Those of you who have tried making gnocchi before and have given up as it’s too much hassle and they don’t work… guess what? It’s time to try again! These are so delicious that the extra hassle of getting your hands sticky will become a badge of honour that you’ve finally cracked these pesky little numbers. The full version of this recipe is in one of my favourite cookbooks: bowl food (by murdoch books). It’s one of those small desert island cook books that covers loads of one pot meals very nicely and has each recipe on its own page with a picture to entice you!
for the gnocchi:
2 large potatoes
1 sweet potato
1 egg yolk
2 tblsp milk
pinch ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
for the sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
4 rashers bacon or 100g lardons
1 small onion
large dash sherry, vermouth or sherry vinegar
500g spinach (or chard)
toasted pinenuts to serve
Bake the potatoes on a tray in a hot oven (220c) for around an hour.
While they are baking you can dry roast the pinenuts in a pan, shaking regularly and keep an eye, they have a tendancy to burn. Also make the sauce. Chop the onion, bacon and wash the spinach. Fry the onion and bacon in the oil until golden, add the sherry and leave to reduce for a couple of minutes. Add the spinach and butter, stir well then turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan.
When the potatoes are ready (the sweet potato may take a little less time that the others), cut them in half and leave to cool a little. Scoop out the flesh and push through a sieve/use a ricer/mash thoroughly to make absolutely sure there are no lumps. I have to be honest, pushing them through a sieve is a bit of a pain, and I actually bought a potato ricer specifically to make this dish as I love it so much.
In a large bowl, mix the potato, milk, nutmeg, salt and 1 cup of the flour and stir well. Flour your hands, then take a small spoonful of the mixture out and briskly roll into a ball between your palms. It should roll, but still be sticky. If you just end up with potato smeared hands and not a little gnocchi, add some more flour. It is important to get the balance right as too much flour will make the gnocchi too heavy and more like boiled bits of dough, too little and the next step will be almost impossible!
Put a big pan of salted water on to boil. Lightly flour a baking tray, a chopping board and your hands. Gently knead the mixture in the bowl and divide into two. Take out half the mixture and roll into a long snake 2cm thick (this is the playdough bit!) on the chopping board. Using a knife, cut off 2cm diagonal lengths and push them onto the baking tray with each cut. Repeat with the second half of the mixture. If you are feeling fancy (or have a bored child, friend or spouse handy), gently indent your gnocchi with a fork.
Cook the gnocchi in the boiling water (I flick them off the baking tray into the water, trying to avoid the flour) in batches for 2 or 3 mins each; don’t crowd them as all your hard work will go to waste. Do about four batches, depending on the size of your pan. Generally the rule is once they float, they are ready. Try one if you are unsure. They should be firm and not taste of raw flour. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and then spread them out on a plate whilst the next lot are cooking. When you are done, drain the excess water off the plates and add the gnocchi to the sauce. Taste and season. Give it all a couple of minutes to reheat, then serve immediately with pinenuts sprinkled on top.
If you are freezing the gnocchi, leave them on the plate to cool. Freeze in a box and again, respect their space a little or you could end up with one large gnocch!