Day 54: Coppa and Cheese Rind Croquettes
inspired by Spring
With everyone discussing the gradual ease of lockdown I feel there is another important change that needs mentioning.
The reduction of the emergency cheese.
In the early days of lockdown this was as close as I got to a stockpile. Panicking about making sure there was adequate quantities (and most importantly variety) of cheese in the fridge. To calm me down whenever I had a wobble or felt a bit anxious.
But eight weeks on the lockdown has stopped feeling like a state of emergency and more like the new normal.
My emergency cheese has been going down.
I currently have cheddar and goats cheese in the fridge. And parmesan and pecorino, but seeing as those are cooking cheeses I’m not sure they count.
During peak crisis I counted twelve different cheeses in my fridge. So being down to four definitely suggests that we are entering the next phase. Where we try and find some kind of new normal.
Both for our lives and our fridges.
Another side effect of lockdown is my new obsession with food waste. Every odd and end is getting pickled, preserved or made into soup. I have never made so much stock as I have in the past two months.
So in my fridge is a little tupperware pot. Full of cheese rinds. I’ve read these are great added to soups or stocks to add flavour. But I keep forgetting they are there. So the stockpile of cheese has now turned into a stockpile of cheese rinds.
During my fridge clear out this week I decided enough was enough. I was going to use them up. Now.
This is where Spring comes in.
I had never heard of this restaurant in Somerset House until I started researching food waste. Spring, it seems, is not your average restaurant.
Opened by Skye Gyngell in 2014, Spring does things a little differently. Firstly more than half the chefs in the kitchen are women, including many of the top jobs. You only have to watch an episode of Great British Menu to realise how, even now, this sector is dominated by men.
Even more impressively Spring are pledging to reduce their single use plastics. There is no cling film in their kitchen.
But what interests me the most is their pre-theatre Scratch Menu, aiming to shine a light on the issues of food waste in the industry, whilst also offering a decent value set menu. This menu is made up of the scraps and leftovers of the kitchen.
Thankfully they post their daily Scratch Menu on Twitter. And on the 3rd March this year their starter was this.
“Coppa trim & pecorino rind croquettes”
Not only do I have pecorino rinds. I also have coppa. OK not the trimmings, so I’ll have to sacrifice a couple of slices of my Cobble Lane Cured goodies. But it’s worth it to use up those cheese rinds.
After a bit of research about croquettes (I’ve never made them before) I get the gist. It’s basically a really thick béchamel with cheese and ham mixed in. You chill it so it goes firm, roll and breadcrumb, then deep fry. Simple.
I start by making the béchamel. Melting butter, adding flour and letting it cook for a minute before slowly adding milk. I only have skimmed milk in the fridge.
Yes, I am one of those weird people that actually like skimmed milk. I also genuinely prefer the taste of Diet Coke. It’s not because I think they’re healthier. I’m about to deep fry cheese for goodness sake. I am not calorie conscious.
So to boost the richness of the béchamel in goes a bit of cream. If I was using whole milk I probably wouldn’t bother with this. And now I just keep stirring until it goes really, really thick.
Next is a bit of a puzzle? Do I just chop up the cheese rind? Is it meant to melt in completely or should there still be cheesy chunks?
In the end I turn the heat of the pan down really low and add my cheese rinds whole. I then put a lid on and leave them to slowly melt into the sauce for half an hour. Stirring from time to time to check on progress.
When I say I put in the cheese rinds, I mean I put in all the cheese rinds. Not just pecorino. Parmesan, Ogleshield and Caerphilly all go in too.
So it’s no wonder after half an hour that I have a deliciously thick, cheese sauce. If I lift the spoon out of the pan a gorgeous gooey string of cheese follows. I have a taste. Ooooh that’s good!
I fish out any bits of rind that haven’t melted.
I add in the Coppa and also some shallots that I’ve cooked in butter. Now it’s into the fridge to cool.
As long as you have wet hands, shaping the mix is no trickier than shaping meatballs. Flour, egg and breadcrumbs complete the croquettes and then back in the fridge to chill again.
I don’t find deep frying anywhere near as scary as I used to. When I made Scotch Eggs I was terrified of setting the kitchen on fire. Now I am as cool as a cucumber.
Well maybe not that cool. What’s a sort of semi cool vegetable? Can you be as cool as a carrot?
I fry them in batches and let them drain on kitchen paper.
Time to tuck in. I serve them with the last of my chilli tomato jam.
I had no idea that a bit of stale bread, some dried up cheese ends and a couple of slices of ham could taste this good. These are seriously addictive. A few minutes and they are gone.
I stare at my new blocks of pecorino and parmesan in the fridge. I have a feeling I will be using these up as quickly as I can. As soon as I have more cheese rinds I’ll be making more croquettes.
After all, it would be a shame to waste them.
I better replenish the emergency cheese.
Cheese Rind & Coppa Croquettes
- 25 g butter
- 25 g flour
- 250 ml milk
- 50 ml cream (optional)
- 1 handful cheese rinds
- 2 slices coppa, or other nice ham
- 1 shallot
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 stale bread roll, or a couple of slice of stale bread
- oil for frying
- Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan on a meduim heat. Add the flour and stir for a minute. Now slowy add the milk and let the sauce thicken, stirring constantly.
- Once you have a really thick bechemel sauce add the cheese rinds and turn the heat down to its lowest setting. Cover with a lid and let the cheese rinds melt into the sauce for about half an hour. Check and stir occassionally.
- Meanwhile finely chop the shallot and fry in a bit of butter until lightly golden. Leave to cool. Chop the coppa into small pieces.
- Once you have a really thick cheesy sauce remove any leftover bits of rind. Take off the heat and stir in the shallots and coppa. Season and set aside to cool. Once cool put into a bowl and cover. Chill in the fridge for at least three hours.
- When you're ready to shape your croquettes get three bowls. Add some plain flour to one and season with salt and pepper. Crack the egg into the next one and beat. Put your stale bread into a food processor and blitz until you have bread crumbs. Put these in the third bowl.
- Get your mix out of the fridge and wet your hands. Take a dessert spoon of the mix and roll it in your hands until you have a round shape. Then roll in the flour, dip in the egg and finally coat in breadcrumbs. Leave on a tray lined with baking parchment while you shape and coat the others.
- Now put them back in the fridge for at least half an hour.
- Put your oil in a saucepan and heat to 180°C. Fry the croquettes in batches of three or four. They only take a couple of minutes to go golden and crispy. Let them drain on kitchen paper.
- Now simply dip into your sauce of choice and enjoy!