By Ella Walker
Author of new cookbook Bitter Honey, Letitia Clark has lived in Sardinia for almost three years. Her initial plan was to become a writer, but she got to university and realised she spent all her time “procrastinating and cooking, instead of doing my research and working”.
After attending Leiths cookery school, followed by stints at restaurants she fell for her then boyfriend’s stories of home – Sardinia – a “forgotten pocket of Italy that’s really beautiful and wild and undiscovered.
“I love everything about [Sardinia],” she explains. Bitter Honey captures some of her feelings for the Mediterranean island, as well as the dishes and cookery techniques she’s discovered living there.
The book’s name comes from the rare, slightly bitter honey made by bees from Sardinia’s strawberry trees, dotted with tiny red pompom berries – and the contradiction appealed.
But she is careful to avoid presenting Sardinia in the book as offering an Instagram-worthy “fantasy lifestyle”. So while the book is sun drenched and golden, it has balance.
“Everybody just loves food and sitting down and having a long leisurely lunch with their family,” says Clark, “and I think, now more than ever, it’s a really good time to enjoy being with people that you love, and spending some quality time together.”
The food Clark teases out champions simplicity above all.
Pasta with butter
(For 1-2 diners)
220g dried pasta of your choice
8-10 small sage leaves
70g Parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve
Bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to the boil. Drop in the pasta.
Place the butter in a wide, shallow pan and put on the lowest heat. Add the sage and cook for a moment or so to gently to release the aromas. Drain the pasta when it is at your perfect al dente, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid.
Add half the cooking water and the pasta to the pan with the butter and sage and turn up the heat. Stir and toss well for a minute or so, then add the cheese and toss again and again, until an emulsified and silky sauce forms. If it looks too dry, add more of the cooking water, too wet, carry on cooking. Serve with more cheese.
Blood Orange Cake with Ricotta, Polenta and Olive Oil
For the base
1-2 blood oranges
100g demerara sugar
For the batter
200ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing
200g caster sugar
Pinch of sea salt
Zest and juice of 4 small blood oranges
Juice and zest of 1 large lemon
150g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
First, prepare the base of the cake. Wash the oranges and slice them into 2mm discs.
In a small saucepan over a medium heat, melt the demerara sugar with two tablespoons water until it has dissolved. Simmer for a few minutes until the syrup begins to caramelise (you should smell and see the colour change to a light amber). Pour syrup over the bottom of the cake tin. Arrange the slices of blood orange, as many as will fit in one layer in a pleasing pattern, on top of the syrup.
To make the batter, whisk the oil, sugar, salt, ricotta, citrus juice and zest together in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until smooth. Add in the dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden and just set.
Allow the cake to cool for five minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the tin and invert onto a wire rack or serving plate. Allow to cool completely before slicing.
Bitter Honey by Letitia Clark is available now