corn & red pepper cheese stuffed fried rice balls (Mexican-style arancini)

Feeling in a reflective mood this morning – blogging really is a bit of a weird thing – who sits at home in front of a computer sending bits of themselves out into the universe? I originally started From the Kitchen years ago as a way to practice my photography and share some of my favourite recipes with friends. Since then it has become part of my daily life, a creative outlet and connected to the work I do for Dish magazine and Fairfax media. It has also become a kind of portfolio for clients who book me for either recipe development, styling or photography (sometimes all three). Sometimes the recipes are greeted with much enthusiasm and feedback from followers who now feel like friends, and sometimes they slip by almost unnoticed – ironically sometimes my favourites go that way. It has been a fascinating exercise getting to know what people respond too, often motivating, rewarding and humbling and occasionally disappointing. Sometimes I go off the boil for a few weeks and then suddenly inspiration strikes and I am racing back to the kitchen and charging my camera battery. It’s a bit of a strange time of year to be blogging recipes at the mo too – pretend spring here in New Zealand (rain/snow), and Australia, and autumn/fall in the northern hemisphere…but here I go any way!

I have my fingers crossed that you are going to like the look of these – basically Mexican style arancini (purists hold back), and they are bloody fantastic to enjoy with a drink. You know at drinks parties cold nibbles are always nice, but often after a few drinks all you want is something with a bit of spice, heat, fried is good and melty cheese a bonus…! I have been making arancini for about 20 years, but when I had friends for dinner recently (the pulled pork/slaw/polenta night) I decided to try a different flavour profile from my usual Italian – and vegetarian too, as my sister has recently stopped eating meat and I remain on the cusp. Anyhoo – the resulting corn and red pepper cheese stuffed rice balls fit the bill perfectly. They are easy to make the day before too, so when friends are around, all you need to do is heat the oil and cook them. The night we had them we also hooked into homemade guacamole and organic corn chips, and lots of other nibbles would work well as a ‘spread’ too…mini fish tacos and pulled pork sliders would be great.

Wherever you are, thanks for checking in to From the Kitchen, take it easy, and have a great weekend!


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1/2 red (bell) pepper, finely chopped
1/2 green (bell) pepper, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or more to taste)
sea salt and black pepper
1 1/3 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 t4 cups good quality vegetable stock
420g can corn, drained (or 2 cobs corn, boiled for 5 minutes, kernels sliced off)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
150g block mozzarella cut into 1cm cubes
3 cups breadcrumbs
5 cups rice bran or other high heat cooking oil
To serve – either aioli spiced with sweet smoked paprika, salsa or romesco sauce

Heat olive oil in a big saucepan and add onion, paprika, celery, peppers, garlic, oregano and chilli flakes, sea salt and black pepper.  Cook for10 minutes over a medium gentle heat, then add rice and cook, stirring a further 2 minutes. Add wine and cook a few minutes while heating stock in a separate saucepan. Once most of the wine is absorbed add tomato paste and 2/3 cup of stock. Keep stirring, adding warm stock as it becomes absorbed, ensuring the rice never dries out. After 20 minutes add corn to the rice with the last of the stock and cook a further 5 minutes – the rice should be cooked but not mushy. Remove from the heat and stir through Parmesan. Transfer to a container and chill until cool.OK – prepare yourself, this sounds like a real drag, but its not too bad! Take heaped tablespoonfuls of rice mix and poke a cheese cube in the middle. Roll into a ball then roll into breadcrumbs to coat. Do all of them, then starting with the first one again dip into egg and roll in breadcrumbs again. You should end up with about 48. Store in the fridge for at least half an hour before cooking.

Heat the rice bran oil in a large deep saucepan until it has a sheen on the surface and a bread cube dropped in will pop up to the surface and fry to golden in about 20 seconds. Fry the rice balls in batches of 4 at a time for 5 minutes until golden and heated through. Serve immediately with aioli, salsa or romesco sauce.

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