We are settling into Sicilian life very well. Moving from North Eastern Italy to here is really like moving to another country. The culture and way of life is so very different to what we have become used to. Most of the changes we have been happy to embrace….with the exception of the driving. Oh my, the driving! I haven’t screwed up the courage to drive myself yet. I think I shall leave that until I can sit in the passenger seat without closing my eyes and flinching at yet another near miss!
Of course, this being Italy, the greatest way they express regional differences is through food. We have already been able to sample some amazing Sicilian food. There is also quite an interesting street food scene that we plan to investigate further. One of the most famous delicacies are Arancini. These are rice balls with a filling in the centre – the classic is ragu – that are covered in breadcrumbs and fried. So, when we discovered that our landlord’s wife could make Arancini, I invited myself over to observe how it was done.
When I arrived, Viviana and her sister in law, Esther had already prepared the main elements that make an Arancino. Trays and trays of rice, ragu made a little thicker than normal and mozzarella chopped into cubes. They very sweetly let me get involved in the fun bit of assembling the Arancini.
It went a bit like this: you stuff as much rice as you can into the cup, you then put on a lid with a hole in the middle and then push in the sort of pointed pestle shaped thing you can see in the pictures above. When this is removed it is important to check that there are no holes in the rice shell you have formed. You then half fill the hole with ragu, add two pieces of mozzarella and then add more ragu. After this, you stuff more rice into the top of the cup…really until you can stuff no more!
The Arancini can then be removed from the mould. They are surprisingly robust and, I am relieved to say, none of the ones I made fell apart.
So many Arancini were made that day! If my memory serves me correctly, seventy six in total.
The Arancini are then dipped in a thin batter and coated in breadcrumbs, ready to be fried. Just another observation we have made: there are a lot of fried treats in Sicily. This will probably have a worrying effect on our waistlines!
We were told that Arancini can be made with a variety of fillings. Viviana also made a batch of Arancini with rice made with squid ink. It looked very striking and had a really rich flavour.
Then it was time to eat. Friends and family had gradually been arriving as the evening progressed. The table was extended to twice it’s normal size, and everyone gathered. This is something else we have noticed: no matter how many are invited, everyone is able to sit around the table. Probably because the average Sicilian table is enormous!
The feast then began. We have eaten Arancini before, but none of them have been quite as delicious as these homemade specimens. We were urged to try every flavour on offer and it wasn’t long before we were so full we couldn’t move!
We were so grateful for this experience. It wasn’t just a cookery lesson but also an insight into Sicilian culture and a chance to make new friends. We think we’re going to like it here.
In addition to all of this cooking (and eating) I have been busy on the stitchy front too. I have added some new patterns to my shop which you can see here. I will tell you all a bit more about that next time
Edit: Photo credit to our friend’s daughter. I gave her the camera to snap away whilst I was up to my elbows in rice!