Tag Archives: rice

Recipe – Italian rice croquettes

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. 🙂

Ingredients

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].

Method

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.

Enjoy!

Meeks

 


Fried Rice with Soffritto

Most people know what fried rice is, but I bet very few of you know what ‘soffritto’ is. Don’t worry, I’ll give you a hint, in French it’s called ‘mirepoix’. Still no takers? Don’t feel bad. I didn’t know what soffritto was until a few months ago either.

Okay, no more teasing. Soffritto is an Italian flavour base made of onion, celery and carrot. All three ingredients are chopped very fine and then sauteed in olive oil or butter until they soften. When used in a bolognese, for example, the soffritto cooks down so much that you can’t distinguish the separate ingredients. But you can taste the rich flavour they impart to the dish.

For those with an inquiring mind, here’s a link to a full explanation:

http://www.italianfoodforever.com/2011/11/soffritto-the-holy-trinity-of-italian-cuisine/

But what does an Italian flavour base have to do with an Asian dish? It turns said dish into a one-wok meal, that’s what!

This is a picture of what the finished dish looks like:

Apologies for the shadow. My head got in the way.

As you can see from the photo, there’s a lot going on in this dish. Apart from the carrot and celery there’s red capsicum, chopped bacon, sweet corn, spring onions and one egg. The dish would have been a bit healthier if I’d added some pulses, but that was a step too far, even for me. Read on for the recipe.

Ingredients

1 cup of long grain rice cooked using the absorption method [or any kind of rice you have on hand].

2 rashers of middle bacon, rind removed.

1 egg

1/2 of a red capsicum cut into thin strips

1 large stick of celery, washed and cut into thin strips

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips

1 corn on the cob, cooked

3 spring onions [mostly the whites]

1 – 2 tablespoons of peanut oil

a few drops of sesame oil

about 1 tablespoon of light Soy Sauce to drizzle over

Method

Add the oil to the wok and bring it to medium heat. [I have a cast iron ring that sits on my gas burner and raises the wok above the flames. Highly recommended as it ensures more even heat to the wok].

Add the chopped bacon and fry gently until the bacon is just coloured.

Add the carrots, celery and capsicum to the bacon, lower the heat and sautee very gently [approx. 10 minutes]. It will look something like this:

Some of you may have noticed that my soffritto vegetables didn’t include onion. That’s because I’ll be using the spring onions to add a slightly more Asian flavour at the end of the dish. Oh, and the capsicum is in there because I really like capsicum. 🙂

While the soffritto mix is softening, cut the kernels of corn off the cob and give them a rough chop:

You can also chop the spring onions but do NOT add them to the dish yet.

Once the soffritto is done, add the corn and toss through the other ingredients:

Allow the corn to heat through for a minute or two and then add the rice:

Break the rice up in the wok and toss it through the soffritto base to absorb all those delicious flavours.

It was at this point of the cooking that I suddenly remembered I hadn’t cooked the egg ahead of time. Oh woe! Luckily, fried rice is a very forgiving dish. I pushed the rice to one side, cracked an egg straight into the wok and quickly turned it into scrambled egg with the spatula I use to toss the rice:

As always, abject apologies for the out-of-focus photo. 😦

Once the egg is incorporated into the rice mixture, there are only 3 ingredients left to add. Sprinkle a few drops of sesame oil over the rice [a little goes a long way]. Next, sprinkle or slosh the soy sauce on top. Add the chopped spring onions and quickly toss through the fried rice.

And that’s it. Serve in a small bowl and eat however you wish, chop sticks, forks, spoons, who cares. 🙂

If you have any rice left over, scrape it into a small saucepan and place in the fridge. When you’re ready to reheat, simply add a teaspoon of water to the pot – to stop the rice from burning – cover and steam gently for about 5 minutes.

Buon appetito!

chī chī chī” 吃吃吃 [I think this mean ‘eat, eat, eat’. Please correct me if it’s wrong!]

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Fried Rice, from leftovers

I’m sitting here shoveling down the leftover fried rice from last night, but the leftovers began the night before. If you like fried rice and never know what to do with leftover roast chicken, read on.

Recipe – Fried Rice à la Meeka

Ingredients*

Leftover roast or braised chicken, meat removed from bones

Leftover cooked rice [boiled or via the absorption method]

1 – 2 rashers of middle bacon [or ham]

1 – 2 eggs

Capsicum, red [diced]

Spring onion [the white part, cleaned and chopped into small pieces] 

Leftover corn on the cob if available [kernels cut off the cob]

Sesame oil [a drop or two]

Soy Sauce [Light or dark]

Peanut oil for frying [it has a light, clean flavour that’s perfect for Chinese dishes, but I use it for everything]

A large wok

An egg slice or some other tool for stir frying the rice

*quantities will depend upon how many people are to be served and how much they like certain ingredients. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need approx. 1.5 – 2 cups of cooked rice for two medium sized people.

Method

Heat a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in the wok until you can see a ‘heat haze’ rising from the oil.

While the oil is heating:

  • beat the egg[s]
  • cut the rind off the bacon and cut the meat and fat into small cubes/squares.
  • wash and cut the capsicum into small squares.

When the oil is hot, pour the beaten egg into the hot wok and swirl it around to spread it as much as possible [a bit like making a pancake].

When one side of the egg pancake is done, flip it over and cook the other side until it too is golden. Remove from wok and place on a cutting board. Cut into bite sized pieces and set aside.

Next, place the bacon pieces into the remaining oil along with the capsicum. Lower the heat and allow to cook gently until the bacon is nicely coloured but not quite crisp.

If using, add the corn kernels to the bacon and capsicum. Allow to cook gently for a few minutes more. [This is just to heat the corn through as it’s already cooked].

Remove the bacon, capsicum and corn from the oil. You can add it to the cooked egg.

Add a drop or two of sesame oil to the oil remaining in the wok. Don’t throw this oil out as it contains all the lovely flavours of the bacon etc!

Add the cooked rice to the wok and break up the lumps, tossing the rice almost constantly until the grains are nice and loose.

Return the egg, bacon, capsicum and corn to the wok and toss through the rice.

Add the pieces of cooked chicken.

Keep tossing until all the ingredients are heated through again, and the flavour has had a chance to spread through the rice.

Finally, add the chopped spring onions and a slosh of soy sauce to the rice. Do NOT overdo the soy sauce. 1/2 a tablespoon is more than enough at this stage. People can add more later, to suit their own tastes.

Toss the soy and the spring onions for a minute or two until the rice is slightly…beige? It will get a little colour from the soy, but it shouldn’t be brown. That means there’s too much soy!

Serve as is or braise some Chinese vegetables to serve with the rice.

To reheat the next day, place the leftover fried rice in a pot and add 1 tablespoon of water [the water will steam the rice and stop it from burning]. Cover and heat on a very low flame until it’s hot enough.

Bon appetit!

Meeks

 


#Recipe – Stuffed Tomatoes

This is a superb, vegetarian dish by Maria Luisa Taglienti, dating back to 1955. I’m a committed carnivore and not a huge fan of cheese, but even I love this dish. And it’s not hard to make.

Ingredients for the tomatoes

  • 4 large tomatoes, the firmer the better
  • 1/4 cup of rice
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped continental parsley
  • 1/3 cup diced cream cheese [Neuchatel or Philadelphia]
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper [white]

Method

Pre-head oven to moderate [just under 180C in a fan bake oven].

Cook the rice in salted water for 10 minutes. It should still be a little hard in the middle. Drain.

Mix the rice with 4 tablespoons of butter, the two cheeses, parsley, salt and pepper. This is your ‘stuffing’.

Take out the core of each tomato, including the seeds/pulp, [and set aside if making the optional sauce]. You should now have 4 ‘cups’.

Sprinkle the inside of each cup with salt and pepper, then stuff with the cheese mix.

Butter a baking dish and place the stuffed tomatoes inside with a knob of butter on top of each one.

Bake for approx. 25 minutes or until golden on top.

Optional green beans and simple tomato sauce

While the tomatoes are baking, lightly fry a small, chopped onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic. When golden and aromatic, add 1 sachet of tomato paste [approx. 1 tablespoon] and the pulp taken from the inside of the tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt, stir and cook on a low heat until the stuffed tomatoes are done.

While the sauce is simmering, top and tail a handful of green beans per person and steam until cooked but still firm.

To serve

Serve the stuffed tomatoes with the steamed green beans, the red sauce and crusty white bread. Enjoy!

Meeks


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