Monday, January 18, 2010

Feel Good Stodge: Gnocchi

I remember the first time I tasted gnocchi. It was back home, at our local parish hall. I could not have been any more than eight or nine. I can’t recall the reason for the celebration, but the occasion was marked by that most Australian of traditions: bring a plate. It must have been springtime, as there was a whole lamb sizzling on a spit on the verandah, next to the hopscotch square, and inside, trestle tables heaved with the gastronomic equivalent of the League of Nations. Everyone in our multicultural community had brought their own dish to feed the multitude. There were steaming Malaysian curries, rich Italian pastas, Hungarian goulash and the ubiquitous Australian lamingtons. My own family’s offering was Irish stew, bland in my estimation compared to the lavish treats alongside.
‘At least our stew is colourful though,’ I thought, leaving the casserole dish on the table,  its chunks of luminous carrot bobbing next to pearlescent onions, and gave a sympathetic glance to a neighbouring Tupperware dish containing what looked like blobby beige gruel. I felt sorry for the owner of that dish, thinking that their lumpy concoction would embarrass them, being left behind. To my surprise though, the gruel dish was the first to empty. Some had made its way onto my friend Norinda’s plate and despite my protests, she pushed a solitary lump towards me to try. To my amazement and delight, the gnocchi was soft, fluffy and delicious. The sauce was lightly flavoured with ricotta and parmesan, and was perfectly balanced, even to my primary school palate. I remember thinking it wasn’t a million miles away from the taste of my Uncle Gerry’s potato bread, but was a much cuter shape, like a mini cloud, fluffy and soft. From that moment I was a gnocchi convert. While I no longer eat many potatoes, tradition dictates I cannot resist stealing a bite or two from someone else’s plate.

I made these recently for Mr 9BR and his brothers, and they were very well received, the twin combination of spudness and pastaness was decreed a winner. There is something almost medative about the process of rolling gnocchi. The repetition of roll, shape and score is very calming, though you need a light touch or the pieces turn to rubber-like texture when cooked. I co-opted my brother in law to shape the gnocchi into little ‘lumps’ which he did to feather-like effect. The result was as light and heavenly as my first gnocchi encounter in Midland parish hall twenty years ago.

700 grams floury potatoes
100 grams of flour
1 large egg yolk

Cut the potatoes (if necessary) into even sized pieces. Boil in salted water in their skins for 20 minutes.
When soft (check with a skewer or toothpick rather than a knife) drain and peel skins off with a butter knife, protecting hand with a oven mitt or teatowel. Mash until all lumps are removed.

Beat egg yolk lightly and add to mashed potatoes, mixing quickly before sifting the flour into the mix in four parts, mixing after each addition. You may need more or less flour based on the wetness of the mix. The dough should be quite dry. Turn dough onto floured board and lightly roll pieces into a sausage shape, cutting lengths of 5 cm. Lightly score each piece with a fork.

Cook by boiling plenty of salted water, adding a few pieces at a time, waiting until they rise to the top to remove with a slotted spoon. Set aside in a warmed bowl.


250 mL of cream or cream/milk combined, I prefer the lightness of the latter
100 grams Cashel Blue cheese
Half teaspoon ground nutmeg
Grated parmesan to top
Salt and Pepper
Chopped walnuts
Rocket (optional)

Combine cream and cheese in a small saucepan until cheese just melts and whisk to combine. Remove from heat and stir through nutmeg and season to taste. Pour over cooked gnocchi and toss lightly. Divide between 6 plates and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Grill for a few minutes until the cheese melts and sprinkle with walnuts and rocket, if used to serve.


aoife mc said...

Thanks for the message on twitter, really nice to find your blog, looking forward to going through your archives! I LOVE gnocci, it's like eating a hug. Although that sounds a bit evil, but you know what I mean!

Kristin said...

This is a timely post for me - I was in my local Tesco this weekend and it seems they've stopped carrying gnocchi, so it looks like I'll have to make it myself in the future.

'NEEN at 9 BEAN ROW said...

Aiofe, I know exactly what you mean, little fluffy hugs of spuddy goodness!

Kristin, it really is so easy to make. I like a sweet potato variation also.

Kristin said...

I like the sounds of the sweet potato variation - what kind of sauce do you serve with it?

'NEEN at 9 BEAN ROW said...

Because the sweet potato is much stronger tasting I find it can handle a ragu sauce, even a meaty one. The trick is to bake the sweet potato, or it is too wet and takes too much flour, and you end up with lead-like gnocchi. Butternut pumpkin works also, would be great with caramalised red onions through a light enough sauce.

Ciara O'Connor said...

Im making this tonight missy, think Ill use a tomato sauce coz Mr P is a bit snarky about blue cheese. I LOVE the sound of the sauce for myself though :)

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