Recently I spent some time with the talented and creative Jay Allan. Originally a chef, Jay then started his own company, Hillside Speciality Foods, whose beautiful biscuits and chutneys we've been shouting about for quite some time.

For our get-together last week, Jay introduced me to arancini. Haven’t heard of them? Well, I hadn’t either, but they’re deep-fried rice balls with melted cheese in the middle. Originally a way of using up leftover risotto in Italy, and perhaps performing the same function as the pasty - i.e something a working man could take out to have for lunch - these arancini are frankly hard to resist!

In Italy they'd use mozzarella, but we wanted to try some of our great local cheeses. I did a 'meltability' test, as Jay was looking for cheeses that would really go liquid when heated, and we eventually settled on two, both from Somerset-based Whitelake. Morn Dew is one of our favourite 'washed rind' cheeses, and White Nancy is a soft(ish) goat which our customers have been raving about for years. An extra tweak to tradition is provided by the use of some crushed Hillside biscuits to the flour the balls are rolled in. We used Oat & Seed Crunch for some, the black Charcoal & Cumin version for others (the darker balls in the photos left and right above).

For his recipe Jay assumes you have some cooked risotto, though of course you could make some from scratch. Alternatively, next time you make a risotto, make a bit extra and set it aside for this ...

The recipe

Makes 8 arancini risotto balls.
350g cooked risotto - flavoured with onions, chicken stock, white wine and seasoned well. Make sure it’s not over-cooked!
400g cheese of your choice – we used Morn Dew in some, White Nancy in others
100g white breadcrumbs
100g crushed Hillside biscuits
2 eggs
1 cup of flour
Salt & pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
Cut the cheese into 50g cubes and lightly dust in flour.

Flatten 40g of the cooked risotto into the palm of your hand and shape it around the cheese, making sure it’s completely covered and there are no gaps. Roll the neat rice balls in flour.

Dip them in the whisked egg. Mix together the breadcrumbs and crushed biscuits, then roll your ball in the mixture so that it’s nicely covered.
Then: repeat this process. Roll them until they’re nice and round, and place in the fridge for about an hour to chill.

Heat your oil to about 170c - drop your arancini in and cook for 5-6 mins until golden brown.

Season with salt and serve them nice and hot with Hillside Caramelised Fig Chutney and salad leaves.