Monday, 10 October 2011

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Mushrooms & Sage Butter

The thing about perfection is that I get so angry when I can't achieve it.  It gets on my nerves all day.  I think and think about a perfect meal, that's not too expensive nor so luxurious, yet not so cheap to show that you are poor.

So I was at my home in Venice, and my housemate came home and said 'Abi, I've had a really great lunch today'.  (She knew I would ask her what she'd eaten anyway, since after 'how was your day?' the question is always 'did have any good food today?')  And I said: "Really? What did you have?"  And she said, "Gnocchi di zucca." I'd never come across 'zucca' so I figured it must be sweet potato gnocchi.  So I got up and the translation was pumpkin.  Then I jumped from my seat because I thought that it was brilliant, even though I'm not meant to walk around because of an injury that occurred last week.

The next day, whilst resting my stitched up knee, I couldn't stop thinking about pumpkin gnocchi.  I'd go back to looking at some course notes for university, I called a friend about a possible ice cream in the later afternoon, I'd baked some cookies, I'd attempted to translate my CV into italian, but nothing could get the pumpkin gnocchi out of my mind.

So I made them.  I made the damn gnocchi.  Are they happy now?  Are they happy that they didn't leave me alone.  Yes they are, because they were pretty perfect.

I decided to fry some mushrooms to accompany them.  Let's just say that that was also a good idea.

Before you start to make this, I want to be a little realistic and tell you that it is time consuming. In my opinion, recipe books lie, because they are created by professional chefs that can turn a swimming duck into a pancake in the space of fifty seconds. But with the right mentality, the right music and the right goal, you'll get there in the end.

Serves 4

900g Pumpkin, peeled and diced
3 large egg yolks
200g regular plain flour, sifted and + extra for forming the gnocchi and dusting the board
1 tsp grated nutmeg 
Salt & Pep.

500g Mushrooms (any, cleaned)
50g Butter
10 Sage leaves

Grana Padano/ Parmigiano 

- Pre-heat the oven to 200 C.
Peel the pumpkin, remove the seeds and cut in the direction of the grooves for some evenly sized pieces of about a centimetre and a half.  Pat dry with kitchen Paper.  Place the Pumpkin Pieces on a baking tray with baking Paper, Please.   Sprinkle with sea salt, and cook until soft, about half an hour.

- When the pumpkin is cooked, put them in a metal sieve and mash through the sieve to create a puree. Remove pieces with skin if it is too tough.

- Beat the egg yolks with salt and pepper and add to the pumpkin puree.  Add the sifted flour and the grated nutmeg.  Don't add too much flour if it doesn't form a neat dough.  The gnocchi will become tough and starchlike if there is too much flour.

-  With floured hands, carefully create little balls with the puree.  This part can be a little tricky, but try not to overwork or overthink it too much.  Place on a floured board.

-In a separate frying pan, fry mushrooms in butter with salt and pepper.  You can be experimental with this and serve them with roasted peppers, or even a meat sauce.  The world is your oyster.  (Preferably don't use oysters though)

- In another small pan, gently melt some butter with the sage leaves.

-  In a casserole, boil some water, add a teaspoon of salt.  Carefully drop the gnocchi in the water.  (You may need help from a sister/ friend/ daughter/ aunt/ colleague/)

- As soon as the gnocchi float to the top, you know they are ready.  Drain them and add to the melted butter then add the fried mushrooms.

-  Serve up with some grana padano or parmigiano.

Crack open a bottle of red? Enjoy and do what you like!

Sunday, 2 October 2011


This shortbread recipe is one I was given by a well respected cook and chocolatier, by the name of Jonathan Deddis when I learnt to make chocolates with him in Cocomaya, in West London.  Perhaps if he knew that I was putting this recipe up he wouldn't be too happy, or maybe he would be proud that I made them thinking of him!

110g Soft butter
50g Caster Sugar (But icing sugar makes them crumblier..)
Tiny pinch of salt 
175g Plain Flour, sifted
Extra Caster Sugar for dusting

Chocolate/ Raisins/Nuts/Anything you fancy!

Preheat the oven to 150 C.  
Beat the butter with a wooden spoon then beat in the sugar, followed by sifted flour.
Start to bring mixture together, then finish off with your hands to form a paste.
Transfer to a board lightly covered in caster sugar and roll it out to about 1/8 inch thick.
Allow to cool in the fridge for a couple of hours
Cut the biscuits and arrange them on a high-ish shelf for 20-30 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  
Half dip the biscuits in chocolate for pretty biscuits and then cool on baking paper in the fridge.