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!

Bon Appetite!  


A Green Risotto

Ingredients (Serves 6 or 4 and leaves some for the aranchine)

400gm Arborio rice
150ml
1.2L vegetable stock
50g butter
1 finely chopped onion
1 crushed garlic clove
1 bunch of asparagus
200g peas
200g rocolly broken down into bite sized florets
Fresh thyme - finely chopped
Fresh parsley - finely chopped
100gm parmesan to finish  

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and fry off the onion and garlic until soft

  2. Add the rice to the pan and fry off or a minute so that the rice is finely coated 

  3. Add the wine and cook off until almost gone - about a minute 

  4. Add the stock one ladle at a time and stir regularly. 

  5. Add all the veggies with the last ladleful of  stock. You want them to be just cooked. 

  6. Put in a plate drizzle with some virgin olive oil and thrown the parmesan on top. DONE

Note: Risotto needs to have a loose consistency. The starch in the rice becomes creamy and wonderful and if you cook it down too much that creaminess turns into claggy sticky heavy wallpaper glue.

Arancini stuffed with mozzarella and pecorino, with a Red pepper salsa

You can just make plain risotto cool it down and then make these or like me you can use left over risotto. To make about 16 of these the size of golf balls you need 500g risotto. 

Ingredients - for 16 balls

500g risotto - cooked & cold
Oil for frying - Enough to cover the balls

Filling
1tsp italian herbs
1 ball mozzarella dried and chopped
100g grated pecorino
70g finely chopped sun dried tomatoes

For the crunchy casing
50g parmesan
1 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup Flour
For the salsa
200g roasted red pepper
Handful of basil
½ crushed garlic clove
Handful cherry tomatoes de-seeded
1tsp balsamic
1tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Make the salsa by finely chopping all the ingredients finely and combining them in a bowl.
  2. Get the oil nice and hot. To check if it is ready drop a breadcrumb in there and if it starts bubbling and rises to the top the heat is right
  3. Mix all the ingredients of the filling together
  4. Take a spoonful of the risotto and put it in your hand
  5. Put a teaspoon full of the filling in the centre and wrap the risotto around it encasing it completely
  6. Mix the breadcrumb and parmesan
  7. Roll the ball in flour 1st, then egg, and then the panko breadcrumb parmesan mixture.
  8. Carefully so that you don’t burn yourself put the balls in the hot oil and cook until golden brown.
  9. Serve while hot and enjoy!

Note: Don’t make the balls too big and have too much risotto around the filling or the cheese doesn't melt in the centre.