How and when the Italian cuisine acquired the all-too-generous labels of ‘healthy’, ‘for-a-long-life’, and ‘not-fatty’ remains a mystery to me. Certainly, we can all worship the olive oil, bow down to the great Mediterranean fruits and vegetables, and praise the lack of preservatives, colourings and other nasty unnatural additions. But like a grandmother lovingly feigning not to notice her grandchild sneaking sweets, I think the world turns a blind eye to the less noble, though certainly no less accomplished, aspects of the Italian diet. The streets of Naples in the evening are cloying with the smell of deep-fried goods, even pizza! Aperitivo food is based on pastry and bread, and those worthy bars that optimistically set out carrot sticks and olive oil find them sadly wilted and untouched at the end of the night. Those who claim that Italian cooking avoids butter need only visit a risotteria and gaze in horror at the great lumps melting into the steaming rice. I feel it’s time to celebrate the dark side of Italian cooking, the recipes of indulgence and dietary suicide, starting with my all time favourite aperitivo snack: deep-fried mozzarella balls.
1 packet of mini mozzarella balls (I used ‘nodini’, little knots, this time because we’d just bought them fresh from the market, however the round balls are more aesthetically pleasing!)
1 egg, beaten
A handful of flour
180g olive oil (see, healthy!)
Salt for seasoning
1.Remove the mozzarelle from the packet and dry thoroughly.
2.Spread the flour onto a plate and coat the mozzarelle well.
3.Now coat the mozzarelle in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumbs, then again in the egg and finally again in the breadcrumbs. It is very important to cover the mozzarelle in a thick coat or they will ooze cheese when frying.
4.Heat up oil to a very high temperature, then fry the mozzarelle until they are a dark gold colour (only a minute or so).
5.Season with plenty of salt, then WAIT! An amateur mistake is to put that indulgent snack straight into your mouth almost certainly burning yourself. The trick before eating is to break the mozzarella ball in half to allow the molten liquid from the cheese to drain out.