I’ve never really liked birds. I don’t really like looking at them. I’ve never understood bird watching or why you would keep a bird (although I’ve always been fascinated with the dried cuttlefish budgies have). You can’t really pet them. They’re not fluffy, mainly twitchy and pecky. My aunt did keep an interesting love-bird who used to preen her eyelashes, stripping the mascara off each individual eyelash one by one. I also once saw a man driving to work with his parrot on his shoulder, like some sort of office pirate! But, apart from that birds have never really interested me.
That is until two things happened. One, I watched - Lovely Owl.
And two, I remembered another bird I loved. Mortimer. A giant, filthy and morose raven who likes to sleep in the fridge, wear green ties and eat stairs.
The creation of Joan Aitken and Quentin Blake, Mortimer, is how I imagine I would be like when I get old. Obsessed with food, eccentric and a bit rude. (Check out the Arabel & Mortimer gallery here). This is one crazy bird. He hates to fly, preferring to be wheeled around in a little red truck. Loves keys, and shouting ‘nevermore’ at people he doesn’t like. He’s like a feathered Gordon Ramsay.
No bird seed or sliced bread for him. He is a sausage and chips type of bird. “If allowed he speared the sausages with his beak, threw the chips into the air before swallowing them, and jumped on meringues till they collapsed.” There’s a great scene when Mortimer has his donut stolen by Derek the giraffe.
“Just as Mortimer’s doughnut came out, something unfortunate happened. A small head on a very long spotted neck came gently over Arabel’s shoulder and nibbled up the doughnut so fast and neatly and quietly that for a moment Mortimer could not believe that it had gone. Then he let out a fearful wail of dismay. Nevermore!”
So in an homage to Mortimer…here are some very special, decadent and dangerous donuts. I have a feeling he’d like the dipping and the popping.
Beware: These are not baked. They’re not sugar free. They are unhealthy, deep fried – but amazing!! These little donuts are deliciously doughy, sugary but as soon as you dip them in the lime and coconut curd and have dredged them in some of that insane popping candy -mm mm mmmm.
How to make them
250g strong bread flour
250g plain flour
200ml warm milk
1 tsp cinnamon
oil for deep frying
We used to make these by hand. They’re really labour intensive so would knead the sticky dough while watching television, taking it in turns to stretch it out.
1. If you don’t want to be exhausted, try a mixer or something with a dough hook.
2. Add all your flour, yeast, cinnamon and sugar into the bowl and add the milk and warmed butter.
3. Knead this together until it becomes long and pliable like taffy.
4. Leave to rise until doubled in size.
4. Use some flour to roll the dough into mini rounds.
5. Allow the small balls to rise again in a warmed place for 30 mins.
6. Heat some oil to 180 oC.
7. Drop in the dough balls one by one. Leave in the oil until brown (around 5 mins).
8. Immediately roll in caster sugar and additional cinnamon.
9. Serve with a bowl of lime and coconut curd, and popping candy.
This has to be the best combination, the soft dough and the slightly sour curd is great, but then the candy starts exploding in your mouth. De-licious. We filled a couple with raspberry jam as well – just for some variety.
Here’s a recipe for a slightly odder donut – this time with smoked potato! This is adapted from Heston Blumenthal’s recipe. It’s a lot of work – but the smokey donut and candy combo is amazing.
Exploding Smoked Potato Donuts
Two large King Edward Potatoes
2 tbsp baking powder
95g light brown sugar
1. Prepare a baking dish and fill it with sea salt.
2. Wash your potatoes and lightly rub them with the groundnut oil.
3. Place them on the bed of sea salt and put them in a hot oven (190C/Gas Mark 4) for 2 hours.
4. When the potatoes are ready light your hickory chips and through them into a saucepan.
5. Make a hat out of aluminium foil and place on top of the hickory chips.
6. Cut the baked potatoes in half and place them on top of the aluminium foil.
7. Pop a lid on top and let them smoke for 5-10 minutes.
8. Scoup out the flesh and push through a sieve (or ricer) and place to one side.
9. In a saucepan put the leftover smoked potato skins into the milk and let simmer gently for 5 minutes.
9. In another bowl mix the flour, baking powder. Whisk the eggs and sugar together and slowly add in the flour mixture. Then drizzle in the milk and whip into a batter.
10. Add in the potato and whisk.
11. Pipe the mixture into circles on a piece of greaseproof paper and freeze for one hour.
12. In another saucepan heat up some more groundnut oil to 180C.
13. Drop in your doughnuts and fry until golden brown.
14. To serve, have a dish of lemon curd and popping candy and scoff!
We eventually made churros out of this dough and ate the lot (again!)