You may be wondering why I've included one of my travel photographs at the top of this post. I don't have much chance to hop abroad these days, but I love reminiscing about the incredible cities I've been lucky enough to visit. So, I've decided to combine two of my favourite pastimes - food and travel - and put together a collection of recipes inspired by those special places. Just to tide me over until the next trip, you see. (These recipes will be hiding under the "Travelling Foodie" label in the right hand column.)
Our culinary journey starts in Europe, in the beautiful little city of Bruges, Belgium. And it really is beautiful. The city is small enough to explore on foot, and as you wander along the cobbled streets, over waterway bridges and past enchanting buildings you get the feeling that every corner is steeped in history.
We were booked onto a canal boat trip one particular afternoon and decided to stop at a restaurant for a quick bite before we headed off. Sitting in the sunshine along side one of the canals tucking into a plate of cheese croquettes is not a bad way to spend your lunch, we discovered.
Cheese croquettes feature on many menus across Europe and always remind me of my "continental" adventures, but particularly of that lunch next to the water in this gem of a city.
As you bite into a freshly made croquette its crispy, golden shell will give way to a soft, cheesy centre. Don't let the size of these croquettes fool you - they may be small, but they're rich so you'll fill up quickly once you've gobbled a few. Feel free to try different shapes like logs or patties and experiment with different ways of serving them - either with a dipping sauce, a small rocket or watercress salad or a spoonful of roasted veggies. We enjoyed ours with a bit of sweet chilli sauce this time around, very moreish! You could also try different cheeses - I used what I had on hand at the time, but you could add some grated Gruyère, Swiss or any other sharp cheese. Croquettes are also great for entertaining as you can prepare them ahead of time and then fry them just before you want to serve them to your guests.
Makes approximately 23
50g grated mozzarella
150g grated cheddar cheese
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon milk for coating
plain flour for coating
breadcrumbs for coating
sunflower oil for frying
Step 1.) Melt the butter in a saucepan, then whisk in the flour. (It will be dry and crumbly.)
Step 2.) Gradually add the milk and whisk the thick mass until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and add a pinch of nutmeg (I added 1/8 of a teaspoon).
Step 3.) Add the grated mozzarella and cheddar and stir over a very low heat just until the cheese has melted.
Step 4.) Take the saucepan off the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes before whisking in 1 egg. Continue to whisk until everything is incorporated, then transfer the mixture onto a greased dinner plate and place in the fridge until cold and stiff, approximately 30 minutes.
Step 5.) Whisk the remaining 2 eggs with 1 tablespoon of milk until they are combined. Take 1 tablespoon of the cold cheese mixture and roll into a ball. Dredge in flour, then dip into the egg and milk mixture and then into breadcrumbs to coat. Repeat with the remaining cheese mixture.
Step 6.) Dip the croquettes into the egg mixture and breadcrumbs again so they are coated twice.
Step 7.) You can fry the croquettes immediately but if time allows I like to put mine in the fridge to chill and set before frying. Heat about 1cm of sunflower oil in a frying pan, and once hot fry the croquettes in batches until they're golden and crispy. Drain on a piece of kitchen towel and then serve immediately.