There were many things I fantasised about when we first relocated to London, nearly three years ago now. Living life in an eternal game of Monopoly- Mayfair! Park Lane! Regent Street! (I don’t deny there’s still a certain novelty in that). Being so close to what is arguably one of the best food markets in the world at Borough (a joy I indulge in at least twice a week) was another. And then there are the pub lunches.

I never really grew up with a culture of  long lunches. For my out doorsy Australian family, a big meal in the middle of the day was primarily viewed as a frustrating obstacle. It made it difficult to get much done before hand, and left in its wake a trail of twilight hours that were bloated and limpid- fit for not much else other than time with the television or fossicking through the weekend  papers.

Yet as it turns out, in the UK I like a long lunch.

A lot.

It’s partly to do with the weather. Settling in by a fire with a pint or two and a plate of roasted meats  in a pub has become one of our greatest indulgences. It’s been a glimmer of light in many bleakly streaked Sundays. We’ve now surged through quite a few- though if I was pressed for a shortlist of the best, it would probably look a little like the below:

Roast beef at John Salt, Islington

Roast chicken with bread sauce at The Sportsman, Whitstable (about an hour drive out of London)

I’m a little partial to the flimsy slices of welsh rarebit, a cup of tea and a game of scrabble at The Roebuck, Borough (also has the benefit of being at the end of our street)

But the pinnacle for me, as I’ve written about here earlier this year is the roast beef at The Harwood Arms.

The memory of that meal has kept me warm on a few unseasonably frosty April mornings. Beyond some stellar roast beef and swoon-worthy scotch eggs, what makes a pub lunch really gleam is a deft hand with pudding. English desserts are not always subtle affairs, often sturdy with suet, steamed, or drenched in custard. It’s often a fat slice of spotted dick or Sussex Pond that lulls you into stuffed slumber come 4.17 pm.

Which is why this dessert at The Harwood Arms; a shining combination of ricotta donuts with yoghurt and blood orange was such a revelation.

There was a small dose of giving squish from the fried balls of dough, a milky softness from the ricotta centres and then slanting rays of sunshine from the blood orange.

It wasn’t long before I felt the itch to recreate some of its charms.

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 cosy, cheering quality as a few hours spent eating and drinking in a friendly pub. They’re the promise of sunny days and the perfect thing to eat in this window of time, before anyone has to think too hard about donning a swimsuit again. So for this reason (and many others), I heartily endorse them.

Ricotta Donuts with Blood Orange

Makes 20 small donuts

Nb, you could easily substitute the blood orange zest for any citrus zest, or omit it and the juice and add some ground espresso and 2 tbsp milk or a liqueur into the mix and serve with chocolate mousse or some drooping ganache.

Shopping/foraging

180 grams/ 6.3 oz of ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tbsp caster sugar
Zest of a blood orange ( or 1 lemon, orange, clementine/mandarin)
50 grams/1.75 oz of plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp blood orange juice
Vegetable or Sunflower oil for frying
Icing/Powdered sugar for dusting.

Here’s how we roll

1) Beat together the egg and the ricotta in a bowl until smooth.

2) 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)

3) Add the juice.

4) Sift in the flour and the baking powder and fold together to form a batter.

 

5) 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.

6) 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.

7) Place the cooked donuts on kitchen towel to drain while you finish making the rest.

8) Serve warm dusted with icing/powdered sugar and the rest of the citrus zest.