Thursday, 24 October 2013

Arancini - Amazeballs

Delicious golden balls
Leftover risotto is never a joy to behold. Cold and congealed, what was delicious and comforting is now,
quite frankly,  a bit gross. Well praise the Italian food gods who invented arancini for this precise reason. The clever folk from Sicily decided that if you are going to go to the trouble of making risotto, you might as well make a bit extra and make something else with it. Something delicious and round and deep fried, AND with an oozy cheesy filling, ohhh yeaaah. Only a fool would make risotto especially for this (that would be me, I've wanted to cook these forever but always forget*) but once you've tried this you'll make risotto by the bucket load, so you can whip up this delightful snackette at a moments notice. Mushroom risotto seems to be favoured for this, but I think any type would work, just make sure it's not too wet and there are no big chunks of anything, you want exactly the congealed, un-appetising stodge you get left over from fresh risotto. I won't bore you with a recipe for risotto, use  this one if you're in need of one, and replace mushrooms with chicken and leave out the tarragon. About 250g of uncooked aborio rice made enough for 15 balls. Yes this recipe is loose, but it's the method which is important.

 Make sure your risotto has been chilled for at least an hour, a few days is fine if it was supper the other night. Stir a beaten egg, two for a really big batch, into the cold risotto. Chill again for ten minutes or so. Take a flat tray/large plate and cover in cling film. Spoon some risotto into your hand and roll into a large golf ball. It's a bit sticky but just go with it. Make an indent right into the middle with your little finger and insert a little cube of some delicious Italian soft-ish cheese. I used Fontina but Mozzarella would be awesome too. Cover up the hole, and roll your perfect sphere in breadcrumbs. Carefully place on your plate/tray and keep going until there is no more rice. You may need to wash your hands half way through as it gets messy. Chill them until you need them, at least half an hour though. When you want to eat them, half fill a medium heavy bottomed saucepan with vegetable oil (you only just need to cover the balls) and heat until anything dipped into the oil goes bonkers. Gently place the arancini in the pan, don't over fill, and let them bubble away for about 3/4 minutes, until golden brown, give them a nudge every now and again to get an even colour. Do them in batches, roll on kitchen roll and keep warm on a rack in a low oven, don't put them on a plate, the rack helps them stay crispy.

When they are all cooked, have fun arranging them artfully, and make sure that you warn the recipients that the middle might be hotter than the sun.

*I've also wanted to do a sweet version with left over rice pudding which would just be shamazing, this will happen soon. Just imagine it for pudding...

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Fish Stew with Absinthe

Gently does it...
It sounds hardcore but it's not really. You only use a little slurp of green crazy juice, and to be perfectly honest I only used it because I was out of Pernod (isn't everyone, apart from my Dad?!). I was planning on making this lovely fish stew from my trusty Casa Moro book, but I then discovered my epic fail of an Ocado shop had left me lacking a few bits and bobs, so I changed it quite a bit to suit what I had and it was bloody lovely. This is a light supper (N.B. the Boyfriend wailed with hunger an hour after eating it and had to resort to a mug of Bovril and bread, but it suited me fine). Take your time cooking this, and the simple flavours will all hold hands and create something magical.

Feeds 2. Steep a pinch of saffron in an eggcup of boiling water. Finely chop a small onion and cook gently in olive oil, with a pinch of salt, in a medium saucepan for a good 10 minutes, until gently caramelised. Now add a finely shopped bulb of fennell (save any fronds) and two sliced cloves of garlic and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add a slurp of Absinthe or Pernod and let it bubble for a couple of minutes to get rid of the alcohol. There, see, not so scary now. In a pestle and mortar roughly grind a handful of blanched,
The green fairy
toasted almonds
and add to the pan. Add a good litre of hot water and peeled, diced potatoes (I used one big Maris Piper), the saffron water, lots of seasoning, bring to the boil, and simmer gently, lid off, until the potatoes are just under-cooked. Now for the fish. You can use whatever you like, any little clams, mussels, white fish, squid, anything. I used 150g diced cod and a big handful of raw tiger prawns. Give a gentle stir and simmer for a further two minutes with the lid on. Taste for seasoning, add more if you need it (I found it needed lots of salt), squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and serve in bowls with the chopped fennel fronds on top (use parsley if you don't have enough). Add a final flourish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Some bread is useful to mop up the juices.

This stew really does have the most beautiful delicate fragrance and I'm glad I resisted the urge to go mental on the flavours. Hold back, and you will be rewarded with the most gentle taste sensation. Which, in my case was ruined by the Boyfriend's holler of 'What??? There's no more???' and a request that I make rice pudding  immediately to fill him up.