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Pumpkin Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sage and Walnuts: Isolationist Cooking

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It’s Sunday 22 March, the fourth Sunday in Lent, traditionally a time when children spend time with their mothers. This seems very apt, as many families now have to spend a lot of time together, as we go through these isolationist times.

So here’s another recipe in the series “Isolationist Cooking in the Covid 19 Era”. Last week I made pumpkin gnocchi – they were so easy – and quick to make, perfect for cooking as a family, and great to do with the kids! You can knock them up in under an hour, from preparing the pumpkin through to actually making the gnocchi dish.

Uncooked, they keep for a day or so in the fridge and freeze really well.

All the ingredients are fridge or pantry staples, except the pumpkin, and once you’ve bought some, it keeps very well in the crisper of the fridge for a couple of weeks. The aim of isolationist cooking is cooking from what’s at home, rather then running to the shops and markets for a whole list of ingredients.

Anyway, give gnocchi making a go. And once they’re made, they pair well with lots of sauces – tomato based, cream based or the one I made, brown butter sage and walnut.

Ingredients

Gnocchi

125g mashed pumpkin (about 300g uncooked)
100g ricotta
185g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
30g parmesan or pecorino cheese, finely grated
1 free-range egg
Salt
Black pepper

Brown Butter Sage and Walnuts

2 tablespoons butter
A handful of sage leaves – at least 10, more if you like sage!
A half handful of walnuts, at least 10, some pieces left whole, some roughly chopped

More parmesan or pecorino, for scattering over the gnocchi

Method

Chop the pumpkin into manageable pieces, skin on, and place in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high for 5 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft. Remove from the microwave, allow to cool until easy to handle, then peel. Mash with a fork until smooth.

The pumpkin has quite a lot of water, so you will need to drain it. Put the pumpkin into a strainer or colander lined with absorbent kitchen towels. After 5 minutes remove the pumpkin in the paper towels and squeeze out any excess water.

Put the pumpkin and all the rest of the gnocchi ingredients in a bowl. Mix well with a spoon to a firm paste.

Dust a large wooden board or the bench top with flour. Put the pumpkin dough on the board or bench top and gently pat the dough into a roll shape, using a little more flour if necessary. Be careful not to add too much flour – this will toughen the gnocchi.

Cut the roll into 6 pieces, and then shape each piece into smaller rolls. Cut each roll into slices using a sharp knife. Press down on the one of the cut sides of the gnocchi with the flat side of a fork.



At this point, you can freeze if desired, or store in the fridge. I recommend putting the gnocchi you want to eat in the fridge for 20 minutes just to firm up a bit, to make sure they stay intact in the pot when you cook them.

Put a large saucepan of water onto the stove top and bring to the boil. Carefully drop the gnocchi into the water once it’s boiled, one at a time, working quickly. Cook for 1 minute or so, or until the gnocchi rise to the surface. Have a strainer or colander handy, and put the gnocchi into the strainer or colander once cooked. (Have the straining utensil over the saucepan so you are not dripping water everywhere!)

Leave the gnocchi  in the straining utensil, while you make the sauce. Melt 1.5 tablespoons of the butter in a large frying pan until it is foaming. Add the gnocchi and fry until they are turning brown. Add the rest of the butter, throw in the walnuts and sage leaves and cook until the leaves are just crispy. The butter will have turned brown by now, but make sure not to burn it.

Serve the gnocchi, sage leaves (saving a few for decoration) and walnuts, in a big bowl, making sure to pour the lovely buttery sauce over the gnocchi. Scatter some finely grated parmesan or pecorino over the gnocchi and scatter the reserved sage leaves over the dish at the end. A sprig of fresh sage is nice too!

“Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme” Meatballs

Here’s a really quick and tasty meatball dish. The meatballs are baked, with cherry tomatoes which makes a simple sauce. You can also customise the meatballs by adding chili, cheese or more sauce. They’re great served on crusty bread as mini burgers too!

The meatballs are very herby, cooked with rosemary and sage, and served with more rosemary, thyme and parsley. Hence the name – my homage to the Simon and Garfunkel version of “Scarborough Fair”, a favourite song of mine. I love the live version on the album Live 69 http://www.simonandgarfunkel.com/music/live-1969/.

Ingredients 

1 onion

500g good quality minced beef (I used wagyu beef mince – wonderful flavour)

1/2 tsp rosemary sprigs 

1/2 tsp sage leaves

1 egg, beaten

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 

1 tsp balsamic vinegar 

1 tsp Dijon mustard 

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2-3 tbls breadcrumbs or a good couple of handfuls 

12 cherry tomatoes 

6-8 truss cherry tomatoes

1/2 tsp chopped thyme leaves 

1/2 tsp torn parsley leaves

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C non fan forced, 210 degrees C fan forced.

Chop the onion finely, or blitz in a food processor.

Put the beef mince in a large mixing bowl, breaking up the mince with a spoon. You could do all the mixing using your hands if you wish. Add the chopped onion, rosemary sprigs and sage leaves, which have been finely chopped.

Add the beaten egg, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Add the breadcrumbs, mixing to combine so that the mixture holds together. You will need to use your judgement about how much of the breadcrumbs you add to give you a good consistency to make meatballs.

Roll the mixture into golf ball sized balls. Place them side by side, fairly snugly, into a baking dish. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and push them as many halves as you like into the spaces between the meatballs. Scatter some more rosemary springs over the top with more salt and pepper.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes until the meatballs are brown and cooked, but still nice and moist in the middle, if you cut one open.

You could serve as is, but it’s nice to add some more cherry tomatoes. Blister some truss cherry tomatoes in a hot frying pan by dry-frying for a couple of minutes. 

Serve the meatballs with the blistered tomatoes, scattered with thyme and parsley.

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Sticky Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Herbs

IMG_2126Sweet, sticky cherry tomatoes slow baked with fresh herbs. The flavour really intensifies with the long cooking! Serve on their own, as part of a salad, as a side dish with scrambled eggs for instance, or heaped on crusty bread as part of an antipasto platter.

Ingredients

15 cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp caster sugar

Ground black pepper

A handful thyme sprigs and/or rosemary sprigs

1/2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar

Salad greens and Irish soda bread to serve

Method

Preheat the oven the 130 degrees C. *

Place the tomatoes cut side down in baking dish, sitting them snugly next to each other. Scatter with the fresh herb sprigs. Sprinkle over the salt, sugar and black pepper. Pour over the extra virgin olive oil, making sure all the tomatoes are covered.

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Place the tomatoes in the oven, then cook for 1.5 hrs or until the tomatoes are soft and slightly shriveled.

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Remove from the oven, dress with the aged balsamic and leave to cool.

Serve at room temperature, as a side dish or salad.

Or as I did with radicchio lettuce and my Irish soda bread with black treacle: https://thequirkandthecool.com/2013/04/27/irish-soda-bread-with-black-treacle

*If you wanted to cook the tomatoes really slowly, cook at 100 degrees C for 2.5 – hours.IMG_2090

 

Hot Smoked Chili Salmon

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I have been researching how to hot smoke salmon fillets at home on the barbecue and it’s really easy!

I have adapted a Jamie Oliver recipe and have made it even easier than his pretty simple instructions. Here is the link to his recipe:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/fish-recipes/hot-smoked-salmon-with-an-amazing-chilli-salsa

I made the smoker using an aluminum foil container, instead of the tin Jamie suggests. I used hickory wood chips rather than sawdust to create the smoke. Otherwise I pretty much followed his instructions, although I found I needed to cook the fish a little longer than he suggests.

Ingredients

Enough hickory chips to line the base of the smoker container
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
A  few sprigs of fresh sage
1 x 200 g wild or organic salmon fillet, skin on
Sprinkle of sea salt
Sprinkle of sugar
1 tsp sambal oelek or chili paste
Olive oil

Acquire an aluminum foil container with a cardboard lid. Cover the lid with foil and pierce holes in rows. Find a wire rack that will fit inside the container.

Place several handfuls of hickory chips into the container, followed by the rosemary and sage sprigs. IMG_9325

Place the wire rack in the container, so it sits about halfway down.

Sprinkle the salmon fillet with salt, sugar and chili and rub with a drizzle of olive oil. Then lay it skin side down on top of the wire (this acts like a grill rack) and put the lid on the container.

IMG_9346Place it on the barbecue, over a medium heat, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. After a couple of minutes it will start to smoke.

When the fish is ready, turn the heat off and leave it to sit for 5 minutes before opening the container. This will allow any residual smoke and heat to penetrate the fish. Lift the salmon fillet out and place on to a serving plate.

I served the salmon fillet with coconut rice – see recipe in previous salmon post:

https://thequirkandthecool.com/2014/03/11/hot-smoked-salmon-fillet-with-coconut-rice-and-greens/

And also with a little dipping sauce made with kecap manis and sweet chili sauce.

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