Thursday, 13 January 2011

Golden balls

Leftovers are a special treat for me. Since I stopped earning money and had to spend more time being concerned about food bills I get an enormous boost from knowing that I'm not wasting anything. I can turn a chicken into four or five meals. I throw any drab looking veg into a blender to turn it into soup and my freezer is constantly full of random, half-filled, unmarked bags of ragu, chilli, risotto or dal. The best leftover of all is arancini, a Sicilian dish traditionally made with ragu and rice. The rice is a risotto base thus lending itself perfectly as a leftover prize. If my risotto dish is full of mushrooms or chicken I have been known to pick them out in order to make sure my leftovers are perfectly smooth for the next day's arancini treat.

An arancino (sing, masc). Every day's a school day.
Sadly I didn't manage to get a photo of the mushroom risotto I used for this recipe but I've listed the ingredients. You could just as easily use chicken, squash or plain cheese risotto for this. The simpler the  better. The ragu was leftover from the beef and venison cannelloni in the previous post. Sometimes I add peas or leftover mozzarella chunks, although I confess that of all the things that accumulate unwanted in my fridge, mozzarella is not one of them. Alternatively make a vegetarian version by using a vegetable and tomato sauce, thickened with peas and mozzarella chunks. I always use a homemade chicken stock for this recipe but you can substitute a vegetarian stock or high quality bouillon if you prefer.

I hope you enjoy these as much as us. We tend to eat them as part of a platter with shredded chicken, cheese, taramasalata and fresh bread but they also work well with a leafy salad as a starter or main dish.

Mushroom Risotto

  • 250g mixed mushrooms (I use a mix of field, chestnut and porcini if I can get them), chopped
  • Reserve a handful of mushrooms and finely slice them
  • 1 healthy slug of brandy
  • 70g butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 400g risotto rice (I prefer vialone nano but carnaroli and arborio are more widely available)
  • 150ml dry white or sparkling wine
  • 2l of good quality stock 
  • 1 sprig rosemary finely chopped
  • S&P to taste
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 70g of butter chopped and placed in freezer for 1 hour
  • 150g grated parmesan
  1. In a small pan fry the sliced reserved mushrooms with a knob of butter. When soft add the brandy and flambĂ© until the alcohol burns off. Reserve the mushrooms for later.
  2. Heat your stock in a saucepan until simmering on a slow and steady heat. Make sure you have a ladle or scoop handy (you could just use a cup).
  3. Over a low heat sautĂ© the onions in the butter in a wide bottomed pan until translucent, add the chopped mushrooms and stir in for approximately 5 mins until the mushrooms have started to glisten and cook but haven't yet started to soften too much. 
  4. Add the garlic and the rice and stir to completey coat the contents with the butter. Keep stirring to prevent sticking until the rice takes on a translucent effect, then add the wine and stir the contents until the liquid has completely absorbed. Add S&P to taste
  5. Now start to add the stock 1 ladle (or cup) at a time. Stir continuously until the rice has absorbed the liquid and when you feel the rice start to catch, add another ladle full of stock. Repeat this process until the rice is cooked al dente. Don't be tempted to add too much stock in one go or the rice may cook before the stock has absorbed and the risotto will be too sloppy.
  6. Add the reserved brandy mushrooms, the frozen, diced butter, parmesan and nutmeg and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon. This mantecatura acts to bind all the ingredients together. The beating breaks the edges of the rice up and with the butter you get a lovely creamy texture to the end dish. Garnish with a small amount of rosemary - too much will be overbearing.
Make sure you reserve at least 1 full bowl for leftovers. This will then make approximately 6-8 arancini.

  • 1 portion of ragu
  • 1 bowl leftover risotto
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 100g flour for coating
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 500ml vegetable oil
  1. Form a small ball of cold risotto in your palm and make a well in the centre of it. The well needs to be deep enough to hold a tblsp of ragu but not so deep that the walls of the arancini break.
  2. Place 1 tblsp of ragu in the well, add anything else you wish at this stage - cubes of mozzarella, cooked peas etc. Then close your hand up around the rice and seal the edges of the rice together. Roll the rice between your two palms to make a perfect ball.
  3. Dip the ball into beaten egg, then coat with flour, then dip back in egg. Finally coat with bread crumbs and set aside until the rest are finished. 
  4. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep saucepan to 170 degrees. If the oil is too hot the balls will burn before the middle is cooked. If you don't have a thermometer you can check the temp by dropping a cube of stale bread in the oil. The oil should gentle bubble around the bread but take a while to colour. If it is too hot turn the heat down and do the test again before adding the arancini.
  5. Don't fry too many at a time ( I normally do two), then when golden brown place on a paper towel to soak up the excess oil and serve.



  1. I love arancini. The problem I have with it is acquiring leftover risotto. No matter how much I make, we still manage to eat it all.

  2. I couldn't agree more. Just recite arancini over and over as you serve it up and then hide the leftovers in lock and lock immediately.