and texture, these were a bar too far even for me. I managed one, well dipped in kimchi ketchup and got no further. Pleased that I’d challenged myself this far, I regretfully threw the rest away feeling bad about wasting food and had a sandwich instead. My lesson is learned. If food makes you feel scared of it, you don’t have to eat it. Even if it makes a good blog post…