This afternoon I went with my sister Birdie and her boyfriend to visit our gorgeous Nonna, Livia, for (Grand)Mother's Day. When we arrived, we discovered to our delight that she was making fritole for us.
Fritole (depending on the dialect, sometimes known as frittelle) are a kind of doughnut from the North-East of Italy (my Nonna had them when she was growing up in a small village near Treviso, in the Veneto). In Venice they're traditionally eaten during Carnevale. Sometimes they're made with rice (yuk) or ricotta and pine nuts, but Nonna makes them with sultanas swollen with grappa.
The fritole I see out and about in Melbourne always look greasy and gluggy (same goes for most of the ones in Italy), but Nonna's are always beautifully light and fluffy. She used to make them for us as a treat when we were children, but before today she hadn't made them in over three years. Along with her crostoli, they're just about my favourite Italian sweet treats, so I grabbed a pen and paper and did my best to take down the recipe (sorry about its imprecise quantities and vague method!).
Before you start be sure to grab a jar, fill it with sultanas, cover the sultanas with grappa, and leave them to soak in the fridge. Actually, you should soak some sultanas in grappa even if you're NOT going to make this recipe - you never know when they're going to come in handy. Every household should have a jar of drunken sultanas in the fridge.
Fritole della Nonna Livia
4-6 tablespoons self-raising flour
4 tablespoons white sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
approx half a glass of milk
dash of vanilla extract
finely grated zest of one orange
finely grated zest of half a lemon
1 apple, peeled and roughly grated (granny smith or pink lady)
handful of sultanas pre-soaked in grappa
olive oil for deep frying
icing sugar to serve
Mix the flour and sugar. Lightly beat together the eggs and the milk. Make a well in the flour and add the egg mixture, stirring to obtain a smooth batter that is not too thick, with a consistency like wet porridge. If it's too dry, add more milk. If it's too runny, add more flour.
Add the vanilla extract, orange zest, lemon zest, grated apple and sultanas. Stir until smooth.
In a small pan, add about 6-7cm olive oil for deep frying. Heat the oil slowly and gently on a medium-low heat, making sure it doesn't burn. When the oil is hot, use an ice cream scoop or largeish spoon to carefully add dollops of batter into the pan.
Deep fry 'em in batches, turning them occasionally with a spoon (heat the spoon briefly in the oil before touching the dollops of batter, or the batter will adhere to the spoon).
When the fritole have turned a deep golden brown, fish them out and onto a plate covered in a few sheets of kitchen paper. Press them with kitchen paper to remove any excess oil, then transfer them to a clean plate. Continue cooking the rest of the fritole, adding a bit of extra milk or flour if the batter gets dry/runny.
Before serving, sprinkle with icing sugar. Best served warm. Warning: IMPOSSIBLE to eat just one.