Post Christmas there's always bits and bobs of leftovers lying around in various pots and bags in the fridge. Once the ubiquitous Boxing day sandwiches have been presented, the curry has been made, the soup and the risotto, there's only so much left to do with all those half portions of random. Kroketten are a traditional Dutch snack food, often served with French fries. This authentic recipe takes some time but the results are far better than anything you can buy ready-made. I'm not for once suggesting many people have a handy little pot of beautifully braised oxtail spare at home, but this as a guide works with almost anything blended through a thick béchamel and deep fried "til perfectly crisp. Happy New Year!
Makes 20 pieces
For the stock
900g/2lb oxtail .
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 tblsp salt
2 bay leaves
6 coriander seeds, crushed
1 beef stock cube
For the ragout
6 gelatine leaves
150g/5½oz plain flour
1 tsp curry powder
few drops Worcestershire sauce
1 litre/1¾ pint beef stock
Oxtail meat, from the stock
For the finishing
4 free-range eggs, beaten
100g golden breadcrumbs
50g plain flour
Vegetable oil, for frying
For the stock, season the oxtail with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the butter in a pan and fry the seasoned oxtail until browned all over.
Add the onions and carrots and continue frying until the onions are softened and beginning to brown.
Add 2.5–3 litres/4½-5¼ pints of cold water, the tablespoon of salt, bay leaves, bouquet garni and, if using, the crushed coriander seeds.
Bring to a boil, then immediately turn down the heat and leave to simmer on the lowest possible setting for a few hours. The longer this cooks, the better it tastes.
Very carefully, sieve the hot stock through a clean tea towel, then transfer the oxtail bones to a plate and leave them to cool. Discard the onion and carrot.
Check the seasoning of the stock and add salt or a beef stock cube if you like. Remove the meat from the bones when they are cool and throw away the fat.
Next, make the ragout. Place the gelatine leaves in a small bowl in a little cold water to soak.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, but don’t let it brown. Add the flour, curry powder and Worcestershire sauce and stir until crumbly.
Start adding the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition. At first, the mixture will form a smooth ball, but gradually it will become a thick sauce – the mixture has to be really firm and thick to make the kroketten.
Add the meat and stir into the sauce then squeeze out the gelatine leaves and mix them thoroughly into the ragout.
Season the ragout to taste with more salt, freshly ground black pepper, Worcestershire sauce or curry powder.
Leave the mixture to cool in the fridge until it is really cold. Put the beaten eggs in a low, wide bowl and the breadcrumbs and flour in separate bowls alongside. Take a spoonful of ragout and roll it in your hands into a sausage shape.
Roll this in the flour, then the egg and lastly the breadcrumbs, making sure the kroketten are well covered all over.
Continue until all the mixture is used up, then roll the kroketten in egg and breadcrumbs once again.
Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer or large saucepan to 180°C/350°F, or until a cube of bread turns golden-brown and crisp when dropped in.
Fry the kroketten, a few at a time, until deep golden-brown. If they start to sizzle, take them out of the pan, as this is a signal that the filling is starting to leak. (CAUTION: hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended.)
Serve immediately, but take care – they will be very hot...