But then I went to a one-year-old's birthday party a few Saturdays ago and the mystery was removed. Lewis' big sister Charlie pulled a tray of -so-perfect-they-looked-bought arancini balls from the oven and dismissed them as if they were as easy as pie...
A new challenge was presented, and I rose. This doubled nicely with a related challenge from reader/mother/cook Deb who boasted of making risotto twice last week with little Milo in the Ergo. I didn't bother to google a recipe - I never do that, it somehow seems like cheating, or too much hard work. Much more fun to stumble around in the kitchen and surprise yourself.
Billie ate pieces of the roast pumpkin while I finished the risotto, and then tried some risotto before I balled it up. Unfortunately she just swallowed it all whole, so her next serving at dinner was blended.
Charlie had made mushroom but we had pumpkin in the fridge - and it's also one of my favorite risottos. I think if you really want to get tricky, restaurants often stick a lump of mozzarella cheese in the middle. Next time.
NOTE: If making with baby on board, start early. Do it in stages. In fact, everyone should make the risotto a bit earlier as it balls up much better once cool.
PUMPKIN AND LEEK ARANCINI BALLS
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
2 leeks, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio or other risotto rice
100 ml white wine (optional)
1 litre water, boiled
1 stock cube
1/4 pumpkin, chopped into small pieces
1 cup vintage cheddar - or 1/2 cheddar 1/2 parmesan
2 eggs, beaten
dry fine bread crumbs
First make the risotto (as early as possible so has time to cool). Heat olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and saute for few mins, stirring regularly. Boil water and add stock, then place in small pan with lid, on low heat on stove. Add rice and stir continuously for 30 seconds. Add wine and stir. Turn heat to medium low and add ladle of stock. Stir, then leave for about 30 seconds before stirring again. When mostly absorbed, add another ladle of stock, and continue this process until stock all used and rice al dente. NOTE: This has to be a DRY risotto, rather than a sloppy one. Also it's not pertinent that the stock be added in such small amounts as you would a regular risotto, making it a little quicker. But avoid flooding it with too much water at once.
Meanwhile, rub pumpkin pieces in olive oil and place in single layer on a tray to roast in hot oven for 30 minutes. You can flip half way through, but not essential. Pumpkin should be very soft.
Stir cheese through finished risotto and then add pumpkin, mixing well so much of it blends through the rice. Set aside until cool (doesn't need to be cold, just the cooler the better).
Place beaten eggs in a small deep bowl. Half fill a small wide bowl with flour, and another with breadcrumbs. It's best not to put too much in at once so that half-way through the bowls can be cleaned of all the eggy muck. Have on hand two large plates.
Time to roll: Roll up your sleeves, scoop out a heaped T of risotto and roll between your wet hands. Roll in flour briefly and gently, then place on a plate. Roll and flour all the balls, before the next stage. This avoids too much mess and hand washing. Next dip the balls in the egg, closely followed by the breadcrumbs. Place on the other plate.
Put aside spare balls for future meals and place what you want to eat now on a well-oiled tray and bake for 20 mins in hot oven. Remove once crispy. Serve with a green salad with tomatoes, or some other greenery.
These cooked up very well the next evening.
Billie contemplating the arancini balls