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Recipe: Crab and prawn croquetas

Picture of crab and prawn croquetas with lemon slice and a glass of beer.
Hot croquetas, warm day, cool beer, perfection!

A couple of posts ago on Scrumptious Scran, I reviewed José Pizarro’s excellent cookbook of Spanish cuisine, Spanish Flavours. Following on from the review, I really wanted to try one of the recipes from the book for the blog; proof of the pudding (or pagination) is, after all, in the eating. So packed is Spanish Flavours with alluring recipes, one might think my choice of what to cook would be a tricky one, but this wasn’t the case at all. Newly armed with my trusty deep fryer, I knew I was going to attempt my take on José’s recipe for crab and prawn croquetas.

Whenever I’m lucky enough to be in Spain, or in a decent Spanish restaurant in the UK, I always make a habit of sampling croquetas, where these are on offer. And to be frank, you would be hard pressed to find a Spanish bar or restaurant that doesn’t serve some version of this tasty little tapa, so ubiquitous is the dish throughout Spain. Crisp and golden on the outside, yet soft, moist and flavour-packed on the inside, the beauty of croquetas lies both in their simplicity and versatility. Fundamentally, all a croqueta consists of is a thick béchamel sauce with assorted ingredients added to flavour this. This mixture is then chilled, formed into lozenge shapes, coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried.

They key to making decent croquetas is ensuring the béchamel sauce is suitably thick but silky smooth, and choosing an appropriately flavoursome additive to incorporate in this. And there are many such ingredients from which to choose. I’ve sampled delicious chicken croquetas in Barcelona, ones flavoursomely made with Serrano ham and Manchego cheese, in Madrid, and a fantastically fishy variety containing bacaloa (salt cod), in Seville. To be honest, it’s possible – within reason – to enhance a croqueta with whatever flavouring ingredient takes one’s fancy. Also, every bar and kitchen will have its own tweaks for each basic croqueta variety, making for a joyful pastime that is bar hopping and trying to asses which serves the best.

Croquetas ready for breadcrumg coating, then frying.
“Lozenges” ready for breadcrumbs, then frying.

And speaking of tweaks, I slightly altered the recipe below from the one for crab and prawn croquetas featured in Spanish Flavours. I have include dill instead of parsley (I just happened to have some in the fridge at the time), and infused the milk with a bouquet garni consisting of a celery stalk with a couple of sprigs of thyme and a fresh bay leaf tied to it. I suppose that, if an even more intense seafood flavour was desired, the prawns could be substituted for brown shrimp, or even finely chopped, cooked mussels. The tastey possibilities are almost endless…

This recipe will make around 35 individual croquetas, which is enough to serve 6-8 in one sitting. However, once the béchamel has been formed into the croquetas lozenges, these can be frozen for a few weeks for defrosting and frying at a later date.


  • 500ml of whole milk (infused with a bouquet garni of herbs if desired)
  • 150ml of fresh chicken of vegetable stock
  • 85g butter
  • 115g plain flour
  • 125g fresh white crab meat (I used locally-caught, Scottish crab)
  • 100g of cooked peeled prawns, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of dill (or parsley) finely chopped
  • 2 large, free-range eggs
  • 200g breadcrumbs, made from stale, crustless white bread
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation and cooking

  1. Put the milk and stock in a large saucepan (together with the bouquet garni, if using) and bring to almost boiling. Melt the butter in another pan over a low heat, stir in the flour and cook gently for around 5 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break up the mixture as it cooks. Make sure the mixture doesn’t burn!
  2. Very gradually beat in the milk and stock mixture, giving a really good beating between each addition. The mixture should become silky smooth using this technique. Increase the heat very slightly and cook gently – stirring constantly – for about 5-7 minutes, in order to cook out the flour.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for a minute or so before stirring in the crab meat, prawns and dill, together with a good amount of salt and (white) pepper, to taste. Transfer the mixture to a shallow dish, spread out to form an even layer and press a sheet of clingfilm onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool before chilling for two hours, or preferably overnight.
  4. Put the beaten eggs and breadcrumbs into separate, shallow dishes. Lightly oil the palms of your hands and roll 1½ tablespoons (around a 30g portion) of the chilled mixture into balls and then form them into zeppelin-shaped lozenges. Refrigerate your 35 or so croqueta bases for 15-30 minutes.
  5. Heat up oil in a deep fryer to 190°C. Dip the croquetas 4-5 at a time into the beaten egg and then the breadcrumbs and deep fry in batches for 2 minutes, until crisp and golden. Transfer briefly to plenty of kitchen paper to drain, whilst the remaining batches are cooked. Serve hot, accompanied by a slice of lemon.

Spanish Flavours, by José Pizarro, is published by Kyle Books, and is available in hardback at £19.99.

book/ José Pizarro/ recipe/ review/ Spanish

Book Review: ‘Spanish Flavours’ to savour

Jose Pizarro - Spanish Flavours.
An abundance of Spanish flavours under the cover.

Squinting through my sunglasses in Edinburgh this past weekend it was almost possible to imagine I was in the Mediterranean, as opposed to Scotland. Clear blue skies, glorious sunshine and – best of all – alfresco dining. Eating outside on a balmy summer’s day or evening is one of my favourite culinary pastimes – whether in the UK or somewhere more exotic, such as Italy or Spain. How appropriate then that I found myself sat in the green behind Scrumptious Scran Towers snacking on tapas whilst thumbing through Spanish Flavours, the latest book by Spanish-born and UK-based Chef, José Pizarro.

Growing up on a farm in the western Spanish region of Extremadura, it was whilst he was studying as a dental technician that Pizarro discovered his love for cooking. This lead to him attending cookery school, and ultimately a stint at Madrid’s award-winning restaurant Meson de Doña Filo where he cooked nuevacocina – the deconstructed approach to Spanish cuisine made famous by Ferran Adrià of El Bulli. Fourteen years ago Pizarro relocated to London in order to “try something different”. After achieving this as a key player behind London’s new wave of Spanish eateries such as Eyre Brothers, Gaudí and Brindisa he chose to open his own sherry and tapas bar José, closely followed by his restaurant Pizzaro. So much for the biography…

Regular readers will know that I love Spanish food, and in Spanish Flavours Pizarro demonstrates how well he knows his way around the mosaic-like cuisine which stem from what sometimes appears to be “…seventeen countries all rolled into one”. Identifying links between history and culture, climatic influences, and the use of common ingredients, the book examines in turn the recipes of Spain’s North, East, Centre, South and its Islands. And in doing so, in each chapter Pizarro provides a lyrical snapshot of the flavours, bars and restaurants, and dishes that make these regions so memorable.

As might be expected from an author grounded in nuevacocina, the recipes are not without a twist and turn, an invention that develops Spanish cooking in a slightly different direction. It’s subtle; the sort of tweaking that might traditionally have allowed one village to steal an edge over its neighbour when it came to claiming the best paella. Yet it’s an alchemy grounded in a mastery of really knowing how those ingredients exemplifying Spanish cooking truly work together.

Braised peas and jamón with eggs.
Braised peas and jamón with eggs.

To be frank, whilst having read the book from cover to cover, I’m still in the early stages of working my way through cooking the abundance of recipes in Spanish Flavours – these things should be enjoyed and not rushed – but already several dishes have caught my eye. Griddled scallops with cauliflower purée and chorizo oil sounds like a delicious starter. Roasted monkfish with Serrano ham, black olives and thyme is a great take on “surf and turf”. Oxtail with cinnamon, red wine, sherry vinegar and prunes sounds warming and quite literally “Moorish”. Almond and honey creams with lemon verbena peaches, a perfect pudding. As you will see from my next post, my initial venture into exploring Spanish Flavours involved my first foray into cooking “proper” croquetas – with crab and prawn in this instance – which were delicious, and a favourite tapa of mine.

So if you are looking for an introduction to the cooking of Spain, its origins, and where it might be heading next, do seek out a copy of Spanish Flavours. I, for one, am very glad that José Pizarro chose not to stick with a career in dentistry!

Credit should also go to Emma Lee for the great photographs that illustrate the culture of Spain, and the recipes contained in the book.

Spanish Flavours is published by Kyle Books, and is available in hardback at £19.99.

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