This is the quintessential comfort food; full flavour, trendy presentation and an absolutely delectable aroma make it perfect to serve as a vegetarian/vegan starter at any function, dinner party or house table.
Before now I had never tried arancini – in-fact, I’ve only eaten restaurant risotto twice, and I hated it both times. They were a soggy claggy mess with little flavour and even less discernible texture. So what possessed me to try to make risotto arancini? Well, take a look at these photos and you’ll see!
Who could resist this perfect crispy arancini?
The size is deceptive – they are absolutely huge, and 2 are more than enough for a fairly filling starter since they are absolutely packed with richness, flavour, and the ultimate touch of crunch. Not only that, but they look stylish, classy and sophisticated … however, in reality they can be made with leftover risotto from the night before! That’s right – it’s a favourite way to use up leftovers in Italy, the birthplace of arancini where it is adored.
“Arancini” as a name literally translates to ‘little orange’, respective of their shape and colour when cooked. Isn’t that strange, since they have nothing to do with oranges? Arancini are literally rice balls – but the filling is up to you. Many restaurants will serve meat and tomato arancini, whereas others will offer aubergine or mushroom. The factor in common is that they are often stuffed with gooey mozzarella, which makes them even more decadent. I’ve opted out of cheese to make a vegan-friendly arancini. Most people believe that the secret to a creamy, rich risotto is to cook it with lots of butter and cheese. I digress; it is not. Mine turned out perfect with just olive oil, good quality risotto rice and slow cooking.
This is probably the point where I should put a disclaimer and note I didn’t cook the risotto like I should’ve. I’m a bit of an impulsive chef and so I just chucked it in like you would cook pasta. Oops. Actually – it worked amazingly. So it’s up to you whether you cook it the traditional way, adding little bits of water at a time, or add just the right amount and let it slowly soak up, like I did.
If you already have risotto made, you can skip that part of the recipe and make as many arancini balls as you can.
Mushroom Risotto arancini
A refined vegetarian&vegan classic from Italy packed full of satisfying flavours.
- 100g risotto,
- 5 big mushrooms of your choice ,
- 2 small shallots,
- 4 garlic cloves,
- dash of olive oil to fry
- a handful of parsley
- a dash of lemon juice or lemon pepper, as i used
- handful of flour
- 1 small beaten egg
- 50g white breadcrumbs, chopped fine and some chunky
- In a small saucepan heat a dash of olive oil on medium heat and add finely chopped shallots and garlic. Stir through until they are translucent and give off a lovely scent, roughly 4 minutes.
- When they are cooked, season with salt and pepper to taste and add the risotto rice to the pan. Cover with boiling water, and then a little extra.
- In a separate frying pan, add finely chopped mushrooms and fry in a little oil, until they are cooked all the way through, but not dry.
- Turn down the heat of the risotto and cook for approx. 10 minutes, stirring gently as you go. It’s a good idea to taste the risotto so you can check when it’s cooked. I like mine al dente with a bit of bite to the grains yet still soft and creamy, but it’s up to you.
- When finished cooking, you may have to drain some water. My risotto absorbed it all – so if there’s no water left, no worries.
- Add the cooked mushrooms to the risotto and stir them through evenly. You want to season with a dash of lemon or a fair amount of lemon pepper, as I used. Also add your roughly chopped parsley.
- Tip your risotto into a shallow dish and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm slightly.
- When your risotto is chilling, get working on the breadcrumbs. you can use a blender here, but since we don’t have one I chopped them by hand. I prefer this to pre-bought, because you get a distinctive crunch and lack of uniformity I really love in coatings.
- When your risotto is firm, separate it into 4 and form your 4 arancini balls. Squeeze them, roll them in your hands – whatever you can to create that lovely round shape. Once done, set back in fridge and chill for another 30 minutes.
- Once the arancini have set, prepare 3 bowls – one with flour, another with lightly beaten egg, and finally one with chopped breadcrumbs and parsley. For a vegan version, just mix flour with ice cold water in alternative to egg.
- When ready, pre-heat a pan of sunflower oil or a deep fat frier to 170C.
- Remove your arancini from the fridge and first roll them in flour, then coat in egg, and gently cover in breadcrumbs. You can pat the breadcrumbs down to make a firm coating.
- As soon as the oil is ready, drop your arancini in to fry. They should sizzle. Remember to always be safe near hot oil and practise good kitchen safety. Remove from the oil when they are golden brown – you may have to turn them around a bit in the oil to colour them evenly.
- Let them rest and drip oil. Serve on a bed of rocket (arugula), tomatoes, cheese crumblings – whatever you like. they are fine to eat cold, too.
Well, let me know what you think in the comments and feel free to ask any questions. Most importantly, bon appétit!