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.


Miso Chicken, Slow Baked Tomatoes and Fresh Spinach Salad

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Here in the UK we are enjoying a flashback to the summer of 1976, apparently. I was only one at the time so have no recollection of the ‘great summer’ but we are now into weeks, not days, of glorious warm sunshine with temperatures climbing up to 33 degrees in west London. When the weather is hot I love to get creative with my salads and try out different flavour and ingredient combinations. This one I created awhile ago when a friend, who has certain culinary likes and dislikes was coming over to supper. I started with the miso chicken and spinach and then built from there, digging out interesting ingredients from my fridge and pantry along the way. The overall mix of flavours works really well to the extent that I have now cooked this salad multiple times and thought you would appreciate having it too. It’s great for a picnic, lunch or supper, is hugely versatile and if you keep the chilli oil marinade to one side for guests to help themselves, then the whole family can enjoy the dish.

Miso Chicken Slow Baked Tomatoes and Fresh Spinach Salad

Serves 4-6

 For the Chicken Marinade

500g chicken breasts

3 garlic cloves, grated

1 inch ginger, peeled and grated

2 tbsp sweet white miso paste

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp light soy sauce

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parchment paper

3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

250g puy lentils

1 avocado, chopped

6 slow baked tomatoes marinated with chilli

chilli oil from the slow baked tomatoes (see above)

250g fresh spinach

1. First you need to flatten the chicken breasts as they will cook under the grill more evenly and quicker if they are thinner. Place a large strip of parchment paper underneath the chicken breasts and another similar sized piece on top. Then using a rolling pin gently hit the chicken pieces which will begin to flatten. Check to see how they are looking and if they need to be a little flatter continue to hit them with the rolling pin. If you overly bash them they will begin to break apart so flatten them to the extent that they still keep in tact.

2. Place the flattened chicken breasts into a freezer bag and then add the grated ginger, garlic, sweet white miso paste, soy sauce and sesame oil. Using your hands massage the ingredients thoroughly into the chicken pieces. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes or longer if you can.

3. Heat up a small frying pan and when it is hot add the pine nuts being careful not to burn them as they toast quickly. Keep them moving around the pan and after a minute they should have toasted nicely.  Place to one side.

4. Heat your grill (you could also use a griddle pan or BBQ!) to 200 degrees centigrade and place the marinated chicken directly onto your oven rack. Place some baking parchment/foil underneath to catch all the bits than fall through the rack – these will also taste great in the salad.  The breasts will need around 6 minutes each side. If they look a little undercooked leave them for a minute or two more and vice versa.

5. In a large mixing bowl add the spinach, chopped/sliced avocado, puy lentils – for speed I often use the Merchant Gourmet brand – see here, pine nuts and slow baked tomatoes marinated in chilli. Whilst you can of course slow bake your own and marinate them in chilli oil (which I will get around to doing so at some point – will make a great blog post) I opt for the Sacla brand – see here. Chop the tomatoes up slightly and then gently mix all the above ingredients together.

6. Once the chicken has cooled slightly slice into stripes and mix gently into the salad along with the bits that had fallen through the rack. Add a little of the chilli oil from the slow baked tomatoes and place extra in a small pouring jug.

7. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and allow guests to serve themselves. I find it is best eaten at room temperature.

It is surprisingly filling and leftovers the next day taste equally good, so just refrigerate if you have some left over.

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Roasted Harlequin Squash with Tofu, Kale and Coriander in a Miso-Curry Paste

I am a big advocate of eating a few meals a week that are vegetarian. In the past I think the general public felt rather limited on what vegetarian meals to cook that were satisfyingly tasty. Times have changed however and today a whole universe into vegetarian cooking has developed and become mainstream. There are countless possibilities of what to cook and a wonderful array of cook books and blog posts giving us ideas of new food combinations to try out.

A fabulous success story in the blogging world is the vegetarian food blogger Heidi Swanson from San Francisco, who writes 101cookbooks.com and already has a few cookbooks to her name. I managed to pick up her latest book Super Natural Cooking in Vancouver last year when I was visiting my sister. Her photos always impress me and I like the way they have a matt finish in her book.  Understandably she cooks with a wide range of lentils, beans and grains and has some excellent ideas of pairing them with various vegetables and sauces.

This recipe is very seasonal and is perfect for Autumn time as it requires you buying squash. Heidi uses ‘delicata squash’  for it’s buttery flavour and wonderful green stripes, adding a vibrancy to the dish. Sadly I could not find any at Pimlico farmers market so bought a harlequin squash instead, which worked equally well. Basically any squash that you don’t have to peel (which is actually quite a large number) will work.

I also used roseval potatoes as I adore their red skin and yellow flesh, but any other small variety of potato will work – Heidi uses new!

Finally the only other change I made to Heidi’s original recipe is that I used more tofu as I wanted to use up a whole packet.

The dish is perfect for a weeknight meal as it is very easy to prepare and takes no time to  actually cook. I also love the fact that it requires no peeling of the squash – result !

Miso-Curry Harlequin Squash

Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s book ‘Super Natural Every Day’

Serves 4

350g harlequin squash (or delicata or any that require no peeling)

60 ml extra virgin olive oil

70g sweet white miso paste (I buy mine from Sainsbury)

1 tbsp red Thai curry paste

349g firm tofu (or whole packet equivalent), cut into small cubes

4 medium Roseval potatoes, unpeeled and cut into chunks

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

45g chopped kale, tough stems removed

45g seeds (pine nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds), toasted

30g chopped coriander/cilantro

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade.

2. Carefully cut the harlequin squash into 1cm thick half moons.

3. In a bowl whisk together the oil, red thai curry paste and sweet miso paste.

4. Gently fold the squash, potatoes and tofu into 80ml of the miso-curry paste using your hands, making sure that you do not break up the tofu. Spread out the ingredients onto a baking sheet and place in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes. Toss a couple of times during cooking once the ingredients begin to bronze.

5. With the remaining miso-curry paste whisk in the lemon juice and then stir in the kale (uncooked!).

6. In a heavy skillet gently toast the seeds and nuts over a medium heat until they have bronzed and become fragrant. This will only take a couple of minutes. Do not leave them as they will burn.

7. When the squash, potatoes and tofu are cooked, gently toss all the ingredients together including the nuts and seeds, coriander/cilantro and kale. Serve hot onto warm plates.

The potatoes, squash and tofu coated in the miso-curry paste

Ready to eat – once I’ve got the perfect shot!