You may remember, a few weeks ago, I gave you a recipe from The Son-in-law, Ben, as a guest contributor. Well, not to be outdone, his wife, my youngest daughter, Alice, has asked to do one (or two) now. She’s decided to give you a little Valentine Special – and a day ahead so you can get ready to spoil yourself!
Over to you, Alice:
Comfort food when you need it most.
This is a Valentine’s Day recipe with a difference. It’s comfort food for one, because not everyone’s Valentine’s Day will be filled with chocolates and roses. It can be a hard day for many people and when you’re feeling low, it’s tough to motivate yourself but it’s important that you do! Do something nice for yourself today. Light a candle (the one you bought but have been saving for a ‘special occasion’) read your book (give yourself time to read that extra chapter) or take yourself off on a stroll (walking that route you never take because although it’s beautiful, it always takes a little bit too long) And most importantly, cook something unctuous and delicious (a recipe that requires a bit of time and patience).
- 1 handful of chestnut mushrooms
- OPTIONAL dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 sticks celery – finely diced – and keep the leaves for garnish
- 1 white onion, finely diced
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 200g risotto rice
- Splash of white wine (save a glass for yourself)
- 1 pint stock (chicken/vegetable, whatever takes your fancy)
- Parmesan cheese
- Knob of butter (cold, to be stirred in right at the end)
- OPTIONAL glug of Worcestershire sauce or mushroom ketchup
Make your stock and pop the porcini mushrooms in, if you have them, and keep it warm. Fry the onion, garlic and celery in a large saucepan with a little bit of butter and olive oil until soft (ideally ten minutes, very low heat). Pour the risotto rice in and, stirring often, let the rice soak up some of the oil and butter. Once the rice starts to stick a bit, pour in the white wine, let that bubble away as the rice soaks it up before slowly adding a ladle-full of stock in. Continue this way, allowing the rice to soak up the liquid, between each ladle full, until the rice is soft but still a little bit chewy and moist. You’re almost teasingly feeding it liquid ladle-full by ladle-full – just as it has drunk up one, the next goes in.Take it off the heat once all the stock has been used, and grate in the parmesan, stirring it round so it melts into the risotto. Finally, add some seasoning and a lump of cold butter and let it ooze in and cover the pan for a few impatient minutes. It should still just be moist – my Husband (who Mum would call The Son-in-Law) tells me the Italians spoon it onto a plate and jiggle the plate around in circular motions to allow the risotto to rest in an even flat disc, so it must still retain some moisture and ooziness to do this. Scatter the celery leaves on top as a garnish – it’s tasty, nutritious and shouldn’t be wasted!
Now, I know what you’re thinking. That’s a lot of risotto, and Ailsa normally does smaller portions. Well, it’s deliberate – we’re going to be creative with half of it tomorrow! So eat half, then leave the rest to cool on the side. Once it’s cooled, put it in the fridge (important – don’t rush the cooling process, this is where rice can form spores and become a bit troublesome when re-heating). Then the next day, this makes for a rather indulgent but delicious lunch – not to mention fun to make!
Alice’s Leftover Risotto Arancini
Beautiful, crispy, oozy, cheese-stuffed rugby-ball shaped snacks, with a blue cheese dipping sauce that takes seconds to make.
- 100g of the above risotto, fridge cold
- Vegetable oil – enough to get an inch up your saucepan
- Mozzarella cheese – you can get individual bags of this in most supermarkets – cut into 1cm cubes.
- Panko breadcrumbs – big supermarkets do them, look in the Japanese / Asian section – they are lighter and larger flakes than usual breadcrumbs.
- 2 eggs
- Blue cheese for the dipping sauce
- Crème fraiche for the dipping sauce
Start by heating the oil in a good pan. It won’t look like enough to totally deep fry the arancini balls, but that’s to save oil – you fry them one way, then turn them over half way through. Shape the rice into small balls using your hands (it can help to wet them with water first) – they should be around the size of a large egg. Poke a single cube of mozzarella into the middle, and re-form the rice-ball around it, so that the mozzarella is snug inside. Repeat until you’ve used all the rice. Beat the two eggs in a bowl, and pour out a large handful of panko breadcrumbs into a wide shallow dish, adding a generous sprinkling of good salt. Once the oil is hot enough to satisfyingly hiss as it turns a breadcrumb light brown (rather than scorching it, or not reacting at all), we can get to work. Take each rice-ball, and roll it in the beaten egg first, then into the panko breadcrumbs to coat evenly. Once they are all coated in crumbs, use a slotted metal spoon to lower each one into the waiting oil, turning the heat up or down depending on how vociferously they hiss and sizzle on entry. Watch them carefully (it’s hard not to) – after around a minute, gently turn the first one a little to check the colour underneath. If it’s a beautiful golden tan brown, they’re ready to turn. Ideally turn them in order they went into the oil, but nobody’s judging. Once they are evenly brown throughout – sometimes it helps to carefully splash the oil over them as they cook, like chefs do with foaming butter on steaks in a pan – remove them with the slotted spoon, nestling them on some kitchen paper towel to let some of the oil drain away. As they sit there getting comfortable, crumble some blue cheese into a few spoonfuls of crème fraiche and put it in a little bowl suitable for dipping. It can help to microwave the cheese for 30 seconds so it mixes easier with the crème fraiche but it’s not essential. When ready to eat, squeeze a little lemon over the arancini – place them on a bed of dressed rocket if you have the energy – then reward yourself for being so resourceful with leftovers by dipping one of the hot golden rice-balls in the blue cheese dip. Notice that the mozzarella has gone molten in the middle, the rice is soft and warm, and the outer crust is crisp and salty.
Don’t do anything else for the rest of the day.
Love from Alice xx