This is a good ‘introduction’ to black pudding, particularly for children or people who feel a bit queasy about a straightforward fried slice. The mashed potato base is a fun way to use up leftovers and makes this a quick, make-ahead starter for dinner parties, or they’re a rich and nutritious weekday dinner, full of iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Make sure you buy a good quality black pudding: Stornoway is worth getting hold of, or ask your local butcher. Watercress is the best leaf to use as the salad base; the richness of the croquettes needs a peppery foil – rocket is almost as good, but if you just have lettuce try adding a teaspoon of chopped chives to the salad dressing to do a similar trick.
To make ahead: make these up the day before including searing the outside, then simply shove them in the oven for 15 minutes before serving, or until piping hot throughout and the breadcrumbs crisp. They can also be made ahead and frozen: cook straight from frozen for 30 minutes until hot through.
Makes twelve croquettes; serves four as a main or six as a starter.
250g good quality black pudding
100g cheese (cheddar or similar hard cheese), grated
300g mashed potato
6 spring onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
100g breadcrumbs, preferably panko
75g plain flour
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon caster sugar
A big handful of watercress, to serve
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to 180C / gas 5.
Chop the black pudding into small (5mm) dice. Fry in an unoiled pan until darkened, about 5 minutes, and remove onto kitchen roll to drain if necessary.
Set out four shallow dishes or plates as above. Put the flour in the first, the beaten egg in the second, the breadcrumbs on the third and leave the fourth plate empty.
Mix the mustard, spring onions, black pudding, a few good turns of black pepper and the grated cheese into the mashed potato – the easiest way to do this is to scrunch it together with your hands (make sure the black pudding has cooled sufficiently).
Scoop up a big tablespoon of the black pudding mix and form it into a fat sausage shape with your hands. Lightly roll it in the flour, tapping off the excess, then gently roll it in the egg, and finally in the breadcrumbs to cover it well. Put it on the empty plate.
Heat a frying pan with a good slug of rapeseed or light olive oil. Place in the croquettes (you might need to do this in batches – give them plenty of room) and lightly brown on all sides. While they’re browning, lightly oil a baking tray, and then transfer the croquettes to the tray.
Put all the dressing ingredients in a jar and give them a good shake to combine. Toss the leaves with the dressing, and then place a pile in the centre of each plate. Quarter and core the pears, but don’t peel them.
Transfer the croquettes to the oven for 6 minutes (or however long it takes you to make the pears) to heat all the way through.
While they’re in, make the caramelised pears: heat a frying pan and add the butter with a drop of rapeseed oil. Once that’s hot, add the pear wedges and sprinkle over the sugar. Cook until brown and caramelised, this should take about 6-8 minutes. Arrange the croquettes on the leaves, with a pear quarter propped on each one. Serve immediately.