The Offspring and I are trying to reduce the amount of meat in our diet and have discovered some sensational vegetarian dishes. Rice croquettes [or Arancini here] are one such delectable dish:
This one, lonely croquette is the only one of the 18 that survived for the photo. The rest were wolfed down. 🙂 To give you some idea of size, that’s a bread-and-butter plate with sliced sweet and sour pickled cucumber on the side.
The dish we actually ate was served with raw julienned carrots, pickles and a dipping sauce made from one, beautifully ripe avocado, mashed, and mixed with about two tablespoons of Jalna Greek yoghurt. Thisyoghurt is pot set, creamy and absolutely plain. Beautiful stuff. 🙂
Oh, I forgot, inside each croquette there was one of these:
These are baby Bocconcini – small mozzarella balls around which the rice croquette mixture is formed. In hindsight, getting the very small ones may have been a bit of a mistake as the flavour was a little lost amidst the rice, but still, very moorish. 🙂
I found the recipe for the rice croquettes in an old, slightly battered cookbook that I picked up from an op. shop many years ago. The book is called ‘The Italian Cookbook’ and was written by Maria Luisa Taglienti, copyright 1955. I haven’t cooked many of the recipes, but each one I did try worked beautifully. So here’s my version of rice croquettes. 🙂
2 cups of rice [I usually cook with long grain rice but bought arborio rice just for this recipe. It was worth it]
3 tablespoons ready-cooked tomato sauce [I wasn’t sure what she meant by tomato sauce so I used I sacchet of Leggos tomato paste. The flavour of the rice was delicious]
4 tablespoons butter [I used lightly salted butter as I prefer to sprinkle a little more salt on top rather than over salt the whole dish]
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese [I used shaved Parmesan and added a little more to get the correct amount]
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup diced bel paese or soft white cream cheese [I didn’t know what Bel Paese cheese was so looked it up and found it could be used as a substitute for mozzarella, so I bought the Bocconcini. Next time I may try a cream cheese instead]
1.5 cups of breadcrumbs
2 cups of olive oil [I don’t like deep frying so I only used just under 1 cup and substituted peanut oil for olive oil as it is excellent for frying].
I thought I might have to cook the rice like a risotto with the tomato sauce, but you boil it in salted water instead [approximately 15 minutes].
Next, you have to drain the rice and allow it to cool completely. I made two mistakes here. First, I rinsed the rice instead of just draining it. I think it would have been easier to form the croquettes if I’d left the starch on the grains of rice [to make them stick together better]. The second mistake was that I didn’t leave enough time for the rice to cool. It took well over an hour at room temperature, so dinner was a bit later than usual. Next time I make these croquettes, I’ll boil the rice ahead of time so it’s ready to go by the time I’m ready to cook.
Next, I removed about 20 Bocconcini from the liquid in which they come and allowed them to drain thoroughly.
Once the rice cooled sufficiently, I mixed in the tomato paste/sauce, butter, Parmesan cheese and beaten eggs. You can use a spoon or fork but hands really are the best for this. Besides, you’ll have to form the mix in your hands anyway so why make more washing up for yourself? -grin-
Forming the croquettes is messy but relatively easy. Place a spoonful of the rice mixture in the palm of your hand. Squeeze it with the other hand until it holds together. Make a small indentation in the middle and place one of the Bocconcini in the indentation. Cover with another spoonful of rice mixture and squeeze together to form a firm ball. Roll the ball in breadcrumbs and set aside.
Continue forming the croquettes until all the mixture has been used up. I made about 18 croquettes, but they were smallish.
Once the croquettes were formed, I heated the oil in a heavy, cast iron pot rather than a frying pan. The pot was big enough to hold 3 or 4 croquettes and the oil came to about 1/3 of the way up their sides. I allowed the croquettes to fry gently, turning as required. When they were golden brown all over, I eased them out with a slotted spoon and arranged them in a pile on a platter with the avocado dip and the julienned vegetables.