The batter for the donuts can be made ahead- though the small sweet balls are are best cooked just before serving- it's their warmth that contributes half of the soothing appeal. Rather than seeing this task as a burden, view it as a good excuse to retire to the kitchen for ten minutes or so and give everyone else a breather before launching into yet another course of food.
The last time we served them to a crowd of eight the donuts sat next to sheep milk yoghurt panna cottas, poached rhubarb and a syrup made from the scarlet rhubarb and blood orange juices- though they would be just as lovely with a pot of lightly sweetened Greek yoghurt and some slices of stone fruit.
They're not strictly English (actually more Italian than anything, I suppose), but to me they conjure the same cozy, cheering quality as a few hours spent eating and drinking in a friendly pub. So for this reason (and many others), I heartily endorse them.
6 ¼ oz ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp caster sugar
zest of a blood orange (or 1 lemon, orange, clementine/mandarin)
1 ¾ oz plain flour1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp blood orange juice
vegetable or sunflower oil for frying
icing/powdered sugar for dusting
Beat together the egg and the ricotta in a bowl until smooth.
Add the sugar and half of the zest and mix to combine. (nb, reserve the other half of the zest for dusting with the sugar over the top at the end)
Add the juice.
Sift in the flour and the baking powder and fold together to form a batter.
Heat the oil in a high sided pan until it reaches 180 C/350 F on a thermometer, or until you place a small piece of bread, or dough in and it floats to the top.
Use a teaspoon to portion out small balls of dough and carefully slide them into the hot oil. You should probably only cook 3-4 at a time. Cook for 2 minutes on one side, then use a slotted metal spoon to roll them over so the other side bronzes.
Place the cooked donuts on kitchen towel to drain while you finish making the rest.
Serve warm, dusted with icing/powdered sugar and the rest of the citrus zest.
Make 20 donuts
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