recipe

Credit: Photographed remotely by Earl Carter

Glazed ham and pineapple croquettes with mustard mayonnaise

O Tama Carey is the owner of Lankan Filling Station. Her first cookbook is Lanka Food. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

Credit: Photographed remotely by Earl Carter

It’s seconds away from Christmas Day, which leads me to wonder how you possibly have time to read the paper and, even more so, how you have room in your brain to contemplate a new recipe. No doubt your Christmas menu was planned weeks ago, the shopping has been well and truly done, and possibly – hopefully – the preparation is already under way. As much as holidays are meant to be about relaxation and fun, Christmas can bring with it high expectations and more stress than seems necessary.

Plus, as has been noted many times before, a traditional roast with hot pudding is wholly unsuited to Australia’s December weather, much as it is an excellent and delicious meal. A glazed ham, however, can easily slip into what has become the Australian tradition of a table laden with seafood and salads. This is, of course, only one of many ways to celebrate – others are preparing for a Chinese banquet, an Indian feast or any of the other iterations for this holiday. And some have booked into a restaurant to dodge cooking and cleaning up altogether.

A leg of ham wasn’t always a part of my Christmas, but I distinctly remember one year my mum decided it was something she wanted. So now I have, reluctantly and slowly, come to accept and even relish it. If I am going to have a glazed ham, I really think there should be some pineapple involved. I know hot pineapple can be a room divider, but I am one of those people who love a Hawaiian pizza. Fear not, though – if you are cooking a ham that doesn’t involve pineapple, this recipe is still a winner, as there is a workaround. And if you aren’t cooking a ham at all but like the sound of this recipe, you can cheat and just use normal leg ham.

But back to what to do once the big day is over and you are stuck with all those glazed ham leftovers. Hopefully you will wake up on Boxing Day next to someone who will make you a delicious ham and cheese toasted sandwich. Making a big pot of ham stock is also very sensible, as it can be thrown in the freezer, ready for when it’s pea and ham soup season again. But this croquette recipe should definitely be part of your post-Christmas plan. It is time-consuming but it makes many more croquettes than you can possibly eat in one session, so the benefits are that the remainder can be frozen and cooked later, after you’ve had a rest from the excessive eating over the holiday period.

Also, the long stirring time needed can be meditative and a good way to escape any chaos, mess or stray relatives still lurking. And, as you eat these delightful little nuggets, it can bring back the flavours and joy of Christmas Day, without any of the stress.

Ingredients

Time: 1 hour + overnight resting + frying time

Makes about 50

  • 1 litre milk
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 medium-sized piece of ham skin
  • 140g butter
  • 1 medium brown onion, finely diced
  • 130g plain flour
  • 70g cornflour
  • 200g ham, fat welcome, finely diced
  • 3-4 pineapple rings, finely chopped, about 160g in total
  • 100g grated parmesan
  • salt flakes, white pepper and nutmeg
     
  • 25g hot English mustard
  • 100g Kewpie mayonnaise
     
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 220g panko crumbs
  • vegetable oil for frying
     
  • pickles and lemon cheeks to serve
Method
  1. Place your milk in a small saucepan with your cloves, bay leaves and ham skin over a gentle heat and slowly bring up to just before a simmer. Have this sitting over the lowest heat as you move onto the next step.
  2. In another small saucepan, melt your butter over a medium heat. Add the onions and gently cook until they are very nicely softened with no colour (about 10 minutes). Season well.
  3. Once your onions are cooked, slowly add both flours and turn the heat to low. Use a spoon to stir constantly as you cook off the flours to make a roux. The mixture should come together as a thick paste but remain pale in colour. Cook this together, stirring well for about five minutes.
  4. At this stage start adding in the milk. Add a ladle at a time, slowly incorporating each batch of liquid fully before adding the next, avoiding the extra bits in the pan (you can remove the skin, cloves and bay leaves to make this easier). This will be slow and labour intensive as your roux will be very thick and almost playdough-like in texture, and you will need to stir constantly. I find a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon is best.
  5. Once all the milk is in, you will need to keep stirring and cooking until all the “flouriness” is cooked out of the roux. It should take about 30 minutes from start to finish.
  6. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little before adding in the ham, pineapple and parmesan. Season with a little freshly grated nutmeg and more salt and pepper if needed, and make sure it’s mixed well. Transfer the mixture to a container and, once it has cooled to room temperature, place some cling wrap directly onto the mixture and allow it to cool in the fridge overnight.
  7. To make the mayonnaise, mix the mustard and Kewpie until nicely combined. Using the same 1:4 ratio, you can make more or less depending on how many croquettes you are cooking.
  8. When you are ready to roll, use a dessert spoon to scrape out about 30 grams of the mix and set aside on a tray. I would weigh as you go and try to use your spoon to make a log shape. Once all the mix is weighed out, use your hands to roll each croquette into a potato gem shape. Dampen your hands with water every now and again as you do this.
  9. Place the croquettes on a tray as you go, until the mixture is all gone. Then it’s time to crumb. Use one hand to dip each croquette in the beaten egg and the other to lightly roll in the crumbs. Have the crumbs in a tray so you can pile a good amount in at once. Once you have a nice batch, reshape and re-roll each croquette a little.
  10. When all the croquettes are rolled, place them on a tray and return to the fridge. At this stage they are ready to fry or freeze for later. They will last in the fridge for a few days.
  11. When you are ready for a batch, place a heavy, wide-based saucepan over a medium heat and fill with about four centimetres of oil. Heat to about 170ºC and fry your croquettes in batches until they turn a dark golden brown (about three minutes). They will crack and ooze if they are starting to overcook. Drain on a rack and season with salt flakes.
  12. Serve your croquettes with the mustard mayonnaise, some pickles and lemon cheeks on the side.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 23, 2023 as "First-class croquette".

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