Arancini (Risotto Balls)

I had these for the first time in New York, with a cocktail in an air conditioned bar which felt like I’d arrived in heaven after pounding the streets on a hellishly warm day. 

These make a great little starter, or are divine with a glass of wine or a cold beer.

If you are organised enough to have made the mushroom risotto a day or two before then these are pretty quick and easy.  Some people like these with a marinara sauce, but I think these are delicious enough on their own.

 500 grams Mushroom risotto

100 grams Mozzarella (dolcelatte also works really well)

2 Tbsp. Plain flour

2 Eggs

*100 grams White breadcrumbs (See food hack)

Olive oil for deep frying

Salt and pepper for seasoning

Method

  1. Cut the mozzarella into 1.5 cm cubes, or you can use the little mozzarella “pearls” you can buy in some super markets
  2. Take a tablespoon of the cold risotto mixture in your hand and flatten it.  Add a small piece of cheese and form the risotto around it to make a ball.  Do this until you have used up all the risotto (it’s useful to have a bowl of water handy to wet your hands and stop the risotto sticking. 
  3. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Heat oil on a large heavy based pan or deep fat fryer.
  4. Put the flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper, which the eggs in a separate bowl, and add the breadcrumbs to another dish
  5. Heat oil on a large heavy based pan or deep fat fryer.
  6. Role the risotto balls in flour, then beaten egg, and finally the breadcrumbs
  • Add the breaded risotto balls to oil and fry until golden brown, remember to drain any excess oil on kitchen paper and season with salt and pepper.

* Food Hack  – When you’re shopping pick up bead that has been reduced because it’s going stale.  When you get home, take 5 minutes and whizz the bread up in a food processor until it’s crumbs.  Put these breadcrumbs into a large freezer bag and keep in your freezer.  Bread crumbs are an amazingly versatile ingredient, that you can use in everything from gratins, deep fried crusts, stuffing or even thickening sauces. 

Mushroom Risotto

This is a big batch, but there is method in my madness.

Firstly this risotto is really unctuous and yummy so you’ll have to fight with yourself not to keep spooning it into you plate.  But if you can resist eating it all, the left over risotto makes the most amazing risotto balls or arancini (if you’re feeling posh).

A lot of people are purists about the type of rice to use whether it’s Arborio or Carnaroli, and to be honest I haven’t found much of a difference.  So use whatever you can find and what you prefer. 

Ingredients

500 grams Carnaroli or Arborio rice

2 Tbsps. Olive oil

1 Large onion

500 grams Mushrooms

4 Cloves of Garlic

3 Tbsps. Dried porcini mushrooms

1.5 Litres Chicken or vegetable stock (made with stock cube/s is fine)

1 Glass of white wine (this is optional, I usually prefer to drink wine than cook with it, but it’s also the perfect excuse to open a bottle)

Grated parmesan (you can also use Grana which is similar to parmesan, but is a bit cheaper)

Herbs to finish, again this is optional but it does add another layer of flavour

Method

  1. Soak the porcini mushrooms in enough warm water to cover them
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan.   Finely slice the onion and add to the pan, cooking until soft.
  3. Slice the fresh mushrooms and garlic, add to the pan and cook gently until the mushrooms have softened and started to brown (don’t move the mushrooms around too much in the pan).
  4. Add the rice and stir the grains are coated in the oil.  Add the stock a ladleful at a time.  Yes I know this bit is a total faff, but who am I to argue to with generations of Italian Nonas’.
  5. Depending on the type of rice you use, you may not need all the stock, or you may need a little. Keep adding the stock until no more will be absorbed by the rice.
  6. Now is time to stir in the grated parmesan.  Personally for me the more cheese the better, but this is up to your own personal preference.

Don’t forget to use your left over risotto for arancini balls (you’ll love them)

Game Night at The Academy

Belfast is also home to two Universities. Ulster University has a campus right in the centre of the fashionable Cathedral Quarter. It also produces graduates from their hospitality and tourism degrees, who work in world class restaurants and resorts across the globe.

As part of student’s training, the University has their own restaurant (The Academy), which gives students experience of working in a fine dining establishment. The restaurant produces some of the best food I’ve eaten and is priced reasonably to cover running costs. Student are also trained to deliver Michelin star service.

The night I visited was a theme night based around game. The set menu included wood pigeon and venison with a quirky blackberry and lavender sorbet served in between as a palette cleanser. It took every ounce of reserve I had not to lick the plates.As part of student’s training, the University has their own restaurant (The Academy), which gives students experience of working in a fine dining establishment.

The restaurant produces some of the best food I’ve eaten and is priced reasonably to cover running costs. Student are also trained to deliver Michelin star service.

If you live in a city that has a hospitably/catering or culinary arts school, check out if they offer similar training facilities. You’ll eat extremely well for a reasonable price and provide students with a chance to gain experience with paying customers

Halloumi, Orange and Hazelnut Salad

Halloumi, orange and hazelnut salad

This is a quick and easy recipe, that makes a tasty lunch.  It’s also great as a simple starter, that can be done with little fuss if you are cooking for other people. 

The bright tangy orange balances the salty cheese and crunch of the nuts brings it all together.

Ingredients

1 Large orange

225 grams Halloumi

1 Tbsp. Olive oil

25 grams Hazelnuts

1 Packet of mixed salad

Olive oil and vinegar to dress the salad

Method

  • Cut the peel from the orange, making sure you take all the white pith off.  You should cut out segments (leaving the skin between the segments behind), or cut the peeled orange across thinly in rounds if you prefer.  (This can be done in advance, this is useful if you are making this as a starter).
  • In a dry pan toast the hazelnuts, until they smell nutty.  Don’t leave these unattended as they can burn. (This can also be done advance if you are making this salad as a starter).
  • Heat a frying pan with a tablespoon of oil, slice the halloumi in 1 cm thick slices and fry until golden brown on each side.
  • Divide the salad between the plates and dress with your preferred dressing (for this salad, I prefer olive oil and white wine vinegar)
  • Distribute the orange segments and hazelnuts between the plates and top with the fried halloumi.

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Do you love amazing food and getting some travel inspiration (or just living vicariously through others.  If so, then welcome to Sunnyside Kitchen.

Life is too short to live on lettuce, but it’s still important to strike a balance. I try to keep to 80/20.  Healthy food for 80% of the time and food that’s maybe not so healthy for 20% of the time ( what I like to call Pure Filth).  If I’m honest sometimes it’s the other way round, but I try.

Recipes for this blog are a mix of old favourites and food inspired by travel.