Gnocchi with Butternut Squash, Garlic, Broad Beans and Crispy Sage and Kale

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The summer hols have started in my house. My daughters have weeks ahead to relax, explore, learn and grow. It’s a time to unwind and go at a more leisurely pace, no 6.30am wake up calls until September *does happy dance*. New additions to our family have arrived – two mini lop bunnies, so rabbit is firmly off the menu from henceforth.

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Picnics are wonderful but sometimes more of a proper meal at lunch time is required. This recipe is straightforward and although there are a couple of parts to bring together it really does not take long. I also love the bright summer colours of this meal, you can’t help but be happy when eating it. If you want to make it a morning activity though and involve your children/friends/partner then making your own gnocchi is really good fun. Here is my recipe.IMG_1335

I like to make kale crisps to add to this meal. Eleven minutes in a low oven and hey presto you have kale crisps. You can get creative as well and add cayenne pepper, soy, chaat masala, whatever takes your fancy. For this dish I have simply added a sprinkling of rock salt. By all means you can have the kale crisps in a bowl on the side, but I rather like the crisp aspect to the whole dish. It’s comfort food with a twist and they work well with the crispy sage. Broad beans are in season right now and I love to throw them in so many dishes. I prefer to shell them but I leave that to you to decide.
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Gnocchi with Butternut Squash, Garlic, Broad Beans and Crispy Sage and Kale

1/2 of a small butternut squash, skin removed and cubed to the size of the gnocchi

100g chopped kale

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 tbsp butter

40g shelled broad beans

350g potato gnocchi

salt and pepper to taste

handful of grated parmesan, optional

1. First cube the butternut squash into the size of the gnocchi. Boil in a pan of water along with the broad beans for around 10 minutes, or until soft but not mushy.  Rinse under cold water and leave to one side. If you need to shell the broad beans then do so at this stage.

2. Preheat an oven to 140 degrees fahrenheit. Meanwhile separate any stems from the kale and discard. Place the kale on a baking try and add the olive oil. Massage the oil into the kale and make sure that the kale is spread out evenly over the tray. Place in the oven for 11 minutes, by which time the kale will be crisp. If it is not then leave it for a minute or two longer. Keep a watchful eye over it as they can burn quickly. These kale crisps are a great snack but also rather lovely in this dish.

3. In a frying pan add the butter and when it is melted add the garlic. Move around the pan before adding the sage leaves. Allow them to cook on a low heat so that they begin to crisp.

4. Add the butternut squash and broad beans and coat them in the butter, garlic and sage.

5. Place the gnocchi in the pan and boil away for 1 minute or according to instructions. If you fancy making your own – here is my recipe.

6. Strain the gnocchi and add the pan with the other ingredients. Stir together for a minute, season to taste and plate immediately.

7. Sprinkle crispy kale over each serving with a scattering of parmesan as desired.


Homemade Gnocchi with Basil Pesto and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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Have you ever made homemade gnocchi? I am sure the cynics out there will say it’s way too time consuming and just buy a packet instead. Killjoys would be my response. Not only is it ridiculously straight forward and freezes really well but it is also great fun, especially if you get your children involved. Mine are on half term, so it was a perfect activity to do on a rainy morning. If you have ever made your own play dough then you will find making gnocchi super easy.

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After gently boiling 1kg of potatoes in their skins until they are soft – under an hour, you peel them and then put them through the mouli  when they are still hot and the skins now removed.

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Mix the potato, pasta flour, egg and seasoning on a clean surface using your hands – now this is the fun bit!

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It won’t take long before you will have created a large warm dough ball.

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Split the dough into small balls and then roll out into long stripes. You want then to cut them up into bite sized morsels – see photos above and below.

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Place the bite sized cubes onto a tray with greaseproof paper which is already scattered with semolina or flour. You can either freeze them like this on the tray and when they are frozen transfer into freezer bags. Equally if you are going to eat them immediately, prepare a pan of boiling water and then drop them into the water. When they rise to the top they are ready and you simply need to remove them with a slotted spoon.

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There are so many combinations that are so tasty to eat with gnocchi. If you fancy a sausage and fennel ragu then see my recipe here. Today we decided to make some homemade basil pesto and then roast some cherry tomatoes in the oven for a short while.

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A simple and most satisfying meal that is loved and cherished by the whole family. What sauces do you like to have with your gnocchi? Leave a comment below to let us all know.

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Basil Pesto

serves 4-6

40g fresh basil leaves

50g pine nuts

4 garlic cloves

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

30g pecorino cheese

salt to taste

1. In a blender add all the ingredients and whizz for 30 seconds. Season to taste.

That easy !

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Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

250g cherry tomatoes

1 tbsp olive oil

rock salt

1. Place the cherry tomatoes in a baking tray and pour the olive oil on top with a sprinkling of rock salt.

2. Place in an oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes.

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Homemade Gnocchi

serves 4-6

1 kg floury potatoes (King Edwards, Maris Piper etc)

300g ’00’ pasta flour (you can get this in any supermarket)

1 egg

1 tsp salt

few twists of black pepper

1. In a pan of boiling water add the potatoes, with the skins on – this will make them less watery – until they are soft. Depending on the size this will take under an hour.

2. Drain the water from the pan and using a fork and knife peel the skin from the hot potatoes and place them in the mouli one at a time. Turn the mouli handle around so that the potato goes through the mechanism.

3. Turn the potato out onto a clean surface and add the flour, egg, salt and pepper. Using your hands fold the ingredients into one another so that you form a compact dough ball.

4. Split the dough into smaller parts and roll into a long sausage using your hands, so that the dough is roughly 2cm thick.

5. Using a knife cut the dough sausage into bite sized cubes and place on a tray with baking paper scattered with either a little flour or semolina.

6. If you are freezing then place then in the freezer like this until they are frozen, then transfer to a freezer bag.

7. If using immediately then boil a large pan of water. Add a little salt and gently place the gnocchi in the water. When they rise to the top you can remove them from the water using a slotted spoon.

8. When they are still hot mix thoroughly with the basil pesto and place on a serving platter, sprinkled with the roasted tomatoes.

Serve immediately when hot.


Pasta Pasta Pasta at La Cucina Caldesi Cooking School

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“I am not a glutton – I am an explorer of food”
― Erma Bombeck

Last week I booked myself onto the full day pasta course at La Cucina Caldesi cooking school, which is attached to the Italian restaurant, with the same name, on Marylebone Lane in central London. I was keen to learn from an Italian pro on the various skills and techniques required to make different types of pasta and gnocchi and the sauces that accompany them.

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Cooking courses are always very good fun, not least because you are thrown together with a diverse bunch of kindred fellow foodies who are all eager and receptive to learn. As well as getting to cook a number of dishes together you also get to feast on them over a long lunch with a glass or two of wine.  The ringmaster for the day was the formidable Stefano who tells things straight and does not suffer fools….just don’t mention the ‘pepper lady’ to him, but clearly is a warm hearted Italian from Parma – well via Lewisham, with a good sense of humour.

The workshop included a lengthy list of recipes ranging from green fettuccine with rabbit ragu to potato gnocchi with tomato, sausage and fennel seed ragu, scialatielli – fresh pasta ribbons with herbs and parmesan, cannelloni, ravioli, gluten free pasta, spinach pasta, clams with chilli, garlic, white wine and ribbons pasta and that glorious spaghetti alla Puttanesca, which is a tomato sauce filled with olives, capers, anchovies, garlic and herbs.

From the word go Stefano set a good pace as we had a lot of ground to cover. First we discussed sauces and he showed us how to make a range of good old honest tomato sauces. The class discovered that we all use too little salt and not enough extra virgin olive oil (has to be extra virgin folks there is no going back now) but once we’d ironed out these failings we all stepped up to the plate and were more liberal with both ingredients.

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Making gnocchi was surprisingly very straightforward or perhaps it was the case that Eric, our chosen classmate, made it look easy, to bind the potato, ’00’ flour, egg, salt and pepper. After a large dough ball was created it was separated for the group so that we could all have some dough to work with and create the gnocchi itself. Once the dough is made, it takes a very short time to prepare and then cook them as they only require a couple of minutes in boiling water. Thankfully we had a tasty sausage, tomato and fennel seed ragu ready to incorporate with the gnocchi so that we could sit down and enjoy our hard labour.

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Something that I for one am guilty of is that quite often I serve a pasta dish at home and then I place the sauce on top. This one act alone gives the game away that I am not a genuine Italian mamma, although the fact that I don’t look the slightest bit Italian I guess doesn’t help! Italian pasta dishes are mixed together with the sauce before they hit the plate, so that when the dish comes to the table the pasta and the sauce are already the best of friends.

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We all got very stuck into making the pasta ribbons. Stefano taught us a nifty little trick to prepare them, which I have been practicing at home ever since. In a nutshell: roll out some pasta and then feeder through all the settings on your pasta machine. Make sure you scatter a good helping of flour underneath as well as on top of the pasta and cut into 40cm pieces. Leave to dry out for a couple of minutes before placing your pasta rectangle horizontally in front of you and folding in each end, making sure to do two, three or four folds each end before they almost reach each other in the centre. Then cut through the pasta vertically leaving a finger size between the next cut. Then slip the knife under the middle of the pasta running horizontally and then lift and voila your pasta should look like the one above and below. It was a very satisfying action to achieve.

The ravioli was also very enjoyable to make. So much so I made more when I got home for my dinner guest and then the following day to feed the girls. The ones I made at home I filled with ricotta, parmesan, chives and pink peppercorns. You can get so creative with the fillings that I am looking forward to experimenting over the coming months.

After almost 6 hours on our feet – bar some time to sit down and enjoy the food – exhausted and very full indeed we all bid our farewells and dispersed into the metropolis clutching our goodie bags of leftover fresh pasta for us to use at home. The day flew by ever so quickly and I feel I took away some new skills. If you are thinking of going on a course at La Cucina Caldesi one recommendation would be eat a very light breakfast….you have been warned!

 

Potato gnocchi with a sausage, tomato and fennel seed ragu

A recipe I learned during the course at La Cucina Caldesi

Gnocchi

1kg floury potatoes (King Edward, Maris Piper or Desiree)

1 heaped tsp salt

sprinkling of black pepper

300g ’00’ flour

1 egg

Ragu

6 Italian pork sausages (if you live in the UK you can order on line from here or here)

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed

1 onion (red or white), finely chopped

1 tbsp fennel seeds

2 bay leaves

125ml red wine

3 tbsp tomato puree

400g tin of whole Italian plum tomatoes

To make the ragu:

1. Remove the sausages from their casings and chop up the meat using your hands.

2.Heat up the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and the garlic. After 2 minutes add the onion and seasoning and allow the onion to become translucent – this will take 5 minutes on a low/medium heat.

3. Throw in the fennel seeds and bay leaf and stir into the onions and garlic.

4. Add the sausage meat and fry for around 7 minutes or until cooked through. You will need to stir the meat regularly to stop it sticking.

5. Add the red wine and allow to reduce for a couple of minutes. Then add the tomato puree and tinned tomatoes and stir well.

6. Leave the ragu to gently simmer for 10-15 minutes allowing the flavour to work together.

To make the gnocchi:

1. Boil the potatoes in their skins in salted water until tender, which can take up to an hour.

2. Peel the potatoes whilst hot using a fork and sharp knife and then pass the potatoes through a food mill (see photo of the potato and gnocchi shots).

3. On a clean flat surface empty out the ground potatoes and add the flour, egg and seasoning and knead together into a dough.

4. On a lightly floured work surface roll the dough into a 2cm thick sausage shape and then cut into 2cm long pieces. Place in a tray which has been lightly scattered with semolina or flour.

5. As gnocchi freezes very well it is advisable to make double portions and freeze half. When you want to use again, cook from frozen and allow an extra minute or two cooking time.

6. Place the fresh gnocchi in a pan of boiled salted water. When they rise to the surface strain and place in a large bowl/plate ready for the sauce.

Place the cooked gnocchi in a large bowl and pour in the sauce and mix together gently with a spoon. Ladle into bowls/plates or into a large serving platter.

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