Sweet crisp fritters


Here's a teatime treat and some harvest memories -

Many years ago I sat down with members of the Brunier family of the Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe near Bedarrides to hear about their harvest traditions including their Gouter to celebrate the end of picking.

‘In my father-in-law’s day,’ explained Mme Brunier, ‘it really was a tea, with a table spread with cakes, fruit tarts and drinks to be eaten as soon as the workers brought in the last grapes. He always asked me to make "des oreillettes".’ This is a local expression for bugnes - sweet, delicious, little fritters eaten warm as soon as they are cooked, lifted from the hot oil in which they are deep- fried, and sprinkled with sugar. They are also known locally as cacho-dents (teeth-breakers). They are a very popular regional speciality, also made at Christmas and Easter. As someone else told me, here they take the place of the pancakes and waffles, so beloved by the rest of France. They make a delicious partnership with the local, sweet, white muscat wines of Beaumes de Venise.

Oreillettes

500 g (1 lb) plain flour 4 egg yolks 150 g (5 oz) caster sugar 2 teaspoons orange-flower water 100 ml (31⁄2 oz) water approximately 60 - 125g (2 - 4 oz) unsalted butter, if using, melted and cooled

oil for deep-frying

Sieve the flour onto a pastry-board. Make a well in the centre and put in the egg yolks, sugar, orange-flower water and water. At this point you can add some melted butter. Mix into a dough and leave to rest for an hour or two.

Divide into pieces weighing approximately 60 g (2 oz) each. Working with one piece at a time, roll out on a floured surface, to a thickness of barely 2 mm (11⁄2 in). Using a pastry-wheel, cut diagonally to make thin ribbons. Traditionally these are formed into a ring shape but this is not necessary. The final stage requires a deep-fryer of hot oil. Tip in the ribbons in batches. As soon as they turn golden brown, lift out with a slotted spoon and sprinkle with sugar. Eat immediately!