Camembert Croquettes with Fresh Date and Apple Chutney
Ideally make the croquettes the day before you want to cook them.
Ripe Camembert is essential for this recipe, so plan ahead and buy one which will be ready for use roughly on its sell-by date. I keep mine in the garage or in the boot of a car, which is cool enough in the winter, though you have to warn people about the smell!
This recipe is from Delia's Vegetarian Collection. Serves 6 as a starter
First of all peel and chop the vegetables and place them in a saucepan with the milk, mace, bay leaf and peppercorns.
Bring everything up to simmering point, then turn the heat off and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. After that, strain the milk into a jug, using a sieve and pressing the vegetables with the back of a spoon to extract all the juices.
Now rinse and dry the saucepan and, over a medium heat, melt the butter in it, then add the flour and, using a wooden spoon, stir briskly until the mixture has turned a pale straw colour. Now add the milk a little at a time and switch to a balloon whisk, whisking vigorously after each addition until you have a very thick, glossy mixture. Now take the pan off the heat and allow it to cool slightly. While the mixture is cooling you can deal with the cheese – although it needs to be ripe, if it's chilled, it makes life a lot easier.
So all you do is cut the cheese in half and, using a teaspoon, scoop out all the cheese from the inside, scraping as much cheese away from the skin as possible. After that, add the cheese to the sauce mix and give it all a really good mix to combine it as thoroughly as possible. Then leave it aside for 10 minutes or so to cool. Now you can prepare the ramekins. The easiest way to do this is to lightly oil each one, then take pieces of clingfilm about 8 in (20 cm) long and lay them across the centre of each ramekin.
Then, using a clean pastry brush, push the clingfilm into the ramekin all round the edges – it doesn't matter if it creases. Now divide the cheese mixture between the ramekins, pressing it in evenly, and fold the surplus clingfilm over the top. Smooth it out, then place the ramekins in the fridge for several hours, but preferably overnight, before cooking. Before you cook the croquettes, you can put the egg and breadcrumbs on in advance, provided after that you keep them well chilled. Sprinkle the seasoned flour on to a piece of greaseproof paper, then beat the eggs and milk together and spread the breadcrumbs out on a plate. Also, have another flat plate to hand. Now all you do is unfold the clingfilm and flip each croquette on to the flour and lightly coat it on all sides. Next dip it into the beaten egg and then the breadcrumbs, shaking off any surplus. Now return it to the egg and then back again to the breadcrumbs.
This double coating gives good protection while the croquettes are cooking. When they are all coated, put them on the flat plate and return them to the fridge, uncovered. Then, when you're ready to cook them, have some crumpled kitchen paper spread out on a plate and then heat up just enough groundnut oil to cover the base of a solid frying pan. The oil needs to be really hot, so test it by dropping in a little cube of bread, and if it turns golden in 30 seconds the oil is ready.
Now fry the croquettes for about two minutes on each side and transfer them to kitchen paper to drain while you fry the rest. You need to take some care here not to overcook them – it's okay for little bits to ooze out of the sides, but if you leave them in too long, they tend to collapse. Serve as soon as possible after they are cooked.