Over the course of the competition I’ve been perfecting a light Chicken Stew (moqueca de frango) and although it’s tasty and I can thoroughly recommend it… nothing I could do made it even remotely visually appealing.
So instead, we have these wonderful little parcels of joy! They’re perfect finger food, and will go down well as nibbles when you want to impress and offer something other than chicken nuggets and sausage rolls! They’re also suitable for vegetarians, but not in an overt way that might deter hard-core carnivores!
The recipe comes from Cabana The Cook Book – a wonderful book that I hope to review for you very soon!
But enough about that for now… let’s just Kick off, for one last time!
2 large sweet potatoes
1tsp smoked paprika
150g long grain rice
4 finely chopped spring onions
70g grated parmesan
1tsp baking powder
80g plain flour
flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
This recipe makes about 20-25 bolinhos, and a decent load of sweet potato fries. It’s comfortably enough as a main for two people, but the real pleasure in these golden balls is serving them up as party snacks. I’ll never look at David Beckham in the same way again!
1. Cook the rice in 400ml of water. Bring it to the boil, then turn it down to a simmer and leave it half-covered for about 10 minutes, until most of the water has been absorbed.
2. While the rice is doing its thing, peel the sweet potatoes, and cut them length-wise into chips about 1cm thick. One of my sweet potatoes was particularly long, so I cut those chips in half across the middle. Don’t be worried about uniformity, part of the charm is a bit of variety!
3. In small batches, deep fry the sweet potato chips at 130ºc for about 3-4 minutes, just to soften them up. You’re not looking for them to start crisping up or browning, yet. Drain them on some kitchen roll, and set aside at room temperature.
4. Once the rice has had its 10 minutes, take it off the heat, cover it and leave it to steam for about 2 more minutes. By this time it should be slightly overcooked, and sticky enough to allow you to shape it.
5. Set the rice aside to cool completely. I use this time to prep the other ingredients (maybe I should have said this at the start) and to give the sweet potatoes their second fry. Give them about 3-4 mins, this time at 180ºc. They should crisp up a little on this round! Again, drain them on kitchen roll, and set aside.
6. Once the rice has cooled, it’s time to properly get stuck into making the bolinhos! Add the egg, spring onions, parmesan, salt, baking powder and about half the flour to the rice. Chuck in all but 1tbsp of the parsley. Mix it all thoroughly together. You should now be able to shape the rice into little balls, but if it’s too sticky, gradually add more flour, until the mixture is more manageable.
7. With very well-floured hands, shape the rice into balls about the size of walnuts. I have to confess, I’ve no idea how big an actual walnut is, but David Ponte, Lizzy Barber & Jamie Barber kindly point out in Cabana The Cook Book that one bolinho should weigh about 30g. Weigh one! (I didn’t bother). I found that I was having to flour my hands between shaping each individual bolinho, so I’m taking that as a sign that I didn’t add enough of the flour into the recipe itself! Remember, practice makes perfect… I still ended up with a delicious end-product!
8. Once you’ve shaped all your bolinhos, deep fry them in small batches for about 2-3 minutes at 180ºc. Drain each batch on kitchen roll, and keep warm in a low oven while you do the other batches.
9. When all the bolinhos are done, dunk the sweet potato chips for another 3-4 mins at 180ºc. This time they’ll really crisp up! Again drain them on the kitchen roll.
10. Dust the sweet potato chips with the paprika and some sea salt; sprinkle the bolinhos with a little more parmesan and the remaining parsley. Serve them both together.
It was well fought-out at the top, in a really close encounter. Tesco take home the trophy, as their £8.37 just edged out Asda’s £8.67, with Morrisons some way behind on £9.18.
As seems to be the case lately, Sainsburys didn’t even turn up for the game, and stay at home with the wooden spoon for their dismal £10.12 “performance.”
The recipe is already a slight tweak, as Cabana The Cook Book only double-fries the sweet potatoes. I found this didn’t make them quite as cripsy as I like, though. The dusting of paprika is a fantastic touch, and I’m sure you could also incorporate garlic at some point in the process (maybe garlic salt?). Try other herbs and spices, too.
You could serve without any herbs and spices, but with a Chilli Mayonaise, a recipe for which is also conveniently provided in the book.
The bolinhos seem like they could be quite versatile, and you could experiment with different cheeses, perhaps. How about some finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes in the mixture?
I often comment on how dishes can be made suitable for vegetarians, but as this one already is, what can we do for the carnivores? I see no reason why you couldn’t incorporate some meat in there if you really wanted, but it would need to be very very small pieces. I’m thinking chicken, ham, bacon, or (mmmmm chorizo) could be a possibility here… but I’ve not tried it! Be bold 😀
In the book, the authors do already provide a tweaked version in the form of Bolinhos De Bacalhau – incorporating salt cod, and using potato instead of rice.
On the other end of the scale, perhaps a vegan version could be made? Replace the egg with something like tomato puree to help bring the rice together, and use a vegan cheese instead of the parmesan.
Deep frying is never a healthy option, but this could be made slightly healthier if you wanted to use a low-fat cheese in the mixture. Shallow-frying in low-cal spray won’t do the task on this one, so it’s definitely one to keep for a cheat day! I’d say only have a few as party nibbles, but you won’t be able to leave them alone!
All credit to David Ponte, Lizzy Barber & Jamie Barber, for Cabana The Cook Book, published by Quadrille Publishing.