Spinach & Pine Nut Croquetas {Valentine’s Day Part 1}

Ahh, Valentine’s Day. In my experience it tends to be a divisive day – you love it or hate it. I’m indifferent, somewhere in the middle. H. and I aren’t big celebrators and prefer a cozy night in. I recently read a column in delicious magazine, the whole point of which was to encourage people not to eat out on 14 February. It made several good points: restaurants are often very crowded, they’re full of people who don’t eat out very often (potential for more complaints), expectations for the perfect romantic meal are high, it is the biggest moneymaker after the holiday season, etc etc etc. Reading the article reminded me even more why I prefer staying in.

H. and I cook together often anyway but decided to go for something a bit more ambitious than usual. I chose the menu of spinach and pine nut croquetas to start, with shrimp ravioli as the main dish, alongside Prosecco and Yellow Tail shiraz (the wine we used to drink very early on in our relationship!). It was an adventure – a good meal but not exactly smooth sailing. ūüėČ

I’m going to post it in two parts, first up spinach and pine nut croquetas, from the March ’13 issue of delicious and originating from Jose Tapas Bar in Bermondsey, London.

The croquetas require some advance planning since part of the recipe is a minimum 2 hours chilling in the fridge (or, in our case, the landing outside – colder than our excuse for a fridge). The recipe below makes enough for 2 people x 2 servings as an appetizer (I froze half of the batter for one serving).

  1. Blanch 150g baby spinach; dry, chop, and set aside.
  2. Start the filling by mixing 475ml milk and 150ml vegetable stock in a pot and bringing them to a boil. In a separate pot, heat 85g butter along with 1 tsp chopped garlic and 3 tbsp chopped onion.
  3. Gently stir in 115g plain flour to the butter, mixing as you go, and let cook gently. Then add the milk mixture, once again stirring gently. When the mixture is creamy, add in the spinach as well as 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts. At this point, chill the mixture in a flatter dish for a minimum of 2 hours.
  4. About an hour before you’re ready to eat, prepare the coating: place 1 beaten egg and around 100g breadcrumbs in separate bowls. Form the batter into small ‘barrel’-shaped croquetas {caution: I made my barrels, aka balls, too big. Think bite-sized}. *At this point I froze half of the batter, but to make all of it, use 2 eggs and 200g breadcrumbs. One by one, dip first into the egg and then breadcrumbs. Chill again for a minimum of 45 minutes before frying.
  5. Fry croquetas in a generous amount of oil, drain, and enjoy!

Dipping sauce: I tried an experiment and made two sauces, one Greek yogurt-based and one mayonnaise (aioli). I put identical ingredients in both: chopped garlic, lemon juice, and salt & pepper. I hate to admit it, since I’m not mayo’s biggest fan, but the mayo won out by a small margin.

Verdict: Although we both liked the croquetas, for me I was very conscious of how unhealthy they tasted as I was eating them (the spinach gets a bit lost!). Part of the problem was that I made mine too big. I think a few smaller ‘poppers’ would have been better, and great as a quick appetizer. I have half of the batter frozen but won’t be in a rush to make them again after that.

Croquetas *before* they were fried - got too hectic afterwards!
Croquetas *before* they were fried – got too hectic afterwards!

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