Monday, 4 April 2011
On Saturday, Rosie Nock told me that 'pictures of white bread' are no good to her. I hope this post will please her more.
I first tried arancini, a type of Italian street food, in 2001. A ball of rice is used to envelope a filling of ragu, peas, mushrooms or mozarella. It is then coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried until golden. They are called arancini because they resemble 'little oranges' (arancia means orange). They make very convenient portable snacks: the Italian version of Cornish pasties, samosas or onigiri (Japanese rice balls).
They probably originated from left over risotto and I too had some rice in the fridge. Unfortunately, it was pilau basmati rice, which posed two issues to address: flavour and texture.
Starting with pilau rice, I pursued South Asian flavours by crushing fenugreek, cumin and fennel seeds with a pestle and mortar. I then added fresh coriander leaves and a red chilli.
Basmati rice is not as sticky as risotto rice or Japanese rice, so it is difficult to make it into balls. To make it stickier, I added some tomato passata, an egg yolk and some gram flour. Gram flour is made from chickpeas and is the flour used for onion bhaji.
Cooked rice (about 1-2 portions)
1 tsp fenugreek
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 red chilli (de-seeded and finely chopped to produce about 1 tbsp).
1 large handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
3 tbsp of tomato passata
1 egg yolk
1. Mix the herbs, spices and chilli into the rice.
2. Add the tomato and egg yolk and mix through.
3. Add gram flour gradually until you get a sticky consistency.
4. Form balls no bigger than a golf ball.
5. Coat the balls in breadcrumbs.
6. Deep fry in hot oil or flatten the balls into patties to shallow fry.
7. Fry in batches, drain excess oil with kitchen paper and keep in a warm oven.
8. Serve with chilli sauce or lime and coriander mayonnaise.
Although these originated as convenient street food, they make nice amuse bouche, with a cold beer or a glass of wine, if you make them small enough. We noticed that you could taste the fennel much better once they had cooled down to just above room temperature.
I wonder if there's any left over rice at Soushi, to turn into onigiri-arancini.