In my recent trip to Portugal, my memory of the Indian version of croquette (widely called “cutlet” or the Bengalee “chop”) was rekindled. I remember the laborious long drawn-out process of braising, sauteing, breading and deep-frying in my mother’s kitchen. They were primarily with vegetables or even garbanzo and the results always addictive.
Embarrassingly, the moment I returned, I unpacked the cans of fish (cod, sardine, ..) purchased at the Lisbon airport and whipped up my version of the croquettes with pantry ingredients. Using cod, I baked the croquettes instead of deep-frying. A delightful way to fight your jet-lag.
But I share here a recipe that uses sardines. My friend assured me that sardines could never be converted into delectable croquettes. Here is my proof of contradiction. Yes, he conceded. But you can try them for yourselves. Neither will you miss the deep-frying nor will the sardines throw you off-balance.
Baking tray lined with parchment paper.
- 1 can of sardines in olive oil (120 gm)
- I large potato, cooked in its jacket, peeled and mashed
- Seasoning: salt to taste + 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- Flavoring layer:
- 1 tbsp extra light olive oil (ELOO)
- 1 cubanelle or frying pepper, finely diced
- 2 pods of garlic, skinned and crushed
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- egg wash: 1 egg + 1/2 cup water, mixed
- about 1 cup (Italian) bread crumbs
- Serving: arugula
Mash the potato while it is still warm; add the sardines along with the oil and the seasoning ingredients.
Flavoring layer: Heat ELOO. Saute the diced pepper till soft and fragrant (about 2-3 minutes). Add the crushed garlic and saute till softened (about 30 seconds). Add the curry powder and stir till fragrant (about 30 secs). Add to the potato-fish mix.
Breading: Pinch off the mix into 16 (small lime sized) pieces and shape into cylinders. Place breadcrumbs in a flat platter as a thin layer. With your right hand dip the cylinder in the egg wash; shake off excess. Then using your left (dry) hand roll the croquette in the breadcrumbs. Repeat this process again (i.e., two layers of breading) and then place each croquette on the parchment lined baking tray.
Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes. Flip each croquette. Then bake for another 10 mins.
Serve in a bed of arugula.
Notes, hints, tips:
- Believe me that this baked croquette is indistinguishable from deep-fried ones. The crisp skin comes from the double breading.
- Sources of very good quality canned fish exist over the internet, such as Matiz Espana, King Oscar and such.
- The frying-pepper is thinner than regular pepper and works well in the recipe. If using regular pepper, dice them finely. But you can also use onion (half a medium sized) instead of pepper.
- The amount of curry powder used here is enough for a subtle je-ne-sais-quoi but if you prefer a strong curry flavor, then use 1 to 2 tsps of curry powder.
- You can also add very finely chopped cilantro leaves or other greens to the mix
- While most of the steps can be done in a jiffy, the breading needs a little bit of patience– factor in 15-20 minutes for this meditative process.
- Once I (accidentally) used canned eel Portuguese escabeche. I was apprehensive, but the result was delightful. I can only say that this croquette treatment is quite robust!