Monday, 2 May 2016
Risotto and Arancini
I love rice in all its’ glorious permutations. Even just simply cooked water and a bit of salt, rice can be extremely satisfying to me. It compliments so many dishes but is equally capable of producing a main that will be stunning. And let us not forget desserts! The rice pudding is no longer a humble event, it can be made amazing. How about a creme brulee style rice pudding? Or one flavoured with bitter orange and dark chocolate? I can go on but let us not lose focus.
As a way of paying homage to this lovely and diverse little grain I thought I would share two recipes with you. A main and a starter. What is even better is the starter can be made from the left overs of the main. We are making risotto and arancini/arancine balls (apparently the spelling is very important to the Sicilians where the Arancine balls originate from. I know because I have recently been told off by one)! So my Italian friends, do not be angry with my spelling. I am putting the two spellings as in English and on Google it is spelled with an “i” and you know how it is, if Google says it is “i” that is what the world will think too. But moving on from the language lesson...
A risotto may seem like a great hassle to make, you have to watch it, stir it and generally pay attention to get it right. When you do get it right though it is creamy, rich, full of flavour and very homely. A risotto can be so many things, a simple and classic mushroom or chicken to more seasonal ones such as asparagus or butternut squash, spinach and pumpkin seeds, tomato and chorizo and so on. The beautiful plump arborio rice, which is essential for a risotto, is the perfect carrier for a countless number of flavour combinations. Toppings can give texture. You can make a nice crumb by toasting some bread crumb with pine nuts and rosemary or any other herb. Have bits of crispy bacon, or a lovely parmesan crisp. And the left overs? Here is where the arancini/e comes for me.
Arancine/Arancini balls are stuffed risotto balls covered in breadcrumbs and fried. Traditionally they are stuffed with mozzarella, ragu and peas. They have a great texture, a crispy outside combined with the creamy risotto inside and the amazing gooey cheesy centre. Now as I am not Italian I don’t have mama’s tradition to follow and have the beauty of freedom. So I make a lovely red pepper salsa and stuff my balls with lots and lots of cheese and sun dried tomatoes, sometimes I put olives in.
I am sure that there will be plenty of Italians that will disagree with my recipes or my methods but I do hope that what they will see if the love and deep appreciation I have for these wonderful meals. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!