I don’t know why I’ve never made Arancini before; I guess because I’ve never had any leftover risotto and the idea of making some specifically for another purpose seems a smidgen long-winded, even for me.
Apparently, arancini translates as ‘little orange’. The Italians love a diminutive. It reminds me of my favourite joke in Shakespeare – in Much Ado About Nothing when Beatrice describes Claudio as ‘civil as an orange’. See? Civil, like Seville. And also, because he’s all jealous and not very ‘civil’ at all. Maybe you had to be there.
Anyway, I made a risotto the other day, and was left in one of those situations where there was about half a handful of rice left in the bag. Not enough for a single portion, but nevertheless the sort of amount liable to languish at the back of the cupboard for time immemorial. So I whacked it in, and even with my outrageous gluttony couldn’t finish it all.
Fast-forward two days, and the half-bowl of by now solidified rice in the fridge was beginning to annoy my partner and needed to be used. I started by making a simple tomato sauce – a can of tomatoes, touch of garlic, sugar, salt and vinegar – leaving it to slowly bubble all over the white tiles behind the hob.
I then squelched spoonfuls of the leftover risotto into roughly equal balls and panéed them. This means to dredge in flour, egg, and finally breadcrumbs. There are two main techniques to choose from here. Most would advise keeping a ‘dry hand’ for the flour and the breadcrumbs, and a ‘wet hand’ for the egg, thus ensuring the minimum of sticky mess. Sensible, really. I, on the other hand, espouse the ‘cack hand’ method, whereby I dive straight in without thinking about it and hope the resultant floury chaos rectifies itself later.
Then came the frying. I did this in a large saucepan, because the deep fryer is a bastard to clean, filling it to about a third with vegetable oil, heating it to the point where it hurts if you put your hand in it*, and dropping the balls** in for about 5-6 minutes until golden brown.
A quick dry on some absorbent paper later, and lunch was ready. Served with the tomato sauce, the dregs of a bottle of cava with an upturned teaspoon in it, and last night’s leftover Dominos.
*This is a joke. Don’t do this. Drop a bit of bread in or something, and if it sizzles you’re good to go.
**This phrase made me laugh.