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Pheasant croquetas with smoked ham

Creamy pheasant croquetas are a tasty Spanish tapas favourite that Rose Prince elevates to a filling main-course feast with a simple salad, for Shooting Times. Makes 18 croquetas, serving 4 as a main course with the peas and beans.

Pheasant croquetas

Pheasant croquetas

Smoked ham and pheasant croquetas with peas, beans and mint


  • 600ml whole milk
  • 75ml rich chicken or gamebird stock
  • ¼ white part of leek, sliced
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 120g butter
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1 cooked pheasant breast, skinned and cut into small dice
  • 1 slice smoked ham, cut into small dice
  • dry or fresh breadcrumbs, beaten egg and plain flour
  • Sunflower oil, for frying
  • Smoked paprika, for dusting

For the salad:

  • 500g garden peas (defrosted frozen peas are fine)
  • 200g frozen broad beans, pinched out of their white outer skins
  • Small handful of both parsley and mint leaves
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oilIngredients


  1. Heat the milk and chicken stock to boiling point with the leek, nutmeg and bay leaf, then strain through a sieve and pour back into the pan. Set aside over a very low heat, so that it stays hot.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, until the flour turns a light golden brown. Be careful not to let the flour burn.
  3. When the roux is sandy in texture, add one third of the milk while the pan is still over the low heat. Leave without stirring until the liquid is boiling rapidly, then beat with a wooden spoon. You will have a very thick mixture. Add the second third of the milk and leave it to come to the boil again, then beat well. The mixture should now have a shine. Add the last third, bring back to the boil, stir once more then remove from the heat. Add the diced pheasant and smoked ham, stir well, season to taste, then pour into a dish. Cover with a sheet of cling film and chill for two hours or overnight.
  4. Have three bowls ready to make the pheasant croquetas — flour in one, two beaten eggs in another and breadcrumbs in the third. Divide the mixture into 18 balls, shape into oblongs. Dip and coat first in flour, then egg, then coat well with breadcrumbs. To cook, fry in the oil for three or four minutes, turning from time to time.
  5. For the salad, mix together the peas, beans, mint, parsley, onion and olive oil. Serve with the hot croquetas. Sprinkle a pinch of smoked paprika over the pheasant croquetas and serve.

More about pheasant croquetas

Really good Spanish croquetas should ooze creamily when cut with a fork. They were one of the very first Spanish tapas I tried on my first visit to Madrid.

I had been advised to head for the famed Plaza Mayor, the city’s architecturally awesome landmark. The small streets leading into the square then housed some of the best tapas bars. The tradition is to crawl from one bar to another, standing as you eat, so you quickly discover which ones serve the very best. This, as holidaymakers to the peninsula will know, is how to spend the early evening after a long siesta. Then it’s off to dinner — it could be 10pm by now — for a second feast. This time, at least, you are on your posterior.

Like most Brits, I have never quite got accustomed to this way of eating. We are not used to eating upright or feasting at midnight. Despite the popularity of tapas restaurants in Britain, we prefer to sit down and eat early. We visit tapas bars for dinner and not a warm-up snack. Anyway, as I said, good croquetas should be properly rich — a few of these are enough to satisfy the appetite. If you can find or make smoked pheasant, there is no need to add ham. The pheasant can also be replaced with cooked partridge, Spain’s more common quarry, but both are good.