inspired by Sorella
After yesterday’s delicious Sourdough and Whipped Herb Noisette it’s time to move onto the snack portion of my fantasy seven course menu.
For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m cooking a different course of a seven course meal each day this week. Each inspired by a restaurant I have never been to. All to make a lockdown birthday slightly more palatable.
Technically we weren’t in a lockdown yesterday when I made my sourdough. We were Tier 4. But now a national lockdown is the backdrop for the rest of my birthday feast.
But none of this changes the fact that I won’t be eating out this week.
So on I go….
Snacks. When did these become a restaurant thing? Remember the days of starters? Just starters?
Until a few years ago snacks were bags of crisps and carrot sticks. Food to pacify hungry children. Things that kept us going in between meals.
If you eat somewhere particularly fancy you might get an amuse bouche. A little bite of something to whet your appetite. But these are normally decided by the chef, not put on a menu to take your pick from.
But now it seems that more and more restaurants have snacks – which are basically a cross between an amuse bouche and small starters – on their menu.
I’m not complaining about the extra course, believe me. Always happy to have an excuse to order the extra little morsel on a menu. I just have never really got on board with the name “snacks”.
Some places might call it “nibbles” or “bites”. But let’s face it, these don’t sound any better do they?
The Italians have a much better word. Cicchetti.
Small plates (or snacks if you must) that are traditionally served in bars in Venice. It’s all a questions of geography really. What one Italian would call antipasti, a Venetian might call Cicchetti. It all depends where and how you eat it.
After writing about Robin Gill’s new venture The Bermondsey Larder yesterday, today I am sticking with him and heading to Clapham to his Italian restaurant Sorella.
Robin spent time working in Italy, and along with head chef Ross Mangan, has designed a menu that brings the best bits of Italy to South London. Which basically means cicchetti and antipasti.
Our menu designed by Head Chef Ross Mangan, takes a traditional format; cicchetti, antipasti, primi, secondi and dolciSorella Website
Why have a menu based around three courses when you can have one based around five?
This is what I love about Italian food. Well yes OK I love pretty much everything about Italian food. It’s not just what they eat, but how they eat it.
Just because there are five courses on a menu doesn’t mean you have to eat them all (although you definitely can!). You can pick and choose based on how you feel. Sometimes antipasti and primi will be enough. Sometimes add a dolci. Some cicchetti with drinks and a secondi later on.
One menu, in one restaurant, will have something for everyone.
Perhaps this is what appeals to me about Sorella’s menu.
Five different sections, but only three or four choices in each.
It’s not about cramming as many dishes on the menu as possible, but just creating a beautiful selection of plates to work individual and together. Just for you or for sharing with the table.
So what cicchetti would I eat from their menu if I could? If I turned up there for a birthday meal?
The answer to that is easy.
To be honest it could have said truffle…. anything, and I would have picked it.
Anything with truffle is bound to be amazing.
However I’m quite looking forward to trying to make arancini, which are basically deep fried rice balls. I’ve eaten them many times but never cooked them.
Armed with a bottle of truffle oil from Borough Market I get started.
Well actually I got started last night when I made a risotto for dinner. I made sure I made a little too much, saving some of the white risotto in the fridge ready to use today.
I also chopped up some of my homemade sourdough and dried it out in a low oven, blitzed in a food processor and then dried the crumbs again to form lovely crispy fine breadcrumbs for the outside.
Now it’s simply a case of assembly.
These actually turn out to be super simple to put together. I get my risotto out of the fridge and work with it whilst it’s still cold so it sticks together really well.
After mixing in a few drops of truffle oil, I take a piece about the size of a ping pong ball and flatten it slighting into a circle in the palm of my hand.
Because I am still eating odds and ends of cheese from the fridge I decide to use up the last of a goats cheese for an oozy centre. A small cube of soft goats cheese is placed in the centre of the risotto circle and then I gently press the risotto up and around the cheese until it’s fully concealed.
Then its simply the case of dipping each risotto ball in flour, egg and finally the breadcrumbs and popping them back in the fridge to firm up whilst I heat the oil.
Once the vegetable oil has reached 180°C I fry the arancini for about 6-7 minutes, until lovely and golden on the outside. Using a metal slotted spoon I transfer them to some kitchen paper to soak up and excess oil.
Now for the hard part.
You have to leave them for a little while to cool down. Inside that outer crumb the risotto and melted cheese will be super hot.
As someone who is writing with with a slightly burnt mouth, trust me, don’t bite into them straight away.
But when you do you will discover that perfect blend of crunchy and soft, with a richness from the goats cheese and the delicious taste of truffle.
Honestly I’m half tempted to cancel my other courses and just make more of these.
Very tempted in fact.
So watch this space. Tomorrow you might have a delicious starter recipe. Or it might just be more arancini.