Make your own: Saffron arancini

Add a touch of Sicilian flair to winter dinner parties with this sophisticated saffron arancini recipe from Ben Tish of Norma in Fitzrovia.

‘These hearty nibbles can be made and fried in advance and simply crisped in the oven before serving. They’re great alongside peppery rocket salad with olive oil and balsamic dressing.’

Ingredients

2 cups panko bread crumbs, finely ground in a food processor
2 1/4 cups homemade chicken stock
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 cups short-grain Asian rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 pinches saffron, divided
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 pound low-moisture mozzarella, diced
Vegetable oil for frying

 

Heat oil in large pan and cook onion until translucent. Add rice and stir until evenly coated in oil and toasted but not browned. Add wine and cook, stirring, until raw alcohol smell has cooked off and wine is almost fully evaporated. Stir in two cups of stock and one pinch of saffron and season with salt. When liquid has mostly evaporated, stir in one more cup of stock and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has mostly evaporated. Stir in water 1/4 cup at a time until rice is just tender and has formed the texture of thick porridge.

Meanwhile melt butter until foaming in a small pan. Stir in two tablespoons of flour to form a paste, lower heat to medium, and stir until raw-flour smell is gone but it hasn’t browned. Whisk in milk and the remaining 3/4 cup stock until smooth, and add remaining pinch of saffron. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook, stirring, until bechamel sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Let cool slightly, then whisk in eggs.

Scrape rice into a large mixing bowl with the bechamel sauce and stir. Line two baking sheets with parchment and scrape rice filling onto each one, spreading it in a thin, even layer. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Spread panko crumbs on a plate. In a shallow bowl, whisk remaining 1/4 cup of flour with 1/4 cup of water to form a smooth paste, then whisk in an additional 1/4 cup of water to form a slurry.
Transfer chilled rice filling to a large mixing bowl and re-line rimmed sheets with fresh parchment paper. Scoop a small handful (about 1/4 cup) of rice filling in one hand (avoid wetting hands with water even though filling is sticky) and form it into a flat disk. Place a few small pieces of mozzarella in center of disk and fold rice filled around it to form a sphere with the cheese in the center. Roll rice ball in flour slurry, then transfer to breadcrumbs and roll to coat. Transfer to parchment and repeat.

Fill a saucepan at least four inches deep with vegetable oil and heat to 190 ̊c. Gently lower the balls into the oil with a slotted spoon, working in batches. Fry until golden brown then transfer to a paper towel-lined baking tray and allow to cool slightly.