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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.

Stuffing rolls

I think I may have mentioned this before but I’m fond of Christmas. Presents are lovely, family time is great, but a holiday that exalts stuffing is my idea of heaven! If there’s one thing I like more than stuffing things, it’s actually making stuffing itself. So imagine my glee when I was invited to a seasonal soiree with lots of people who don’t eat pork and I got the chance to try out my idea of vegetarian ‘sausage rolls’ using stuffing as a filling instead…

Inspired by last week’s Christmas doughnuts, it was essential that the stuffing would be based on chestnuts for a festive feel. To compliment their slight sweetness, I decided to pick up a parsnip and a sharp-sweet Bramley, both of which are in season and useful to have round the house anyway at this time of year. The kitchen essentials of some rye breadcrumbs from the freezer, an onion and some kale would complete the recipe nicely and make a delicious and fast stuffing when seasoned with mace and nutmeg.

 

While the finely diced onion caramelized down and the chestnuts roasted in the oven, I turned my attention to the pastry for the rolls. I’m a relative newbie to pastry having only made it a couple of times and never having tried to make puff or flaky pastry so I turned to the recent thread on the perfect sausage roll over at the Word of Mouth blog on the Guardian from a few weeks ago for some pastry tips and decided to follow Felicity’s recipe as I realised how awkward puff pastry really is to make.

I had no mustard powder to add to the pastry, but otherwise this was to the letter and very straightforward to make. Five minutes later it was resting in the fridge and I was adding grated parsnip to the onion mix and letting it cook down a bit while I peeled and grated a large Bramley, finely chopped some kale and turned my attention to peeling the chestnuts. This isn’t difficult, but it a bit time consuming and must be done while the chestnuts are still a bit warm, otherwise it is a nightmare to do. I then blitzed them in the hand blender with the remains of the chestnut puree from the doughnuts and then combined everything together with a beaten egg and some seasoning. It would be an excellent idea to mix and season everything, taste it and then add the egg, otherwise it’s difficult to sample the stuffing. I, of course, didn’t do this so this was a bit of a risky recipe as I just made the quantities up as I went along!

I left the stuffing to cool and got cracking rolling out the pastry. It’s a stiff pastry so didn’t need too much flour and rolled nicely. I did end up with some oddly shaped sections so trimmed them down to proper strips and re-rolled the trimmings. I then wet the edges with egg wash and rolled the pastry round the stuffing, sealing the edges with some serious crimping. I then cut the giant stuffing roll into bite sized sections, egg washed the top and popped them in the oven. With a bit of practice, this would be extremely quick and easy and since the stuffing and the pastry can be prepared well in advance, you can make these fresh when needed.

They take about 15 minutes in the oven which is less than the meat version and stops the edge of the stuffing becoming unpleasantly crispy. I left them to cool on a rack in order to carry them more easily, but you could serve them oven fresh as they are much nicer warm. We reheated them at my friend’s house and they were pretty good. The stuffing was quite sweet, more than I usually go for and when making them again, I’ll probably swap the parsnip for some mushrooms instead, but it’s a minor quibble. The pastry was lovely and short and crumbly, but overall they were a little dry and would definitely be lifted from nice to brilliant with a dip on the side. I’d go for something with chilli and in fact ate my leftovers with some crabapple and chilli cheese!

Team these with a lovely sauce or selection of condiments and they make a great meat free canape that everyone will enjoy. You’ll also look very impressive having made them from scratch, but you could use pre-bought pastry as long as you roll them yourself for an authentically wonky look!