I wanted to try out the Express type risotti to see if they can be used to make things, other than just heating quickly for lunch. So I picked out 2, the four cheese ready cooked one in the Risotto Box , and the Mushroom Express Rice that has to be cooked but only takes a moment in the microwave. And I made arancini or fried risotto balls. Traditionally, in Siciliy, these are filled with a lovely rich ragu sauce. But they are also made with mozzarella cheese (when they are called suppli al telefono in some regions, because the cheese stretches like telephone wires when it is cut open) I simply made a filling with what was in the fridge.
The Risotto Box looked most unpromising when I opened it up, all dry and separate, but as I turned it out into a bowl, I found lots of sticky cheese sauce in the bottom. Mixed up together meant it stuck together nicely to make arancini.
The Express Rice I was hoping to do the same with, but it really is too dry to use straight from the packet, and looking on the packet I found that it needed water added before a zap in the microwave. So it took longer to prepare than the Risotto box as it had to be allowed to cool down before I could shape it. I mixed an egg, and some of the ham and cheese filling into the rice, spread it out on a plate and left it to cool.
The mixture for the filling was a couple of slices of cooked ham, a couple of ounces of Emmental cheese (I wanted one that made strings, you can use mozzarella, but I didn't have any) and a handful of thawed peas, mixed into some soft cheese.
I made two types of rice balls. Both were egged and breadcrumbed (Panko breadcrumbs - I have found that Sainsbury's do their own brand now! Who knew? ) and then chilled a bit until I was ready to fry them (they had to be prepared pre-Strictly Come Dancing, and then cooked afterwards.. can't disturb my adoration of the pro-dancers with cooking..) .
One has the mixture as a filling in the middle of the rice (I made that with the 4 cheese Risotto Box) - you take a spoonful of rice with wet hands, flatten it out, put some of the filling on, then top with another spoon of rice and form it into a ball. As you can see, it makes for a lovely oozy bit in the middle of the rice. It also makes the balls a little more fragile to fry.
The other one has the mixture folded through the rice (see above, made with the mushroom rice). so you just take large dollops and make balls without adding any extra filling. As it has a little egg in with the mixture, it holds its shape well, and fries up nice and plump. But it is drier than the other version, and I think I prefer having the mixture in the middle.
I don't have a deep fat fryer, if you do you can fry them in there until golden. I fried mine one by one in hot oil in my wok, them transferred to a baking sheet and finished off in a hot oven until golden and crispy. I liked doing them that way as it gave me time to make the sauce and the salad.
They do need a bit of something saucy to stop them from being too dry, so I topped them with a tomato and onion sauce (just finely chopped onion, sauté, then add a carton of chopped tomatoes, a little salt, sugar and oregano, and simmer until thick.)