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Paella Croquettes and Spanish Braised Beef Cheeks

What a great way to end the week. Last Friday I arrived home from work to find a box of goodies on my doorstep. Not the average package the postie delivers (and he certainly doesn’t climb our steep driveway to deliver anything to the door) but a gourmet package from Essential Cuisine.  This gorgeous box was filled with real, fresh stock, saffron, paprika, capsicums, onion, tomato and rice, with the mystery box style challenge to create something Spanish.

I always make my own stock, I currently have every flavour imaginable in the freezer, but I am not opposed to a good quality shop bought stock as long as it comes close to the stuff I can make myself.  I’m also not very good at labeling the items in my freezer, so I can’t always guarantee what flavour I’m defrosting, which is fine when it’s just me, but not so great when I’ve got a vegetarian friend coming for dinner, or need to guarantee the flavour of stock for a specific recipe.

Having Essential Cuisine stock in the fridge or freezer will save the day for those emergency stock moments. They also come in handy 1 cup packs, which is good if you only require a small amount.  At the moment I have to hack off a block of stock from the freezer when small amounts are required and I’m not really sure how I still have all of my fingers.The most important thing to say about this range of stock is that they actually taste the way stock should taste, like the meat or vegetable they are made from, and once chilled in the fridge they are also the right texture of a home made stock.

I love eating Spanish food, especially Tapas, but the challenge here was to create a two course restaurant quality dinner. I could’ve gone for Tapas, but two courses would have left my husband feeling very hungry.  Following consultation with my Spanish friend I settled for Paella Croquettes, followed by Spanish braised beef cheeks. Two dishes that would showcase the flavour of the Essential Cuisine stocks.

Paella Croquettes  (serves 4)
150ml white wine
pinch saffron threads
1 small onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
50g green capsicum, finely chopped
100g Arborio rice
250ml Essential Cuisine vegetable stock
pinch of sweet, smoked paprika
50g cooked, peeled, finely chopped prawns
small handful of freshly grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
60g plain flour
2 eggs lightly beaten
125g fresh white breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for frying

Red Capsicum Sauce
1 large, red capsicum
1/4 of one garlic clove
10ml good quality olive oil
Salt to taste

To make the sauce, preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.  Place the red capsicum on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes turning occasionally until blackened all around.  Once the skin is all charred, remove from the oven and place in a bowl and cover with cling film to allow the skin to steam away.

Once the capsicum is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and the seeds, trying to catch the juice in the bowl.  Rip the capsicum into large pieces and place in a mini food processor with the juice, the garlic and 10ml of good quality olive oil.  Blitz until it forms a smooth sauce, adding a little more olive oil if necessary. Season to taste then set aside until ready to serve.

To make the croquettes, you first need to start by making a basic paella, of course you could also use some leftovers, but I didn’t have any.  Start by soaking the saffron in the wine while you prepare the rest of the paella. Heat some olive oil in a medium, heavy based pan then gently fry the onion and garlic for five minutes or until the onions are cooked through but not brown.  Add the finely chopped capsicum to the pan and continue to fry until the capsicum is just cooked. This should take a couple of minutes. Add the rice and stir for one minute until coated in the oil.

Add the saffron infused wine, by this time it should be quite yellow.  Heat the stock in a small pan.  Stir the paella until the wine is absorbed then start adding the stock a ladle full at a time until all the stock is absorbed. After the first ladle of stock add a pinch of sweet smoked paprika and stir through the paella.  The paella should take about 20 minutes to absorb all of the stock.  After this time, if the rice is not quite cooked, ad a touch more boiling water.  You don’t want the paella to be too sloppy or you won’t be able to roll the rice into the croquettes.

Once the rice is cooked, stir through the grated Parmesan and the chopped, cooked prawns and season to taste.  Allow the paella to cool.  The paella can be made up to twenty fours hours in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to use.

Prepare the flour, beaten egg and bread crumbs on three separate plates.  Once the paella is cool enough to handle, divide the mixture into 8 portions and shape each one into the lozenge shaped croquette.  Roll each croquette first in the flour, then in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs.  Pat the breadcrumb layer to make sure it sticks.  You have to treat the croquettes fairly gently as they fall apart easily.

Once all of the croquettes are coated with breadcrumbs pace them in the fridge to firm up slightly before frying.

To fry, cover the bottom of a frying pan with about half a centimetre depth of vegetable oil.  Over a high heat, fry the croquettes in two batches, turning the croquettes so that they brown on all sides. This should take a couple of minutes.

Serve the croquettes with the capsicum sauce. I served the sauce cold, but it could be gently heated if preferred.

Beef Cheeks Braised in Sherry (serves 4)
2 beef cheeks about 400g each
30g plain flour
5g salt
1g cracked black pepper
olive oil for frying
1 red onion, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and bruised
2 fresh bay leaves, bruised
few sprigs fresh thyme
250ml Spanish sherry
250ml Essential Cuisine chicken stock
250ml water
salt and pepper to taste

Mashed Potato (serves 4)
1kg Desiree potatoes
150ml pure cream
80g Butter, cubed
salt to taste

Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Remove most of the fat and sinew from the outside of the beef cheek. It is impossible to remove all of it, as it goes right through the cheek, but it will melt away as the beef cooks and can be removed afterwards when you shred the coked meat. Leave the cheeks whole. Put the flour, salt and pepper together on a plate and dust beef cheeks with it. Fry the beef cheeks, until browned all over then set aside. Fry the celery, onion and carrot in the same pan you fried the meat in on a medium heat for 10 minutes, until starting to soften.

Put beef cheeks in a large ovenproof dish. Add fried veg, crushed garlic and herbs. Pour over the sherry, Essential Cuisine stock and water. Heat to just below boiling then put in oven for four hours. Turn beef every hour to stop the meat browning too much on top.

After four hours the meat should be really tender. Remove cheeks from liquid, strain the vegetable from the liquid, discarding the veg but reserving the liquid. Remove the fat from the top of the liquid, then put back in a small pan to re-heat.  At this point adjust the seasoning of the sauce and reduce to thicken if you want to (remembering this will intensify the flavour of the sauce).

Meanwhile make mash.  Peel and chop potatoes into equal sized chunks. Place in a pan with salted boiling water and cook for 12-15 minutes until soft enough to mash. drain and allow potatoes to steam dry for a minute. Heat cream and reduce slightly. Mash the potatoes really well so there are no lumps.  Add the butter and cream to the mashed potatoes and stir until butter is melted and cream is well combined. Season with additional salt if necessary.

To serve halve each beef cheek and shred the meat into large chunks, removing any large chunks of gelatinous tissue. Place the meat on top of the mash and drizzle with sauce. Serve with crusty bread and greens if required.

Stock provided by Essential Cuisine.


Comment from Graham
Time May 28, 2012 at 9:24 am

Wow – great use of the stock. That beef looks to die for!

Comment from myfudo
Time May 28, 2012 at 11:03 am

I thought stocks are used only for soups…Never thought it could be used for something like this. Really hearty and flavorful. A must try!

Comment from Nic@diningwithastud
Time June 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Gorgeous dishes :) Fab use of the stock!!

Comment from Lydia Guerrini
Time June 10, 2012 at 11:56 pm

Nic, I love your photography, and the way you cook, write and love your food. You even inspired me to make my own croquettes out of my paella leftovers..!HOLA!

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