Arancini are said to have originated in Sicily and are traditionally filled with a meat ragù, tomato and mozzarella. A tasty little snack, this version does away with the meat and instead uses saffron, another excellent ingredient of southern Italy.
- 500 ml (½ cup) chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 pinch of saffron (25 mg)
- olive oil, for cooking
- 1 small brown onion, diced
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 150 g carnaroli rice (see Note)
- river salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 100 ml white wine
- 60 g finely grated parmesan
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 100 g mozzarella (see Note), cut into 1cm cubes
- 3 eggs
- 125 ml (½ cup) milk
- 50 g plain flour
- 160 g panko breadcrumbs (see Note)
- vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- lemon wedges, for serving
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Makes 18-24 arancini
Mix the stock and saffron in a small saucepan over medium heat, bring to the boil and then leave it sitting at just below a simmer and make sure you can easily reach for it when you’re making your risotto.
Heat a healthy splash of olive oil over medium heat in a wide-based saucepan over. Fry off the onion for 2 minutes or so until softened, stirring regularly, then add the tomato paste. You want to cook this, continuing to stir for an extra minute or so.
Add the rice and give everything a good mix so all the rice gets nicely coated in the oil and tomato paste. Season with some salt and black pepper.
Add the wine and continue stirring until all the liquid is nearly evaporated.
At this stage, start slowly adding the simmering stock, while stirring, for about 20 minutes, by which stage the rice should be very nearly ready. Unlike a normal risotto, you want to cook this a little past al dente and you also want the mix to be quite dry.
Once you feel you are there, take the rice off the heat, add the parmesan, the lemon zest and some extra seasoning and spread it out on a tray to cool.
Once the rice has completely cooled, transfer the mix to a bowl, add the mozzarella and give it a final thorough mix. You should be left with a nice sticky mound of rice.
Using your hands, roll the rice into nice even-sized small balls and place them on a tray.
Set up a crumbing station. This involves placing the flour on a plate and seasoning it nicely. In a wide-ish mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk and place this bowl next to your plate of flour. Then, next to that on another plate, add about half of the breadcrumbs. At the end of your row of plates and bowls, place a tray large enough to fit all of your arancini.
In small batches and using your hands, roll some of the arancini in the flour, then gently place them in the egg mixture. Lift out, letting any excess liquid drain off, then roll them about in the crumbs until they are completely covered. Place them on the tray while you coat the others.
Once they are all done, add the rest of your crumbs to the crumb plate. Now all the arancini need to go back into the egg mixture and then the crumbs. Double coating gives you an extra crisp and thick crunchy layer.
Fill a wide-based saucepan half full with vegetable oil and heat to 180°C. Deep-fry the arancini, in batches, for about 3 minutes, at which stage they should be a slightly dark golden colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
Season generously and let them rest for a minute or so. Serve with wedges of lemon.
• Don’t feel like you should use the most expensive and glamorous mozzarella there is – these actually work just as well using a slightly dodgy supermarket version. Also, these arancini can be made up to 1 week ahead and fried at whim.
• Carnaroli rice and panko breadcrumbs are available at specialty grocers. You can substitute another short-grain rice (such as arborio) and coarse dried breadcrumbs.
Photographs by Benito Martin. Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd.