There’s no need to be coquettish about fried food. It has a deep allure, but let’s face it: fried food has taken a bad rap over the years. Trans fats, saturated fats, dirty deepfrying oil, questionable ingredients hidden under soggy, bad-tasting batter.
Perfectly executed fried food is a joy to behold, however. So many things need to come into play.
Quality fresh deep-frying oil. Good ingredients. An understanding of the temperature of the oil, hot enough to seal the food but not so hot as to overcolour it.
I can remember some dastardly attempts at fried food as a child. Overcrowding our little round GE deep fryer with too much food, not understanding what the effect would be of the resulting drop in temperature. Using the same oil I’d cooked flathead tails in to cook doughnuts. Really, there are some memories better not remembered at all.
Bad memories aside, let’s talk about croquettes. Brought into the modern vernacular by the ever-present Escoffier in about 1898, the name is from the French croquer, “to crunch”. Dare I say it, they were a vehicle for using up leftovers. The croquette then spread across the world. Each cuisine seems to have some version of it. The Spanish and the Italians have become practitioners supreme of the humble croquette, often featuring on tapas and antipasto platters.
Here we have one of my very favourite pairings: caramelised onion and Gruyere, bound together with mashed potato, lovingly rolled into the classic cylinder shape, gently egged and breadcrumbed, and then fried until they are just right.
I love fried food like this with a crisp green salad tossed in a sharp vinaigrette to nibble on. However, if you prefer, you could make a little tomato and chilli sauce for dipping or even serve them alongside a rare roasted eye
• fillet as the potato component.
Photography: Earl Carter
ANNIE SMITHERS is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria.