Belfast Telegraph

Italian cookbook classics are ode to family heritage

Ella Walker delivers her verdict on a new collection of recipes from Emiko Davies

Italian classics: Emiko Davies has mined her family heirloom recipes
Italian classics: Emiko Davies has mined her family heirloom recipes
Tortellini At Midnight by Emiko Davies, published by Hardie Grant Books, £25
Emiko Davies' 'frittelle di ciliegie'

By Ella Walker

Half-Australian, half-Japanese and now Florence-based, chef Emiko Davies has mined family heirloom recipes for this ode to Italian heritage.

The soul of the book centres around the idea of "reviving the recipes of past generations".

Here's what you need to know...

The book:

Tortellini At Midnight by Emiko Davies

Who will love it?

Anyone who wishes they had the courage to up-sticks and move to Italy, and anyone who bemoans the fact they don't have their own Italian grandmother dispensing culinary advice on demand. Also, if you like pasta (and who doesn't?) you're bound to find a dish or two in here to keep you happy.

What is it trying to get us cooking?

The kinds of dishes generations and generations of Italians - specifically those in Taranto, Turin and Tuscany - have been feeding their families. So, things like stuffed mussels, orecchiette pasta with turnip tops, grilled sandwiches (chocolate, mozzarella), lasagne, beef scaloppine and meatballs.

How easy is it to use?

It varies. There are long, convoluted, anecdotal recipes that'll take you an entire weekend to decipher and make, while others barely require instructions. It's a case of reading and finding your level.

The best recipe is...

To be fair, the tortellini with meat sauce is understandably a solid choice, but it's the little custard and quince jam pies we can't get out of our heads.

The recipe we're most likely to post pictures of on Instagram is... the 'torta di Nonno Mario' - a wobbly, creamy layered cake, served at big gatherings and celebrations in Tuscany. A bit like a gateau, it's covered in icing and edged in crunchy flaked almonds.

The dish we're least likely to try is...

The vitello tonnato. It might be an Italian classic, but roasted veal in a tuna sauce just doesn't sound all that appetising.

Overall rating:

7/10 - it's a little wordy, and where one recipe ends and the next begins isn't always entirely clear, but it's hearty, inviting and will make you hungry.

  • Tortellini At Midnight by Emiko Davies, published by Hardie Grant Books, £25

How to make Emiko Davies’ ‘frittelle di ciliegie’...


(Makes 24)

200g plain flour

3tsp baking powder

120g sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

1 egg

180ml full-cream milk

Splash of Alchermes or rum (optional)

200g fresh cherries, pitted and roughly chopped

Vegetable oil, for frying



1. Place the flour, baking powder, two tablespoons of the sugar, the lemon zest and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. Stir together briefly, then add the egg and milk, whisking until you have a smooth batter, rather like pancake batter. Add a splash of Alchermes, if using, and stir through the cherries. Place the rest of the sugar in a small bowl (I prefer something shallow).

2. Pour enough oil into a small-medium saucepan so that the fritters can float. Heat over a medium heat to 160°C (320°F), or until a cube of white bread dropped into the oil turns golden brown in about 15 seconds.

3. Give the batter a stir in case the cherry pieces have fallen to the bottom, then drop a tablespoon of batter into the hot oil and fry evenly, turning to cover all sides, until deep golden brown, about two and a half to three minutes (see note). They will puff-up into walnut-sized fritters. Aim to cook several at a time, in batches. Transfer the cooked fritters to a wire rack lined with paper towels to drain the excess oil for a moment, before rolling the fritters - still hot - in the sugar. These are best eaten warm, right away.

These fritters should be fried rather slowly, so they cook all the way through - if the temperature is too high, they will brown too quickly and remain raw inside. I suggest sacrificing the first one or two fritters by looking inside to ensure they are cooked through to the centre.

Once you have the temperature stabilised and the timing right, frying these fritters is a cinch. It's a good idea to scoop out any little drops of batter that have fallen into the oil before they burn, and to replenish the oil about halfway through.

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