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Sunday, 1 July 2012

Tapas Fiesta - Pork and Cumin Meatballs and Ham Croquettes

Me tapas del corazon!* Creating a tapas feast does take a bit of time, but the methods are all really simple and the ingredients are pretty cheap. It's also really easy to change any of the recipes to gluten-free! 

*I heart tapas!

Pork and Cumin Meatballs 

Every tapas feast should have some little meatballs in a luscious sauce to mop up with bread. The ones I do are in a chilli tomato sauce but you can also do them in a creamy almond sauce instead; with my nut allergy I'm not going to demonstrate that this time!  

Ingredients to serve 5-6 as part of a feast: 

750g of pork mince
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Half a large white onion, finely diced
2 tsps of ground cumin
2 tbsps of fresh breadcrumbs (for gluten-free substitute for fresh GF breadcrumbs or dried soaked in a little water) 
1 egg, beaten
2 tins of chopped tomatoes 
1 red chilli, finely chopped 
1 tsp of hot paprika 
1 tsp of dried oregano 
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp of cornflour, slaked in water
Olive oil

Start by putting the pork mince in a large bowl and breaking up the strands of meat using your hands; this is messy but feels oh so satisfying. This gives the meatballs a better texture and will help stop them falling apart during cooking. Add the onion, garlic, cumin and mix together, again using your hands is best. Then add the breadcrumbs and egg and mix again; these will bind the mixture together. 

I have such ridiculously chubby hands...

Then form the mixture into little meatballs using your hands to roll them; if there are bits of onion on the outside of the meatball try to push them into the middle. The meatballs should be about 2 tsps of mixture big. Place on a plate, cover in clingfilm, and place in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours but ideally overnight; this will firm up the meat and help them keep their shape while cooking.

Place a frying or sauté pan with a little olive oil in onto a high heat and place the meatballs in to brown; try not to overcrowd the pan so you may have to do this in 2-3 batches depending on the size. Brown on all sides on a high heat then remove and place into a large casserole dish; browning adds flavour and will also prevent the meatballs from falling apart whilst cooking in the oven. 

Add the tomatoes, chilli, paprika, oregano, and seasoning to the meatballs in the casserole dish and mix together gently. Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan and put the casserole dish with the lid on in for 45 minutes. 

When done remove the dish from the oven and stir in the cornflour to thicken. Serve hot in a large bowl in the centre of the table for everyone to dig in! 

Ham Croquettes

An early warning - making these will be messy. The traditional British croquette is made with mashed potato but the Spanish version uses a thick white sauce instead; they're much lighter and creamier as a result. 

Ingredients to serve 5-6 as part of a feast:

200g of cooked ham, diced 
Half a large onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed 
4 tbsp of plain flour (for gluten-free substitute this for GF plain flour or cornflour)
200ml of milk 
1 tsp of smoked paprika
2 eggs, beaten 
50g of dried breadcrumbs (for gluten-free substitute this for GF breadcrumbs or dried polenta) 
Salt and pepper
1 litre of vegetable oil for frying 
Olive oil

Start by sweating the onion and garlic in a little olive oil in a saucepan. Add the flour and mix over the heat for a couple of minutes until the flour has soaked up the oil and is combined with the onion and garlic. Pour in a couple of tbsps of the milk and beat together using a wooden spoon over the heat to form a thick paste; add the rest of the milk gradually, beating in as you go along. If the mixture goes a bit lumpy don't worry, just use a whisk to beat the lumps out. Heat the sauce over the medium heat stirring constantly until it thickens; you do need the sauce to be really thick so this may take a few minutes. 

Take the sauce off the heat and add the ham, paprika, and seasoning and mix together. Pour into a shallow dish, cover in clingfilm, and leave in the fridge for at least two hours but ideally overnight; this will firm up the sauce and make it the right consistency for rolling into croquettes. 

Once chilled remove the dish from the fridge and cut the sauce with a knife into 12 equal pieces. Set out two bowls; one with beaten egg and another with the breadcrumbs, and also a plate to put the croquettes onto. Take a portion of the sauce from the dish and use your hands to roll into shape, ideally you should aim for a croquette-like barrel but I could only effectively do spheres! Submerge fully into the beaten egg and roll around (it's a log easier and less messy to use a fork to do this) then roll around in the breadcrumbs until fully coated. 

Heat the oil in a saucepan to 180c using a thermometer (or use a deep-fat fryer if you have one) then using a metal spoon or frying basket gently lower the croquettes into the oil one at a time. It's best to do them in batches of 3 so to not overcrowd the pan. Cook for around 3-4 minutes until golden and crispy. 

Dry on kitchen paper and then serve on a plate in the middle of the table. It's best to allow them to cool down a little before serving as they can be molten hot inside! 

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