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A famous Sicilian export

Should I get up in the next couple of minutes? Or should I stay in bed for the the rest of my life? That was this morning’s big conundrum.

The good news (for you) is that this week’s recipe was enough to get me out of bed, put my Crocs on, and start cooking.

That’s because we’re doing ‘nduja, pea, and mozzarella arancini… Delicious balls of fried rice, melting cheese oozing out, and a hint of green to give you one of your five a day.

This week’s album: 
J5 by Jurassic 5

Jurassic 5 have a number of great albums but this debut EP (now almost 25 years old) remains my favourite. The track ‘Concrete Schoolyard’ was my first introduction to the LA-based group and hooked me instantly. There’s a strong ‘old school’ vibe throughout with great beats and rapping.

We’ve been here before

Eat My Words has done a number of big-hitting Sicilian classics (see caponata and aubergine parmigiana) as well as dishes inspired from travels there (see spaghetti with courgette, prawns, and pistachio pesto and ricotta mousse with strawberries and pistachio).

For good reason, Sicily has an incredible reputation for its food. When you go there everything just seems to be on another level in terms of flavour.

Thanks to Mount Etna, the soils are extremely fertile and produce some of the best-tasting vegetables you’ll ever come across. The fact it's an island means that fish and shellfish are readily available, and of an amazing quality, while Sicily is also known for its farming, cheese, and pastry. To summarise: in Italy, Sicily is considered a top runner for best food region.

Arancini are usually either filled with ragù, mozzarella, or ham. We’re taking inspo from this but also changing things up a little…

We’re going to use ‘nduja (a spicy and spreadable pork sausage from Calabria) and peas (actually a common ingredient in arancini which I always enjoy and think deserve their place).

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a good cheese supplier or Italian deli, you could try swapping the mozzarella for ragusano or caciocavallo (two cheeses widely used in Sicily).

In Sicily, you’ll usually find arancini with a conical shape which represents Etna. While that looks nice, it’s unnecessary and easier to go for a ball shape.

No one regrets a trip to Sicily. Fact.

What you need

The below creates 10-12 arancini. It takes 30 mins to prep (plus chilling time), then 60 mins to cook.

600-700ml chicken/vegetable stock (or water with 1 good quality stock cube)
2 tbsps olive oil
1 tbsp butter
½ onion
(finely diced)
200g risotto rice
150ml white wine
200g tinned tomatoes
(or 2 tbsps tomato purée)
150g frozen peas
50-70g ‘nduja
(depending on how spicy you like it)
60g pecorino/parmesan (finely grated)
200g mozzarella
Sea salt & black pepper
100g plain flour
2 eggs
(beaten with a good pinch of salt)
100g dried breadcrumbs
500ml vegetable oil for frying

Ready, steady, cook

1. Add your stock to a pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.

2. Add a large heavy-based pan to a medium heat. Once hot, add the olive oil and butter, followed by the diced onion. Sauté over a medium-low heat for 8-10 mins (or until the onion is fully cooked, soft, and translucent). It’s important to cook the onion gently and not colour it at all.

3. Once the onion is cooked, turn the temp up slightly and add the rice. Toast for 2-3 mins, stirring regularly until the rice is hot to the touch and the edges of the grains are translucent. Add the white wine, continue to stir, and leave to cook until the wine has almost completely evaporated and the raw alcohol taste has disappeared (about 90 secs).

4. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper to the rice - if you use a stock cube just check how salty it is and adjust how much salt you add - followed by the tinned tomatoes. Leave to cook for a few mins until the tomatoes have broken down and the liquid has reduced. If using tomato purée, leave to cook for a couple of mins over a gentle heat.

5. Now we can start to add the stock… As with any risotto you should add a ladle of hot stock at a time, stirring regularly to agitate the rice (this helps release its starch which gives you the desired consistency and texture). Let all the stock be absorbed before adding your next ladle.

The aim is to have one or two bubbles of stock constantly breaking the surface so adjust your temp accordingly. Too low a temp won’t yield the right result, but boiling the rice too vigorously will cause the outside to cook long before the centre.

NOTE: the amount of stock you need will depend on the type of rice you use and the speed at which your risotto is cooking. The quantities in this recipe give a fairly accurate guideline to work with, but always use your own judgement towards the end to reach a desired consistency.

6. When you’ve used up the stock and are happy with the consistency (the rice should be a little more cooked than a risotto as it doesn’t benefit from being too ‘al dente’), add in the ‘nduja and the peas. Keep the rice on the heat and stir until everything has been incorporated and evenly distributed.

7. Remove from the heat and add in the pecorino or parmesan, again stirring until everything is mixed together. Check the seasoning and, when happy, transfer everything to a large baking tray. Leave to cool in the fridge. Ideally, you want to leave it to cool properly for a few hours so that it sets a bit (making it easier to work with).

8. Once the rice is cool, divide it up into equal portions (somewhere between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball). Cut the mozzarella into as many chunks as you have arancini. Now flatten the rice in your hand, place a chunk of mozzarella in the middle, and seal everything up so the cheese is contained in the centre.

Take care to really cover the mozzarella so it doesn’t seep out in the cooking later. Do this for all the balls, then set on a tray lined with baking parchment and pop in the freezer for 5-10 mins.

9. Crack the eggs and put them, the flour, and the breadcrumbs into three separate bowls. Rigorously beat the eggs with a fork, add a pinch of salt, and beat again. The salt helps to break down the egg so that it becomes thinner.

10. Remove the balls from the freezer and, if needed, shape them into ball shapes again.

11. Working in batches, keeping one hand for the dry ingredients and one hand for the wet ingredients, add two balls at a time to the flour. Move them around so they’re completely covered, then dust off the excess flour and place the balls into the beaten eggs.

12. Completely cover them, then take them out, drain off the excess egg, and transfer them to the breadcrumb bowl. Cover completely in breadcrumbs and, finally, place on another baking tray or plate. Repeat the process until all your balls are on the tray.

13. Pour the vegetable oil into a heavy-based saucepan and heat to 170°c.

14. When the oil is hot enough, add a few of the breadcrumbed balls at a time and fry until golden brown. This should be about 5 mins (you’ll need to carefully rotate your balls halfway through). Use a slotted spoon to remove the arancini and drain on some kitchen paper.

15. Once you’ve fried all the arancini, allow them to rest for a few mins before serving. This allows the heat to transfer to the centre without frying them for too long.

TIP: you can fry these balls ahead of time and reheat later. Just remove the balls from the oil as soon as they have a nice colour and transfer them to kitchen paper to drain. They can easily be reheated in a hot oven (about 180°c fan) for 4-5 mins if at room temp, and 8-10 mins if you put them back in the fridge.

16. Grate over a little extra pecorino or parmesan when they’re warm. Enjoy.
Final thought

At home you’d usually make arancini from leftover risotto which is worth remembering the next time you do risotto. Cook a little extra, make arancini the next day, and keep them in the freezer for a later date.

Enjoy your time in the kitchen.


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Eat My Words · Kew Gardens · Kew, TW9 · United Kingdom

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