If you’ve been to Spain, you’ll get the craze around croquetas. The deep-fried, béchamel-filled fritters are a staple across the country, found in both tapas bars as well as dedicated croqueterias.
In Australia, though, traditional Spanish-style croquetas are a little harder to come by. But Santiago Seco-Pablos wants to change that. A trained civil engineer, he quit his job a few years ago to launch wholesale company La Croqueteria, which now stocks homes and restaurants around Melbourne.
“During my last year [as a civil engineer], I started thinking of this idea for a business,” says Seco-Pablos. “I was very into food – croquetas in particular – but I was also curing meat and brewing and pickling.”
The decision to embrace the Spanish snack food was spurred by a trip to his home country in 2019, where Seco-Pablos got to dive into the world of artisan croquetas and learn how to replicate them in Australia. “A key part of my business is the equipment,” he says. “I imported a mixing kettle from Spain that’s perfect for making béchamel.”
The kettle’s point of difference is that it maintains a consistent temperature throughout – a very important factor. Too hot and the béchamel can end up too thick; too cool and it may be runny.
“The benefit of this equipment is that it makes [the croquetas] consistent and reliable,” he says. But, ever the quality controller, Seco-Pablos and his team finish every croqueta by hand.
Currently, there are seven types – all built around the signature béchamel. “It’s a perfect vehicle for flavour,” says Seco-Pablos. Some, like the jamón serrano (Spanish ham), bacalao (salted cod) and calamari in squid ink are Spanish classics. Flavours like mushroom and blue cheese, or goat’s cheese and jalapeno are less traditional, though they don’t stray too far from the Spanish palate.
To serve, Seco-Pablos suggests frying a couple of croquetas and serving them over a simple salad. “I’m a purist,” he says. “For me, the croqueta doesn’t need anything.”
However, he notes they’re often served on a swipe of aioli alongside a hard drink or, for underage fans, a plate of scrambled eggs. “They’re a good companion for everything.”
La Croqueteria delivers Melbourne-wide on Wednesdays. The frozen croquetas are $17.50 for 12 or $37.80 for a kilo (around 30); order online.