Food, Glorious Food

What do you LOVE about food?

How does food make you feel?

I am a member of our local Toastmasters International club, Doncaster Speakers (click on the link if you want to find out more about Public Speaking in Doncaster…and it’s about much more than just public speaking: personal development, confidence building, leadership skills to name but a few!) and when it came to choosing a topic for my Competent Communicator series speech no. 4 (Theme: “How to say it”), the topic of ‘Food’ seemed to lend itself perfectly to the project’s objectives:

  • Select the right words and sentence structure to communicate your ideas clearly, accurately and vividly
  • Use rethorical devices to enhance and emphasize ideas
  • Eliminate jargon and unnecessary words
  • Use correct grammar

(Timing: 5-7 mins)

I don’t tend to write my speeches down – I jot down keywords/phrases I want to use and a general flow/structure, but then practise, practise, practise and allow it to flow naturally.  As I received so much praise for my speech though (I won the ‘Best Speaker’ award for the evening) and as someone asked me if there was a transcript available, I thought it would be fitting to write it up in this blog which is, after all, about my love of food!

A speech is meant to be heard and seen, so without voice inflection & variations in tonality, facial expressions and body language, I’m sure it loses a bit of its impact, but here is an approximation of what I said (Speech Title: “Glorious”):

Captivating Colours, Sensational Smells, Fascinating Flavours

Food means different things to different people at different times.

Food can be functional: The rushed sandwich at lunchtime that you barely savour as you need to get back to work

Food can be torture! Guilt-laden and a daily battle for some of us that enjoy it a little bit too much…

Food can be pleasurable, fun, shared with people you love!

Food means different things to different people at different times – sometimes it can be all of those things to me in just one day, depending on the meal I’m eating.

Madam Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and most welcome guests: I ADORE food!  Not just eating it, but cooking it, sharing it with people I love, blogging about it.

Food is more than the culmination (note: culminate/culmination was our ‘word of the day’ to try and insert into our speeches) of its ingredients coming together in a complete recipe.  Food is more than fuel for our body.  Food is more than mere nutrition. Food is powerful because it taps into our emotions!  I’d like to tell you a story:

It is the story of a little girl, in the 1970’s, standing on a stool in a cosy, cramped, love-filled kitchen in Rome.  She looks down at a bowl full of scrumptious deliciousness: Butter, Sugar, Eggs…  She’s helping her Grandmother make cake, and as she stirs, she asks “Can I have a taste, Nonna?” and her Grandmother looks down at her lovingly and replies “If you have a taste now, there’ll be nothing left! You can lick the bowl at the end”.  Then her Grandmother finds an excuse to briefly leave the room.  In that time, quick as a flash, the little girl dips her finger into the bowl and has a taste of the scrumptious cake mixture, then resumes mixing before her Grandmother returns, pretending to be none the wiser.  This scene repeated frequently in that kitchen!

Nonna Wanda
My “Nonna Wanda” – my maternal Grandmother and the inspiration behind much of my cooking

That little girl stands before you now, considerably older, not much wiser and, in fact, not that much taller – I still need to stand on stools to reach things!  Sadly, my Grandmother died a few years ago, but she lives on through her food.  Such is the power of food!

When I stand in my kitchen, cooking one of my Grandmother’s recipes, it is as though she is standing there with me, smiling, laughing and singing like she used to.  When I share her recipes with my friends and family, I feel like she’s at the dinner table with us, sharing the love and the food.  And when I blog about her recipes, I know that a little part of my Grandmother will live on forever, thanks to the internet!

Food is also very visual. When I cook a Chilli con Carne, my face lights up like the glowing sun…not because of the heat of the chilli burning my nose and making my eyes water, not because of the delicious aroma of garlic, onion and paprika as the beef sizzles in the pan…my face lights up and I grin from ear to ear…when I add the peppers!  The vibrant yellow, the warming orange, the fiery red! When those colours come into the pot and mingle with the warm earthy richness of the beef, magic happens.  I experience a fleeting moment of pure joy!  This may seem an exaggeration, but it happens every time I do this, so it’s no coincidence.  Such is the power of food!

So, the next time you eat a meal, think about the memories it recalls from the past, or the memories you’re creating for the future. Ponder the pleasure of the food you’re eating.  Enjoy the crunch of a crispy salad leaf under your teeth, listen to the sausages sizzling on the barbecue in this gorgeous weather, and if you still enjoy making popcorn, listen to the POP-POP-POP of the corn popping in the pan…we used to love doing this as children, but we don’t do it anymore!

Enjoy food.  Food is GLORIOUS!

How to make Suppli (Supplì) | Arancini | Breaded Risotto Balls

What are Supplì?

Suppli (correctly spelt Supplì) or Arancini are Breaded Risotto Balls

Suppli | Arancini | Breaded Risotto Balls | Supplì | Tomato and Mozzarella Arancini | Tomato and Mozzarella Suppli

Suppli come from Rome and the Lazio region.  These delicious Breaded Risotto Balls are known as Arancini throughout many other parts of Italy and are originally from Sicily.

One of the main differences between Supplì and Arancini is that Supplì tend to have cheese in the centre.  The very traditional Roman Supplì are made with a meat & tomato risotto and have mozzarella in the centre.

Suppli are exquisite Italian morsels.  You can eat them as starters (that’s their original place in a meal) or as finger-food at a buffet, as a main meal with a salad, or as a perfect TV dinner, to name but a few ways to enjoy these versatile little risotto balls!  Supplì are usually served in traditional “Pizzerie” (Pizza Restaurants) as ‘antipasti’ (starters).  They can be made with almost any risotto base.

For about a year, I ran a business (Cini Ltd), making and selling these delicious morsels.  I put together a short video to show you a glimpse of what a day in the Cini Suppli kitchen used to look like (hours of work condensed into under 2 mins of video!)

The Roman/Lazio “Supplì al Telefono” (called that way because, when cut in half, the two halves are on a ‘telephone wire’ to each other via the stringy melted cheese) tend to be more oval-shaped, whereas “Arancini” can have round, oval or tear-drop shapes. I tend to make them all into small, round morsels as they are easier to shape and easier to eat as a snack or appetiser.  They make fabulous party food!

Supplì are not hugely difficult to make, though they do require patience as they take time.  It may take a few attempts before you get them right, but it’s worth persevering.  If you really don’t want to make them yourself, do make sure you try them if you go to Rome.  Or ask for Arancini in other parts of southern Italy, especially Naples and Sicily.

The recipe below is for small, round vegetarian – tomato and mozzarella – ones (traditional Roman ones are larger and oval, and are made with a minced meat and tomato risotto base – similar to a bolognese sauce in a risotto – rather than a simple tomato and onion risotto base). 

This recipe makes approximately 35-40 small (roughly golf ball sized) Supplì:

Ingredients:

  • Tomato risotto made with 300g dry rice  (see recipe – but don’t add the extra knob of butter or parmesan at the end – or buy a pre-prepared risotto)

TIP:  If you were making ordinary risotto, you would leave it quite ‘wet’, but for the Supplì you need to ensure you don’t have excess liquid.  Also, bear in mind that the rice will become drier as it cools down and absorbs the last of the moisture.

  • 75g soft fresh mozzarella (drained weight)
  • 300-400g cheap, semi-stale, white bread made into breadcrumbs in a food blender
TIP:  place the breadcrumbs onto a large, deep food-serving/oven tray.  You won’t use all the breadcrumbs but you’ll need an ample supply of them in order to thoroughly coat the individual supplì
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  •  200g plain white flour – as with the breadcrumbs, you won’t use all of it but you need plenty to roll the supplì in…put it in a large tray so you have ample space
  • vegetable oil for frying

Method

  • Leave the risotto to cool for a couple of hours or, ideally, in a fridge overnight
  •  Add vegetable oil to a medium saucepan until half full (approx. 3-4cm in depth) and place on the hob, on a medium-high heat, taking care never to let it over-heat and become smoky – or, heat oil in a deep fat fryer to 180°C
  • Prepare yourself a little production line: the risotto, a bowl/plate containing the mozzarella (torn into small pieces), another bowl containing the plain white flour, one with the lightly beaten eggs and another containing the breadcrumbs
TIP: I like to use latex/vinyl gloves when rolling the Supplì – it stops my hands from turning orange and also allows the fat from the risotto to stay on the rice rather than absorb into my hands, which makes it easier to coat the rice balls in flour.  I also like to have a bowl of lukewarm water and a towel handy so that I can wash excess breadcrumbs from my hands between batches.
  • Take a small handful of rice and squeeze it in the palm of your hand until it starts sticking together; roll it into a ball then, using your finger, poke a hole into the middle
  • Place a piece of mozzarella into the hole, then close it up again and form a neat ball between the palms of your hands, ensuring that no mozzarella sticks out
  • Lightly roll the rice ball in flour
  • Dip the rice ball into the eggs
  • Place the rice ball onto the breadcrumbs, then gather a good amount in your hands and cover the rice ball. Pick the rice ball up and compact the breadcrumbs further with the palms of your hands, ensuring an even (but not too thick) coating and so that there are no parts of the rice ball that have no coating
TIP: You can either repeat this process until all your rice balls are ready to fry or you can do them in batches of 3-4 and roll the next batch while you’re frying the previous one; the latter method is faster, but if you’re nervous about timings/burning the supplì, do the two steps separately.
  • If using a pan rather than a deep-fat fryer, check the temperature of the oil: if you drop a few breadcrumbs into it the oil should ‘fizz’ but the breadcrumbs should slowly turn golden, not instantly brown/blacken (if that’s the case, it’s too hot – take it off the heat for a couple of minutes, then test again)
  • Drop a batch of supplì (not too many – 3-4, depending on the size of the pan/fryer you’re using) into the oil.  You need to have enough oil in the pan for this to be a deep-frying process, so the supplì are fully immersed in hot oil without touching the bottom of the pan
  • After 3-4 minutes, the supplì should be golden.  Lift them out with a slotted spoon (or fryer basket) and rest them on a tray or plate, lined with absorbent paper (e.g. kitchen roll)
  • Repeat the process until they are all cooked
  • Serve after they have had a couple of minutes to cool down

TIP: You can make these a day in advance and then reheat them in the oven, at 180°C (fan-assisted, otherwise 200°C) for approx. 20 mins

 Supplì | Gloriously Good!

Cini Supplì | Risotto Balls | Breaded Risotto Balls with a Gooey Cheese Centre

I mentioned recently I’d been busy with setting up my Supplì-making business: Cini Ltd.
suppli

I’ve been really busy over the past few days!  I now have:

A website & blog
A facebook page
A twitter account
A pinterest account
A Google+ page
A LinkedIn Company page
suppli
If you love Italian food, love risotto, love cheese, and especially if you have tried my Supplì,  please follow any or all of the above.  I hope that my Supplì will be a HUGE phenomenon UK-wide and, why not, even worldwide!

I know that they taste & look great.  I’ve had brilliant feedback, including from an independent retailer (I can’t say too much at this stage, but we’re looking to do a store trial with tasters in the autumn, all being well!).  Now I just need to raise awareness of these exquisite Italian morsels 🙂  Any help greatly appreciated!

For recipes, tips & general foodie stuff, go to www.gloriouslygoodfood.com