Explore Leiths Diploma Open House – 5th June 2024


Letitia Clark’s Instant Ricotta Doughnuts with Saffron and Blood Orange

‘Instant doughnuts’ has a whiff of the impossible about it, the sort of thing a YouTube advert might shout at you from the corner of your screen as you harmlessly search for cushion covers. Nevertheless, instant doughnuts are what these are; soft, golden nuggets of the incredible made edible.

In Sardinia these are known as arrubiolus, which is derived from the word arrubio, meaning red, in tribute to the deep sunset orange they acquire inside from the saffron, and their red-golden finished appearance when fried. Flamingos, which fleck the Sardinian skyline and glow pink in turquoise lakes near us in Oristano, are known as sa genti arrubia, or ‘the red people’. The sight of their long-legged forms flying overhead, with their black-tipped wings, fuschia-pink bodies and toucan-like cartoon beaks is one I will never tire of.

The idea is straightforward: a simple batter lightened by baking powder, deep-fried, then dusted in sugar. The traditional flavourings are orange or lemon zest, and the saffron is a firmly Sardinian addition. The batter is essentially cake-mix consistency. Two spoons scoop it neatly into hot frying oil – in they plop, up they bob, out they come; golden and glistening. Fried cakes, small and sweet and perfumed, and wonderfully light, they stay moist for days if you keep them in an airtight container.


Serves 10-12

2 eggs

250 g (9 oz) ricotta

3 tablespoons sugar

Good pinch of salt

Grated zest of 1 lemon and 2 blood oranges

100 g (31⁄2 oz/generous 3⁄4 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour

50 g (2 oz/scant 1⁄2 cup) potato flour (optional but helps make them extra light – can swap for plain/all-purpose flour if preferred)

2 teaspoons baking powder or 1⁄2 sachet of Italian lievito (usually flavoured with vanilla)

1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional and if not using lievito)

Good pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon warm water, or a pinch of ground saffron

1 litre (34 fl oz/4 cups) frying oil (I use groundnut, peanut or sunflower)

Sugar, either granulated or icing (confectioners’), for dusting (or honey, if you prefer)


  1. Whisk the eggs and ricotta until smooth. Add the sugar, salt, citrus zest, flour/s, baking powder/lievito, vanilla extract (if using) and saffron, and whisk until you have a smooth batter.
  2. Heat the oil in a deep pan until it swirls (it must be around 190°C/375°F, but not so hot that it’s smoking, otherwise it will burn the frittelle). Test it with a piece of bread if you like: the bread should bob and fry nicely, becoming brown after 30 seconds or so.
  3. Using two teaspoons, scoop little blobs of the mixture into the hot oil (they should be the size of walnuts and will swell slightly while cooking). Turn them over as they cook to make sure they are evenly brown on all sides. Scoop them out onto some paper towels, then roll them in the sugar of your choice while still hot. They are also very good drizzled with honey, if you prefer.

Wild Figs and Fennel by Letitia Clark (Hardie Grant, £30), Photography © Charlotte Bland