Pea – Gnocchi – Oh!

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‘Once upon a time there was a little boy made of wood…..’

One thing I’ve cottonned onto since getting Kid in the kitchen is that the best activities, the ones where she can really get involved, are the ones with batter or dough of some sort. Pizza, empanada, tortillas, crumpets or whatever. These are really satisfying, tactile  adventures. Making the dough, rolling, cutting, cooking, then eating. Hands-on involvement with a directly tangible  result that Kid (and I) can be proud of.

I’ve always been a big fan of making gnocchi. Not so much in a restaurant context because chefs are always so pushed for time and you need time to enjoy the process and get it right.

It can be made in numerous ways, the most ardently traditional will tell you gnocchi is potatoes and flour and nothing else. Rolled and cut by hand. Then there is the classic Gnocchi Romaine which is made with semolina and set in a tray then cut out and baked. Or it can be done choux style as well and piped into a pot of hot water.

It is a classic Italian dish and just like the classic Italian story, you can’t tell lies with gnocchi, or take short cuts. Your nose won’t get bigger but it will end up doughy or tough (the gnocchi).

‘A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as clear as the nose on your face…’

We’ve replaced potatoes with the infinitely versatile ricotta cheese for this relatively time friendly version. Totally legit and you don’t have to wait for the spuds to cook.

Baked Ricotta Gnocchi…tomatoes, olives, peas etc…

500g ricotta
2 eggs
a pinch of allspice or nutmeg
1 cup parmesan
50g feta
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 bunch chives
s & p

HOW

Pre-heat the oven to 250*c. That’s not a typo. Get a large pot of salted water boiling, I added 3 fresh bay leaves because I have them but don’t feel obliged.
Whip the ricotta, eggs, chives, salt, nutmeg, feta and parmesan until it’s a bit fluffy. I used an electric beater. Gently, I said gently now, fold in the flour until it is just incorporated. This is the important bit, as with a lot of dough recipes, the more you work it the tougher it will turn out.
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Tip it out onto a well floured bench, cut off a third (always cut dough, don’t pull it) and roll it gently into a long snake the about 2-3 cm in diameter. Use your fingers to guide the dough, once it’s rolling back and forth it will spread without much force from you.

‘Always let your conscience be your guide…’
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Cut off 1.5cm pieces using a little flour on your fingers to make little dumplings.
Place them on a tray with grease proof paper whilst you prepare the rest of the dough.
Plunge the gnocchi into the boiling water. Do this in 3 batches, if you do it all at once you’ll have troubles. When the gnocchi floats to the surface, give it another 30 seconds and remove into some ice-cold water.

‘That night, something magical happened..’

If you over cook here, the gnocchi will be tough. The water must be absolutely arctic to stop the cooking process. Drain well.
Place the gnocchi in a large non-stick baking tray, cover with some grated parmesan and put aside for now.
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The Sauce Ingredients
2 punnets bella rossa tomatoes (mini roma, or similar),quartered.
6 cloves garlic – we used 10 because that’s how we do.
1 cup green olives – pipped and halved
1 cup green peas – defrosted under hot water if using frozen. Blanched if using fresh.
1/2 bunch fresh basil
1/2 cup good olive oil
Sea salt and cracked pepper.
Parmesan for serving
*Warm some olive oil in a fry pan, add the garlic and saute until just golden, add tomatoes, pipped green olives and cook until the tomatoes just start to soften. Add the peas and a little salt. Turn off the heat.
Gnocchi4‘into the belly of the whale..’
Now put the gnocchi in your raging hot oven for 5 minutes. No more. The cheese will melt a bit and the gnocchi will go golden on the pan. Pour your sauce and fresh basil over the top and stir gently. Serve. With extra parmesan and salad.

Insalata di Spinachi Bambino, Pera e Finochio – Salad of baby spinach, pear and fennel.

Slice some nice ripe pear, shave or grate a baby fennel bulb, slice some cucumber and toss with baby spinach, a squeeze of lemon and a splash of extra virgin.
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What Kid Did

Kid was totally engaged in this one. You can see how busy she is in the pictures.
Like I said when you can get your hands on some dough or mix a batter it’s really very satisfying. I also pushed the envelope with the salad today. I thought baby spinach and fennel might be a bit grown up but she was into it. The pear helped no doubt.
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Jiminy Crickets, that was a good meal.
Our bellies like Monstro the whale as we licked the last of the glistening red oil from our plates.

‘Toodle-oo Stromboli..’ Image result for pinocchio and jiminy cricket

Carrot and Feta Dip w/ Mountain Bread Crisps (or) Grandad’s New BBQ.

In recent times family catch up nights have taken place in my teeny apartment. It’s a “bring your own chair, I think I’m right for plates and forks but mum can you bring some dessert please,  someone will probably be drinking wine from a kids plastic cup” style affair. We squeeze into my lounge room, I squeeze food out of my little kitchen and we have a nice time. Kid will play her clarinet or entertain us with one of her joke books.

Tonight is different.
Grandad (my Dad) has a new bbq and bbq area out the back of the family house so of course it must be christened. Dad will be cooking. His bbq, his castle after all.
Can I bring dessert then? ‘Nah, nah I think your mother’s done something. You don’t need to bring anything.’

Rubbish, I have to take something at least. So I’m making this simple,healthy dip and some crackers that don’t come from a packet.

Carrot and Feta Dip.

Ingredients -( makes about 2 cups of dip)
2 good looking large carrots. About 100gm soft feta ( I used Danish, Persian would be great but is expensive), olive oil.

Carrotdip

How
Peel and grate the carrots. Sauté them in a fry pan or saucepan using about a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt, stirring all the while. They will begin to soften. Put a lid on after a couple of minutes and let them cook right through. Allow them to cool a little, crumble the feta in and process thoroughly until smooth. Refrigerate.

Carrots are full of sweetness and you want to use that here to get maximum flavour whilst sauteing. They are also full of water and we want to use that to help cook them instead of adding liquid and watering down the great natural flavour. That’s why I put a lid on, to trap in some moisture.

Mountain Bread Crisps.
Ingredients

3 sheets of mountain bread or similar, olive oil, 1 tspn sea salt, 2 teaspoons sumac.
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How
Brush the sheets of mountain bread lightly and evenly with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with the sea salt and sumac. Cut them into pieces.
Crispbreads

Arrange oiled bread pieces on a baking tray using some baking paper, it’s a bit like crispbread tetras

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Cook them on 150*c for about 10-15 mins, checking all the while.  When they are a light brown colour and snap when broken you are ready.

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Beware the bottom of the oven – the left hand tray are a little over done. If I was at work and I was my apprentice I would be making me do them again. Luckily we are at home where we celebrate some imperfections.
I used mountain bread because it is light and delicate. You could easily replace it with tortilla bread, pita or even some sliced up old French stick or burger rolls.

Off to Mum and Dad’s!
I also took along some nuts and green olives from my favourite deli. We were 8 people and that was plenty for pre dinner.
Dad cooked sausages, chicken and lamb. We had mum’s sought after potato salad, some green salad from their garden and there was a wonderful sweet potato pie for  my wonderful vegetarian girlfriend.
Then there was cheesecake.

Here’s ‘What Kid Did’ with Grandma.
Cheesecakes

Mum baked, kid decorated ( and licked the beater).There weren’t many left!

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