Cookbooks | Bitter Honey by Letitia Clark

For many years I bought cookbooks compulsively. Then, for a while, I stopped buying them almost entirely. Recently I have been tempted again and have a growing pile, still embarrassingly untouched, sitting, a bit reproachingly, on the bookshelf.

This book, though, was a birthday gift, and I recently managed to spend an afternoon in its company.

Over the summer, I spent a few weeks in Brittany. It was lovely of course, changing horizon and seeing family and friends again, but this time I did miss the heat. So, after the relentless spring downpours in London, and coming home now from a warm-ish, never-far-from-an-extra-layer August, I still yearned for sunshine. I decided it could best — or only (!) — be conjured through the plate. So I pulled out this book; I spent a couple of hours leafing through it, basking in the warmth, marking recipes.

Bitter Honey | Recipes and Stories from the Island of Sardinia is written by Letitia Clark, who has worked in such London restaurants as Spring, The Dock Kitchen, Morito, Moro (…) until she moved to Sardinia in 2017. The book at once captures Clark’s discovery and soon intimate acquaintance with the island, and of course her love of its food. Leafing through the recipes and thematic spreads — ‘foraging,’ ‘pasta,’ ‘the art of frying’ … — it instantly transposes to the arid heat of the Mediterranean, the intensifying song of cicadas.

I sometimes think that one very good recipe can be enough to justify buying a cookbook; this one has at the very least two: pork cooked in milk and bottarga pâté (recipe below).

Taking advantage of the more ephemeral summer crops, I’ve also tried the aubergine and ricotta salata antipasto and the figs, ricotta, thyme, and honey crostini, and have flagged quite a few more that promise to remain excellent company as the season shifts, notably the malloreddus (pasta) with sausage ragù.

This book is more than vicarious travel, it is dotted with recipes that are destined to become firmly ensconced in our kitchen.

Bottarga pâté from Bitter Honey by Letitia Clark

If (unlike me) you’re not that excited by this recipe, I can assure you it is incredible, and a unanimous hit. Preferably served with an apéro, perhaps some vin d’orange or Seville-orange—infused gin tonic!

80g bottarga, whole or grated
80g tinned tuna, drained
8 anchovy fillets
200g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
Pinch of cayenne or chili powder
Squeeze of lemon juice
Toasted bread to serve

In a mixer, blend the bottarga, tuna, and achovies until completely smooth (this will take a few minutes). Add the butter and continue blending until achieving a smooth creamy pâté. Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour, and take out a little before serving so the pâté has had time to soften again slightly.

Serve alongside warm toasts with a pinch of cayenne pepper (or chili) and squeeze of lemon juice.

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