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

Taco Taco Taco

Tacos are just everywhere at the moment. A massive rise in the popularity of Mexican/Tex-Mex street food has put tacos on the radar. They are incredibly easy to do at home and don’t have to be greasy, cheesy junk food. On the contrary, tacos can be a healthy well balanced meal that you don’t need to slave over. You can use hot or cold fillings or both. There are plenty of jobs for the kids to get amongst and at eating time everybody is involved in the making of their own dinner. You can choose hard of soft shell (if you have kids familiar with the second Kung Fu Panda movie this theme will get them involved) and put whatever you like in them.

Tonight I have my GF and my big brother coming for dinner. Gf is vegetarian (and hot) and so tonight we all are. Gladly. We all have good appetites so I’m serving 2 fillings –French lentils w/ eggplant and chipotle or Crushed chickpeas w/ olives, beans and lime along with guacamole, cottage cheese, hommus and a little shredded ice berg and mayo salad. And my very own home-made hot sauce. We are having both hard shells and soft corn tortillas, available from supermarkets. Gluten free varieties are easy enough to find for those friends with requirements.


French Lentils with Eggplant And Chipotle
1 cup dried French/puy lentils, soaked for at least 2 hours (overnight is better)and well drained.
2 celery sticks – small dice or slice.
5 garlic cloves- crushed.
1 medium eggplant -cut in half lengthways then 1cm or so slice.
3 anise stars.
2 tspn ground cumin, 2 tspn smoked paprika.
1 tblspn crushed chipotle chilli.
1 cup washed and picked coriander leaves.
1 tin crushed tomatoes or 6 ripe red tomatoes roasted and pureed. The first option is quicker and richer, the second option gives a fresher lighter flavour.
Olive oil. Plenty.

I start with the lentils – simmer them gently in lightly salted water until tender (about 10 mins-depends on how long you soaked them for),drain and rinse them well.
Meanwhile I’m sautéing celery and garlic in olive oil until soft and fragrant, adding more olive oil and then the eggplant. The eggplant will be thirsty for that olive oil – use enough to cover the bottom of your pan by 2-3mms, turn the heat up a little. When the eggplant is brown and soft I add spices and the soaked and cooked lentils, the chipotle and finally the tomatoes. Simmer gently for about 30 mins. Remove the anise stars. If your mix is too wet it will be awkward in tacos. Finish with a little S&P and chopped coriander. Just like that.


Crushed chickpeas w/ olives, beans and lime
1 cup dried chickpeas -soaked for at least 2 hours (overnight is better)
10 cloves garlic – crushed.It seems like a lot, but go with me here. Or leave some out.
1 red capsicum – de-seeded and 1/2 cm or so slice.
250gm green beans – topped and tailed- cut into 2-3 cm pieces. Blanched.
(I lower them into the chick pea pot for 30 seconds using a small strainer. Rinse under cold water)
1 cup of your favourite olives- pipped and broken up a little
Juice of 2 limes
2 spring onions – sliced
Salt and pepper

Cook the chick peas in lightly salted, boiling water until tender (about 30 mins, depends on soaking time,)drain and rinse them well.
In another pot I sauté garlic until golden. I add a little salt to the garlic whilst cooking to bring out the flavour and the sweetness. Next the red capsicums, sauté until soft. Next the soaked and cooked chickpeas. I use a fork to smash the chick peas against the side of the pot as they’re cooking to break them up a bit. Next the olives and blanched green beans, finishing with some spring onions, S&P and lime juice. Done.


Picfixies4Guacamole is made in advance and refrigerated, ice berg lettuce shredded and mixed with a smidge of Jap mayo that I happen to keep in the fridge.
The table is arranged with plates for everybody, plenty of napkins, the cottage cheese, hommus and hot sauce (totally optional).
And then most importantly the taco shells go in the oven until crunchy, the soft tortillas go under the grill to get all toasty like.
Then we’re ready to eat.

The Wash Up
There was plenty of food for the four of us with some of the fillings left over for mid week snacks. The chipotle is spicy on its own but quite mild overall. There is plenty of variety in flavours and textures. Next time I’ll have the taco shells on the table first so the fillings don’t get all eaten whilst waiting.

Picfixies5

What Kid Did
Kid and I find plenty to do together tonight. The coriander needs washing and picking. The garlic needs crushing – Kid uses a garlic press. The guacamole needs mixing. The lentils and chick peas need soaking . The green beans need picking. The table needs setting

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TIPS
Wash herbs or lettuce by submerging them in cold water, remove by lifting out of the water and then drain well. You will see any residue left in the bottom. It’s particularly important with coriander as it holds a lot of dirt that you don’t want to eat. Right kids!

Other quick and easy filling suggestions
*Boil/Bbq some corn on the cob, scrape the kernels off and toss with a little olive oil, chopped coriander and toasted pine nuts.
*Sauté kidney beans with a little onion, garlic, chipotle (or regular) chilli.
*Chop some tomato, cucumber and mint. Add a little lime juice and toasted pepitas.
*Leftover roast chicken – pick it off the bones, shred it, add a little mayo, spring onions and toasted sesame seeds.
*Grated carrots w/ dukkah, lemon juice and olive oil.
*Leftover bolognaise or savoury mince.
*Grilled white fish broken up with a little mayo or tartare.
*Lightly dressed coleslaw.
*Anything you like.                                                                        

 

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