Citrus and rum scented, these sugar-crusted, fluffy fritters are essentially deep fried blobs of rice pudding. You can't go wrong.
These frittelle di riso start appearing in Tuscan bakeries and food vans parked at fairs around carnival time in February but are perhaps even more commonly associated with la Festa del Papà on March 19 -- Italian Father's Day and St Joseph's day. It's fitting. Aside from being the exemplar father, St Joseph is also the patron saints of friers (that's right!). So it seems an auspicious day to be frying up a batch of these sweet, plump, soft fritters for your papà.
Like anything deep fried, these are best eaten while still hot and crisp, so cook these when you have people around to share them with. A batch of these makes many – around 40-50 depending on the size, and while light and fluffly and so moreish that you think you'll be able to eat them all by yourself, these fritters are also deceptively filling.
This is based on one of Pellegrino Artusi's recipes for frittelle di riso – he lists two in his 1891 cookbook Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. It may look like a very runny batter, but don't be alarmed. Avoid being tempted to add too much flour to this batter to thicken it – the fritters become hard and even chewy. Soft and pillowy is what you want. The hot fritters are rolled in sugar, which gives a wonderful crunch as you bite into them. —Emiko
Cook the rice in the milk, watching very carefully that it doesn't burn or overflow – don't take your eyes off it! You will need to stir it quite often to make sure it doesn't stick and burn on the bottom. When the milk has been mostly absorbed and rice is very soft, take off the heat and add the citrus zest and tablespoon of sugar.
Set aside. Once completely cool, add the rum, eggs, baking powder, salt and flour. Combine thoroughly then cover and let the mixture rest for several hours or overnight in the fridge before using. The mixture may look quite runny, like a pancake batter.
Drop spoonfuls of batter about the size of half a tablespoon into hot oil, and fry, turning to cover all sides evenly until a deep brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain the oil before rolling in sugar and serving – and eating – while still warm, preferably. These are best eaten the day they are made.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.