Arancini for an al fresco lunch …..

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We are getting together with family visiting from abroad today to enjoy an al fresco lunch and I am making some Arancini to take with us.

They are quite time consuming to make but after a busy week, I enjoy the peace of a very early Sunday morning when everyone is still asleep and this is when I like being in the kitchen making something that requires a bit of effort.

There is no difficulty in preparing Arancini if you are organized with your ingredients but they require handling with care so I never attempt making them if I am in a rush.

These rice balls are sold in most cafes locally but there is nothing better than home cooking and you can vary the fillings and combinations, make some that are totally vegetarian or even make small bite size ones for canapés or a drinks party.

Arancina means a little orange in Italian; they look like oranges! but I have made two shapes today, some cone like shapes as they have a different filling. I am not sure how authentic my recipe is as I have adjusted it to make it as easy as possible but these arancini are delicious and rather than deep fry them, I shallow fry them lightly to give them a good color and seal the crust but finish them off in the oven. All you need is a good basic recipe and add what you like, either with the rice mix or as a filling… You can literally use any precooked risotto and you can fill the balls with Bolognaise, chicken, ham, cheese, spinach, tuna, virtually anything that appeals to you.

They can be served hot or cold, and today we will eat them with a simple salad as they will be a contribution to a selection of other cold dishes made by everyone. This recipe makes 6 large arancini.

    To make basic Arancini, you will need:

    1 cup rice, preferably Arborio
    3 cups chicken stock
    1/2 cup white wine
    2 tablespoons very finely chopped parsley
    2 eggs for rice mix
    3 eggs for coating rice balls before breadcrumbs
    1 cup grated cheese, I always like to include some Parmesan but a mix of what you have available is fine
    Maldon Salt and freshly ground pepper
    2 cups breadcrumbs
    Vegetable oil for frying

Preheat oven to 180 C

Bring the rice to a boil in saucepan over medium heat in the chicken stock. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rice is cooked and has a creamy appearance. Stir to avoid sticking. Add the chopped parsley. Add in the grated cheese and two eggs.

Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and leave to cool completely.

Put the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl.

Beat the 3 remaining eggs in a bowl.

Prepare fillings of your choice. For the first time and to keep things simple, I suggest that you cut up mozzarella cubes and mix them with some chopped fresh basil.

Bring the rice mixture and divide into 6 portions if you want large Arancini.

Form each portion into a ball and press your finger into the center of each rice ball

Insert a cube of mozzarella ensuring there is some basil then press the rice around the hole to fill to form a ball.

Roll the balls in the beaten egg and then in the breadcrumbs and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Loosely cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Be generous with the breadcrumbs so that the ball will retain its shape.

Heat 1/2 inch vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and fry each ball turning over to have an even crust.

Remove from pan and place on kitchen towel to absorb surplus oil.

Transfer to baking tray covered in parchment and bake in moderate oven for 49 minutes turning over for even color.

Traditionally these rice balls are deep fried but I think this is a healthier version with the same result.

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The Arancini ready for frying..

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