Many Gastro Pubs in Britain have Scotch Eggs challenges & my local, the Sandsend and the Ship are some of the most successful bar meal creaters, so it was good to be asked by Carluccio’s to record their Italian twist – the Arancini challenge.
We photographed two Sicilian chefs, both from Catania (famous as the 80’s & 90’s murder capital of Europe), Luciano from Carluccio’s and freelance chef Umberto.
Arancini’s are fried rice ball snacks and come in various disguises; some are round, others coned or even hearts with each shape distinguishing a flavour. They are usually stuffed with various fillings, ragu & peas, pesto, cheese. These Sicilian treats also have some unusual varieties – speck with pistachio and scamorza are a huge hit and also cinnamon and milk arancini stuffed with giandiuia (chocolate) and served with a butterscotch sauce.
We wanted to create an image of two heavy weights ready for battle, just like two heavy weight boxers before a bout. Ali v Fraser. Pomp mixed with hormones.
The pro at work (notice – not hard at work!)
It’s been a great project, not just to work on, but also to meet new faces, as well as the lovely people at Carluccio’s.
The battle was between two Sicilian chefs, Carluccio’s Luciano Nastasi @LucianoNastasi1 and Umberto, the Sicilian Donkey http://www.siciliandonkey.co.uk . Both chefs have worked so hard with wonderful Arancini recipes, worthy of the competition.
The judges were Victoria Cameron from @spoonfulofsugr, Gemma Gannon from @gemma_gannon & @BandofBakers, Anita-Clare Field from @http://www.loverofcreatingflavours.co.uk, and David Gatenby from @foodographer123 , my wonderful assistant and also very talented amateur chef. He stood in for MasterChef winner, Shelina Permalloo at the last minute; a daunting task, but I wasn’t bothered as Dave’s knowledge of cooking is immense and what he doesn’t know he’ll more than make up for with enthusiasm (and a lick of his lips!). If you love food blogs or tweets and want a good read, please follow the judges above.
I originally thought Arancinis were fried rice balls, but these delicacies offered much more, with wonderful flavours – Artichoke & mushroom with Taleggio, “Alla Norma” aubergine with tomato sauce & ricotta salata, Thai prawn fusion with black rice and Asian style dip, Speck with pistachio di Bronte and Scamorza cheese, Osso Bucco with Sicilian Provolne, Cherry & chocolate, Gianduioso chocolate with caramel sauce, Creamy smoked salmon with dill & lemon zest.
The empty platters proved how tasty the chocolate balls were.
So whose balls won? It was so even, 2-2 was the judges verdict with Umberto just winning by a hair’s breadth.