Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice..

A recipe for gnocchi, which can be served with many different sauces to suit everyone from meateaters to vegetarians.
Potato Gnocchi: serves 4
1 lb (500g) large floury potatoes (the baking kind)
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, beaten together
good pinch salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 oz (225g) plain flour
Boil the whole potatoes in their skins until tender (or microwave). When cool enough to handle, cut into chunks and press through a ricer (or scrape all the potato from the microwaved ones and mash with a fork, making sure there are no lumps - with microwaved spuds there shouldn't be any). Put the potato 'puree' onto a large, deep plate, make a well in the centre and pour in the egg and seasoning. Sift over the flour, then - using fingertips - work the potato and flour into the eggs aiming to make a soft dough. If too wet and sticky, add just a little more flour. Too much and it will make the gnocchi tough and chewy.
Knead the dough gently with the heel of your hand until it feels smooth and elastic, this should take only a couple of minutes. Dust hands and work surface with flour and take a piece of dough and roll it into a 3/4" (1.5cm) sausage. Repeat, using the rest of the dough, then cut each sausage into 1" (2.5cm) pieces with a knife.
The gnocchi can be left as they are, but I prefer to roll them partly over, using a fork to do this so that they have indentations which will help hold the sauce.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, lower in the gnocchi in batches and when they rise to the surface, start timing. Check after 3 minutes to see if they are cooked through, they should take no longer than 4 minutes. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon and drain well. Drizzle over olive oil and put into a warmed dish. Cover with foil and keep warm whilst preparing your chosen sauce.

To make flavoured gnocchi:
Blend in 2 oz (50g) finely grated Parmesan along with the flour.
Or work 2 tblsp sun-dried tomato paste into the dough.
Or why not both?

suggestions for sauces to use with gnocchi:
This could be the meat sauce as mentioned above, then serve with a good sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese. Or it could be a tomato (pizza type) sauce - pour this over the gnocchi, dot with mozzarella and finish off under the grill.
garlic, butter and sage sauce:
4 oz (110g) butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
10-12 sage leaves
Parmesan cheese shavings
Melt the butter to foaming and add the garlic. When this has started to turn golden, throw in the sage leaves and cook for about half a minute, until the leaves have crisped. Divide the gnocchi between individual bowls, spoon over the sauce, adding the sage leaves at the end. Garnish with Parmesan shavings.

Chana Dhal: serves 4 (V)
Traditionally made with lentils, why not use split peas?
7 oz (200g) dry lentils or split peas
1 tsp ground turmeric
salted water
sunflower oil
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
2 onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tsp grated root ginger
1 tsp red chilli powder
8 tomatoes, finely chopped
Pre-soak lentils or split peas in water for half an hour before using.
Drain the soaked lentils, and put into a pan together with turmeric with enough lightly salted boiling water, using just enough to cover. When tender, but not quite cooked, and all the water has evaporated, remove from heat.
Put the oil into a saucepan, add the cumin and fry until the start to crack. Stir in the onions and saute until golden. Add the garlic, ginger and the chilli powder. Stir/fry for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes (these could be from a can) and cook for about 15 minutes until the mixture has turned into a coarse puree. Add the lentils, stir well to combine, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve as a side dish with curries.

Apricot 'Jaffa' Cup-cakes: makes 8
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour
4 oz (115g) butter, softened
4 oz (115g) caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest and juice of 1 orange
8 tblsp apricot jam
Whisk together the flour, butter, sugar, eggs with the zest and juice of the orange. The mixture should drop off the spoon, if too thick, add a drop or two of water to slacken. Fill eight muffin cases 3/4 full with the mixture and bake at 180C/350F/gas 5 for 12-15 mins or until cooked. Remove from oven and allow to get cool. Taking a small knife, carefully remove the middle of each cake (not all the way down) leaving about 1/2" (1.5cm) around the edge. Fill each depression with jam. Slice off the top parts of the removed piece and using the flat tops replace over the jam. Cover with the following chocolate topping:
chocolate topping:
5 oz (150g) dark, milk or white chocolate
a bare 4 fl.oz (100ml) single cream
2 - 3 tblsp icing sugar, sifter
chocolate shavings
Put the chocolate and cream into a bowl standing over simmering water. When the chocolate has melted, stir to combine, then beat in the icing sugar. Allow to cool, beat again gently and pour over the cakes. Sprinkle over the chocolate shavings. Chill in the fridge until set.
Tip: Stand the muffin cases in a muffin tin. If no tin, use two or three cases together to give stability.

Home-made Tortillas: makes 12
7 oz (200g) cornmeal flour
just under 1 tsp salt
up to half a pint (275ml) cold water
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and gradually pour in most of the water, stirring constantly. Knead with the hands, adding as little more water until the dough is firm and no longer sticks to the fingers. Divide into three or four batches and, using a rolling pin, roll between strips of waxed paper or clingfilm until about one-sixteenth of an inch thick (don't ask me what that is in metric). Using a plate, cut into 5" (13cm) rounds you may wish them larger, if so you won't make as many). Once prepared stack between sheets of greaseproof paper.
Heat an ungreased frying pan over a moderate heat and cook each tortilla for 2 minutes on each side, turning once with a fish slice when the bottom has turned a delicate brown. Lower the heat if they brown too fast. As they are cooked, wrap four or five at a time in foil and keep warm in the oven.
Tortillas may be cooked several hours ahead as long as they are kept warm in the oven (temp 110C/2225F/gas 1/4. Stack 10 together, wrap each batch with greaseproof paper and then a damp cloth and finally in foil.
To reheat tortillas, brush both sides with water and heat singlymfor a few seconds on each side in a dry frying pan.