Happy 2017! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve been in need of learning to slow down lately. I have been guilty of taking on too much, saying yes too often, and pretty much thinking I’m invincible. Unfortunately, pushing yourself to the limit always ends with an abrupt and nasty realisation, often marked with an injury or a health warning, that proves that you are, in fact, only human. My little warning came in the form of a back injury, and boy did it pack a punch. I went from someone who could keep on cooking on my feet for 24 hours solid, to being chair ridden (and feeling pretty useless).
I call it a wake up call. It forced me to stop, to sit, reflect and still my mind. No longer was my brain a fuzz with lists of things to do, recipe ideas I wanted to try, schedules I needed to keep. At first I found it unbearable, but as time went on I really could step back and see just how much work I was doing, and how little relaxation and enjoyment I was getting. Food has always been an important part of who I am, and cooking centres from my family memories and enjoyment. I cook because it relaxes me, makes me feel good and allows me to make others feel good too. That’s the essence of cooking.
But when you take something you love and push past the norm, when you say ‘yes’ to too much, it goes from love to ‘work’. And when you’re not feeling the love in what you’re doing, especially in your cooking, it’s just not the same. I am guilty of spending a lot of time last year ‘working’, and not much ‘enjoying’. It took me not being able to continue working to actually see that. Don’t get me wrong, I always put 100% into my work, but I feel there has to be more. I needed to get back into the kitchen and cook more of what I love, because that’s where my passion came from in the first place. I’m taking things slow, still recovering, but mentally I feel invigorated. I am busting with ideas and feel more grounded in what I want to cook and do. Isn’t it funny how a set back can end up being the best thing that happened to you?
So I have a whole new outlook on life in 2017. I see that I need to take better care of myself (and use husbands and big burly sons to lift the heavy things!), physically and mentally. Prioritise, not only for work, but also in life (like keeping weekends free for family time). To say yes only when I really want to, and to let go of things that don’t make me feel good. It is like a weight has been lifted!
I can’t think of anything I’d rather do in the kitchen than get my hands into making something from scratch. Making fresh pasta and gnocchi has always been my passion, my joy and my therapy. This is where I am happiest, making something amazing from a few ingredients that I know my family will love. Today, I’m making a big batch of gnocchi and inviting some friends over to join us for dinner to share them.
If you’ve only ever eaten store-bought gnocchi, you really have no idea how amazing home-made can be, and they are really easy to make. You just need a little time, and let me tell you, finding time to have fun making a batch of gnocchi is worth every minute. Soft little pillows, they just melt in your mouth. Get your family involved and make an afternoon of it, kids love using their hands! Best of all, gnocchi can be frozen, so do what I do and make more than you need so that you’ve got a batch ready to go next time you need a meal in a hurry.
If you follow a few rules, your gnocchi will last amazing every time. First of all you need the right potatoes, good starchy ones like Desiree or Royal Blue produce beautiful fluffy gnocchi, but you can use standard everyday starchy potatoes if that’s what you’ve got.
I always boil my potatoes with skins on to stop the potatoes getting too wet. Boil them for a good hour, they need to be really soft without resistance. Once cooked, it’s important to peel them and mash them while still warm. This ensures the steam escapes from the potatoes, allowing them to dry out faster. I prefer to use a ricer than a potato masher for a fluffier result. You could also pass the potatoes though a fine sieve.
Once the potatoes have been mashed/riced and cooled, the next important step is to add flour gradually. Depending on the flour, moisture content in the potatoes and even the weather, the amount of flour you need can be different each batch. That’s why the best approach is touch and feel, and add flour a little at a time until the dough is smooth, slightly sticky, but dry to touch. I tend to add less flour than I need, as the lightest gnocchi are made using minimal flour.
To ensure the gnocchi don’t fall apart, I always test one in boiling water before I make the whole batch. That way if the gnocchi disintegrates in the water, I know it needs more flour and I just knead more in. Once you’re happy the gnocchi will cook and hold together, make the whole batch.
Lay them on trays, with space in-between each one so they don’t stick together. I generally freeze them straight away, even if I’m cooking them that day, as I find it easier to tip the frozen gnocchi into the boiling water. However you can just sit them in the fridge for up to a day if you like. Once the gnocchi are frozen solid, you can transfer them into snap lock bags, ready to be poured straight into boiling water from frozen. That way you can cook as much as you need when you need.
I most often serve gnocchi with a slow cooked ragu, but they are very indulgent with a creamy cheesy sauce.
Gnocchi are equally delicious with a simple tomato sauce, or toss through pesto or burnt butter (yum).
Give them a go, and enjoy the process of making them as much as the eating! We can all learn to slow down every once in a while!
- 1kg starchy potatoes, Desiree is a good choice
- 350g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- Put the potatoes, skin on, into a large pot filled with water. Bring to the boil and cook until potatoes are very tender. Drain.
- When potatoes are just cool enough to handle, press them through a ricer, straight onto your kitchen bench. Spread out and allow to cool completely.
- Add the flour and mix gently to combine just until the dough comes together. Take a small chunk of dough and roll into a snake like log. Dust sparsely so the dough doesn’t stick, but be careful not to add too much flour as this is what makes the gnocchi heavy and chewy.
- Cut gnocchi at regular intervals into small pieces, and press onto a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork to make indentations. This helps the sauce cling to the gnocchi. Alternatively press a little dimple into each gnocchi with your thumb.
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add a generous pinch of salt and drop in the gnocchi. Stir gently and cook until gnocchi rise to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain and serve with your favourite sauce.