green tea

That Arancini Guy

When I went to the Lara Food and Wine Festival earlier this year, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by a food stall with a fun name – That Arancini Guy 🙂 But when I tasted those deep fried rice balls, served with Japanese mayonnaise, I was hooked. There were four choices but I could only try three as the Beef Ragu with Peas & Mozzarella Arancini contained tomato and other ingredients I am allergic/sensitive to. But three out of four ain’t bad – in fact they were delightful.

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My risotto balls containing Mushroom & Mozzarella, Pumpkin & Mozzarella and Spinach & Mozzarella were so delicious. One bite into the crunchy crust and I was rewarded with the taste of gooey, savoury rice. Each one was distinct and I had a hard time deciding on a favourite. The Japanese mayonnaise added a sharp and creamy note. I could have eaten a bowl of them, with or without mayonnaise.

I couldn’t wait to try making these moreish morsels at home. I went with a basic recipe but added my own unique twist – green tea. Instead of cooking the rice in stock, I thought it would be fun to use tea. I chose green but you could experiment with black teas. Next time I’m going to try Earl Grey 🙂

Green Tea Arancini

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Ingredients
for the tea
3 cups water
2 tablespoons green tea leaves

for the rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup jasmine rice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
6 baby bocconcini, drained and halved

for the crumbing
1/2 cup plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 + 1/4 cups panko crumbs
vegetable oil for frying

Instructions
Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat. Add tea leaves. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain. Return tea to the saucepan and simmer until needed.
Heat oil and butter in a medium saucepan. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook until soft but not brown. Add rice and stir to coat. Stir in the salt. Add 1/2 a cup of the strained tea and cook until mostly evaporated. Add the remaining tea and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the liquid has been absorbed.
Pour rice into a baking dish and spread out thinly to cool. Add the parmesan cheese and parsley to the rice and stir through until combined. Divide into 12 portions.
Take 1/2 a portion of rice and flatten it in the palm of your hand. Place a halved piece of bocconcini in the centre, cover with remaining 1/2 portion of rice and shape into a ball. Repeat with the remaining rice and cheese.
Roll balls in flour, then dip in the beaten egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 150C / 300F.
Heat oil in a large pan or deep fryer to 180C / 350F. Deep fry the arancini in batches for 4 – 5 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure the oil comes back to temperature between batches.
Keep warm by placing in the oven until all the arancini are cooked.
Place on paper towels and drain before serving.
Serve with your favourite mayonnaise.

Leaping Days

2016 is a leap year, which means an extra day has been added to February. The Gregorian calendar used in the western world is a solar calendar and marks the position of the earth in relation to the sun. In the Gregorian calendar, a year is 365 days. As it takes the earth a little bit more than 365 days to revolve around the sun, an extra day is added to the year every 4 years. So any year that is evenly divisible by 4 is a leap year. But even this adjustment isn’t accurate enough. So any century year (a year that ends in 00) that is evenly divisible by 100 and 400 is a leap year. If they are evenly divisible by 100 but not 400 then they are not leap years. To make things interesting, cultures that use a lunisolar calendar (which marks moon phases as well as solar ones) add a leap month to their year – but not every 4 years.

So why the name “leap year”? What is actually being leaped? In the Gregorian calendar a fixed date advances one day of the week year by year. So if April Fool’s day falls on Monday one year then it will fall on Tuesday the next year, Wednesday the next and so on. When a leap year happens, this progression changes after February 29 and all fixed dates advance or leap a day. So if April Fool’s day was going to fall on a Thursday the next year it will actually fall on a Friday if it’s a leap year. This happens all the way to the end of  the next February when the daily progressions turn to normal – until the next leap year 🙂

One of the most common folklores for February 29 is that women can ask men to marry them. While there are many stories as to how and why this tradition came about, there are no definitive answers. One legend suggests that women who were planning to propose were supposed to wear a red skirt, presumedly to warn their beloved of an imminent proposal. Men who said no to the proposal would have to pay a fine to the woman. The fines ranged from a kiss, buying her enough material to make a dress, buying her a pair of gloves or buying her 12 pairs of gloves. The gloves were probably to cover her naked ring finger.

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Thinking about lady fingers naturally drew me to food, as to me a lady finger is either okra, a small banana, a cylindrical filo pastry or a sponge finger biscuit. As I continued on my culinary musings I wanted to pay tribute to the current leap year by creating a Lady Finger recipe using sponge finger biscuits. Tiramisu came to mind. But as my partner hates coffee based desserts, I decided to make a green tea version using both green tea leaves and matcha (powdered green tea).

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So let’s all raise our ringed and un-ringed Lady Fingers to the 2016 leap year!

Green Tea Tiramisu

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Ingredients
4 teaspoons green tea leaves
2 cups almost boiling water
3 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
2 teaspoons plum wine
250g mascarpone
50ml whipping cream
2 teaspoons matcha
200g ladyfingers
Extra matcha for dusting

Method
Combine tea and water and brew for 3 minutes. Strain and allow to cool.
Beat egg yolks, sugar and plum wine until light and creamy.
In a separate bowl beat mascarpone and cream until smooth and creamy. Do not overwork.
Slowly add the matcha and gently mix to combine. You can control the strength of the green tea flavour by adding less or more matcha so taste as you go.
Fold mascarpone mixture into egg yolk mixture until combined.
Pour brewed green tea into a shallow dish. Dip a lady finger biscuit into the tea, long enough to soften but not too long or they will go soggy.
Arrange half the soaked biscuits in a large serving dish or individual dishes. Cover with half the mascarpone mixture. Repeat layers.
Dust generously with extra matcha.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.