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.
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
This recipe is being published in an upcoming publication!
I’ll post a link when it becomes available.
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.
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).
So let’s all raise our ringed and un-ringed Lady Fingers to the 2016 leap year!
Green Tea Tiramisu
4 teaspoons green tea leaves
2 cups almost boiling water
3 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
2 teaspoons plum wine
50ml whipping cream
2 teaspoons matcha
Extra matcha for dusting
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.
Next in my exploration of the five taste sensations through drinks is the realm of salt. When we think of salty drinks we think of soups and broths. Cocktails that may come to mind are ones that have salt encrusted rims such as salty dogs and margaritas. A favourite of mine growing up was the tequila shot – lick your hand between your thumb and forefinger, sprinkle with salt, knock back your tequila shot then bite on a slice of lemon or lime – we always used lemon. This classic shot has been the subject of much debate. One theory suggests that you salt a slice of lemon or lime, pop it in your mouth and chew on it, then drink down a shot of tequila. I haven’t tried this version – yet 🙂
Synchronistically, my local bar Hopheads has tapped a couple of salted beers recently. I tried one and was really surprised. Even though beer is not usually sweet, the overt taste of salt takes you back at first. After a few sips I began to enjoy it but it’s definitely not a favourite. They also had a cucumber and mint soft drink seasoned with salt and black pepper. With salty drinks on my mind I knew I had to try it. My first sip sent waves of disappointment through me as I thought “it’s horrible!” but a few sips in and I began to really appreciate its flavours. It actually reminded me of the doogh I made for the sour drinks blog. I began to wonder what it would be like with a spoonful of yoghurt or a few shots of gin.
For the recipe below I explored the world of salted teas. I have always wanted to make Tibetan butter tea as it combines some of my favourite flavours – tea, butter and salt. Sadly, the one I made was awful. I don’t know if it was me or the recipe but I really didn’t like it. Neither did my partner. Unperturbed I experimented with a different salty tea called Noon Chai – I just loved the name and happily the flavour! Noon Chai, also called Pink Tea, is a salted and spiced Kashmir tea with a surprise ingredient – bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). You can garnish it with chopped nuts like pistachios or almonds if you like.
1 teaspoon green tea leaves
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup milk
Place the tea leaves and half the water into a saucepan on medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Add the bicarbonate of soda and whisk until combined. Add the remaining water, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Whisk until combined. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the milk and bring to a simmer.
Strain and serve.