One thing’s for sure over these past several months, and that’s the amount of time we’ve been spending on the phone. And I hope for most it’s been a good thing, although I’m also mindful there’s probably been a lot of testing and stressful calls as well?
At least we’ve been able to keep in touch and therefore connected to family, friends, acquaintances and work colleagues as we wade through the maze and mire of lockdown.
Imagine for a moment how much more trying these past months would have been without the ease of picking up your phone and being able to share whatever joys or troubles have been uppermost in you day? Hark back to the days of the ‘party line’ whereby a line of households would be linked literally via the one telephone wire with a telephonist acting as the ‘traffic controlller’ who would connect you to whomever you were wanting to speak to. If there was sufficient open lines to enable a connection, then you would be put through. The privacy of these calls was questionable, as I understand it, as the telephonist, or any other person sharing that single line, could be privy to whatever gossip, news, opinions were being expressed!
Thank goodness for FaceTime, Zoom, and the connectedness we can rely on whilst we’ve been unable to gather physically in one place to keep in touch. Gathering round a table to share food is such a precious and special activity, and one that in future we may take up with a little more appreciation? So today I want to share a recipe for when we can catch up with family and friends, and the latest ‘goss’.
Suppli al Telefonica are an Italian, bite-sized rice ball that are so named because the little cube of mozzarella cheese at the centre melts, and when you break open, or bite into the croquette, the strands of cheese stretch out thread-like as in the tangle of fine wires that made old-style telephones work!
I remember seeing the recipe in a magazine decades ago, and it’s a recipe I regularly return to, printed in the Women’s Weekly ‘Italian Cookery’ probably published in the early 80’s. Like you, I have been busily decluttering every cupboard, bookshelf and wardrobe in these past weeks, and even though I successfully downsized many of my cook books, this was one magazine I held on to – nostalgia won in this instance!
These suppli make a great snack with a glass of wine at ‘martini’ time, or a component on an anti pasto platter, or can be a light lunch if you serve 5-6 croquettes per person. Once cooked and cooled they can be frozen ready to be brought out and thawed, then re-heated gently.
However they are best made and served fresh. A little squeeze of lemon, or a smidgen of pesto also goes well with them.
As the weather improves as surely it must, perhaps picnics will once again be on the agenda, and so as you sit in the sunshine on a rug, with one hand holding your very portable device to chat away, your other hand will be free to pick up a suppli, and being bite sized your caller will hardly know you’ve stopped to take a little sustenance! Unlike the party line controller who no doubt would have been able to gauge exactly what was going on!
Suppli al Telefonica
• 2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice 1 brown onion,
very finely chopped
• 900ml vegetable or beef stock 2 large eggs
• 200gms fresh mozzarella, diced into 1cm cubes
• 2 tablspoons EVOO 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano or
Grana Padano, freshly grated
• 1½ cups fine untoasted breadcrumbs
• Vegetable oil, for frying Salt & freshly-ground black
Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a saucepan over medium heat, and add the EVOO. Add the diced onions to the pan, and cook until they become tender and slightly golden. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add the rice, stir to combine thoroughly, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, adding the stock in small amounts, like making risotto.
Cook until the rice no longer has a brittle core but is still al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes (cooking time will vary!). This rice should be less soft and have much less remaining liquid than risotto therefore you may not use all of the stock. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the
grated cheese. Spread the cooked rice on the prepared baking sheet, and allow to cool until you can handle it comfortably.
Once the rice has cooled, divide it into 20 equal portions, each about the size of a small egg. In a shallow bowl, beat the eggs. Place the breadcrumbs in another shallow bowl.
With damp hands, roll 1 portion of the rice in your hands to form a ball. Dig your thumb into the center of the ball, and stuff each one with a cube
of mozzarella, sealing any holes. The mozzarella shouldn’t be visible. Set aside, and repeat with the remaining rice and mozzarella. Wet your hands occasionally to keep the rice from sticking.
One at a time, dredge each croquette in the beaten eggs and then the breadcrumbs, and place in the fridge for 20-30 mins to allow them to firm up a little.
In a frying pan, heat vegetable oil (to a depth of about 3cm) over medium heat, until hot but not smoking – the oil should be hot enough to melt the cheese in the center of the suppli without burning the rice. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, add the suppli and fry for about 5 minutes total, moving them around with a slotted spoon or tongs to brown all sides.
As the suppli are browned, remove them with a slotted spoon or strainer to drain briefly on paper towels. Serve warm. Makes 20.