Christmas Croquettes

Recipe by Helen Bourke

I think my mother started to make this recipe over thirty years ago. I’m not sure where she came across it or if she made it up or adapted it from another recipe. She was a wonderful cook and our house would have been known to friends and relations as a place where someone would always get a warm welcome and great food. On countless occasions my four siblings and I would see her provide a wonderful meal for unexpected visitors out of the contents of our small fridge. I still marvel how she could make a small amount of food stretch to feed so many, and often have leftovers! To this day when I see a roast chicken demolished by my own smaller family I often think of the times when she would make a similar chicken feed many people and still have something to put into the fridge later on.

My dad was a self-taught, dedicated and skilful gardener and there was always ample vegetables and fruit of many varieties available our half acre garden to make a meal into a feast. Of course the five of us children hated anything to do with the garden, especially harvesting the crops and never did any garden chores willingly! We did not then realise the wonderful bounty that was available to us as a result of his hard work, nor tap into his extensive knowledge that is now sadly gone.

The croquettes in this recipe became a fixture every year at Christmas time. The ingredients were simple, cheap and easily accessible and celebrated the Irish love of the potato My mother would spend many days in the lead up to Christmas making huge batches of them. The whole kitchen would be dominated by the potatoes cooking in the biggest pot that she had, chopping boards piled high with chopped onion and mounds of grated cheese. My poor father used to be pressed into chopping the onions as she claimed they made her cry, but she didn’t seem to mind what they did to him! He would then escape as quickly as possible back into his beloved garden, where he could be found sitting on an old box under a bush or overhanging hedge drinking a mug of strong, sweet and almost black tea, and admiring his surroundings in the company of one of his robin friends that kept him constant company.

When the potato mix was complete my mother commence shaping the croquettes. Bearing in mind that this process was often done sitting at a table whilst watching on the television one of the “nice murders” in the crime mysteries to which she was addicted, it really was a miracle that the finished products looks factory perfect in their identical size and shape.

The hundreds (yes hundreds!) of finished croquettes would then be frozen in bags or any container that could be recycled and used to contain them. They were then squeezed into our freezer, when space was tight the freezers of neighbours.

The real story of the croquettes was when they were handed over to the many friends and relations in the few days before Christmas to be transferred into their own freezers and taken out on Christmas morning ready to become part of their family’s Christmas feast. The savoury croquettes with their crisp outsides and fluffy centres oozing cheesy deliciousness with subtle, savoury traces of onion were looked forward to with anticipation in many households, with people making long round trips regardless of the weather to get their hands on the portion set aside for them. My mother would make many calculations during this period to ensure that there were enough croquettes to go round for all the recipients!

Over the years the story of Mrs Strappe’s delicious croquettes spread the list of beneficiaries grew to include in-laws, new friends and kind neighbours. For the Strappe children the story of the croquettes will be forever entwined with Christmas memories and the spirit of sharing that was part and parcel of our lives growing up.  


1500g Floury Potatoes (Roosters are great)-peeled.
2 small Onions- finely chopped.
100g Cheddar Cheese- grated.
4 Eggs- beaten.
Salt, white pepper and black pepper.
Flour ,eggs and breadcrumbs to coat.


  1. Boil the potatoes until they are nicely soft.
  2. Drain off the cooking water and steam them over a low heat for a few minutes to make them dry and fluffy.
  3. In the cooking pot sprinkle the potatoes with plenty of salt and black and white pepper, and mash well with a potato masher ensuring there are no lumps.
  4. Now add the onions and cheese while the potatoes are still hot and mix in well.
  5. Now taking a golf-ball sized piece of the mix in your hands shape the potato into a croquette (barrel) shape. You want nice smooth curved sides with flat “ends”.
  6. Continue until all the mix is shaped. Lay the croquettes on a flat tray/container- do not stack one on top of another. The mixture should be cool at this stage.
  7. Now roll each croquette in flour, then beaten egg and finally breadcrumbs and return to the tray.  
  8. Our method is to always freeze the croquettes before cooking. The can then be put into bags or layered in a container once frozen.

To cook 

  1. Partially defrost the croquettes in a single layer until they are still holding their shape.
  2. Cook in hot oil at 180* until golden on the outside and almost fully cooked through (if you pierce the croquette with a carving fork you will feel a little resistance at the centre).
  3. Place the partially cooked croquettes in a single layer on an oven tray at 180* for 3 or 4 minutes until golden and crisp on the outside and fluffy and cheesy on the inside.

Enjoy immediately. Divine!

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