Spherical Mass

Stuff that matters

I last had arancini when eating with Emily Watkins, a brilliant, inspiring chef who used to run the Kingham Plough in Oxfordshire. She made them for us as a nibble before dinner, and I immediately made a mental note to do them myself. They were crisp, golden and absurdly delicious, and kept a hungry bunch extremely happy. Here, the haunting, vaguely pungent, deeply evocative smell of truffle oil lends itself well to the melting mozzarella and porcini-scented rice for a celebratory treat. Store the oil in the fridge to keep it tasting fresh.

Truffly, cheesy arancini bites
These can be kept warm in a low oven for an hour or two, which means they are perfect for making in advance.

Makes About 30
Prep 15 min, plus soaking
Chill 1 hr+
Cook 1 hr 15 min

30g dried porcini
40g unsalted butter
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
300g risotto rice
Salt and black pepper
150ml white wine
50g parmesan, grated
1-2 tbsp truffle oil, plus extra, to taste
150g cooking mozzarella, cut into 30 pieces

To coat and serve
125g plain flour, seasoned
3 eggs, beaten with a splash of milk
200g dried breadcrumbs
1 litre vegetable oil, for frying
A handful curly parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Cover the porcini with a litre of boiling water and soak for 20 minutes. Once soaked, scoop out the porcini, finely chop, and keep the liquid warm.

Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat and fry the onion and garlic for 10 minutes, until just softened. Add the rice and stir in the fat for a few minutes, before adding the porcini and seasoning generously.

Pour in the wine, stir, and allow the liquid to reduce by half. Start adding the porcini liquid, a ladleful at a time, stirring often and waiting for the previous ladleful to be absorbed before adding more. Continue stirring and adding for 15-20 minutes until the rice is just cooked. Take off the heat and a stir in the parmesan and truffle oil, and season to taste. Spread out on a baking tray to cool, then chill in the fridge for an hour or two, or overnight.

Line a tray with greaseproof paper and scoop heaped tablespoons of risotto into your hand, making a dent in the middle of each one to put a piece of mozzarella. Squeeze the risotto around the cheese to make neat balls, then put on the tray.

Put the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs on separate plates and prepare another tray with greaseproof paper. Roll each ball in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs and place on the second tray; refrigerate. These can now be refrigerated.

When ready to eat, fill a deep pan halfway up with oil and heat to 150C-160C (or so a piece of bread sizzles). Fry in small batches, being careful not to overcrowd, for four to six minutes until golden and crisp all over. Drain on kitchen paper and serve with finely chopped parsley or keep in a warm oven.