Sunday, 23 June 2013

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Having finished my final exams last week, and having taken a week to do all those anti exam things I was banned from doing for three months, this weekend I came home to enjoy the luxury of our new kitchen – which is fully functioning at last! My favourite part, aside from the seemingly endless worktop space is the boiling hot water tap. The age of waiting for a kettle to boil has passed. Now, any time I want a cup of hot water, which is very often, (here’s a weird fact about me: hot water is my favourite drink, don’t judge!) all I have to do is turn a tap and out runs a loyal stream of boiling hot, drinkable water – perfection!  So, after my failed attempt at making jam (see last post), here’s my first blog post from the new kitchen.

During our exam period, my flatmate mentioned a recipe for sweet potato gnocchi, and my mind has been pre occupied with it ever since. Italians do things so simply, yet for me Italian food is always the most satisfying on the palate. Gnocchi is no exception. It is basically potato pasta but can be heavy and stodgy sometimes, particularly when bought ready-made. (Gnocchi literally translates to dumplings so potato dumplings inevitably have “I am going to make you feel lethargic and sluggish” written all over them!) However, this recipe results in light, fluffy pillows of joy. I have to admit there are several processes to making gnocchi, but none of which require fiddly gadgets or expert skill, only a hand which doesn't mind getting a little messy and about an hour or so to spare. I've frozen some of mine too, so I can enjoy my labour of love at least twice more.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi (serves 4)

600g (or about three medium sized) sweet potatoes
120g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp finely chopped chives
2 tbsp finely chopped tarragon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Start by cooking the sweet potatoes. Simply wash them with the skins on, and prick all over with a
fork. Pop them in the microwave for 7 minutes, check to see if they’re cooked all the way through. Cook for a little longer if necessary.

Wait for them to cool a bit then peel off the skins and mash in a large bowl. Wait for all the flesh to cool down to room temperature. (You can speed up this process by putting the bowl by an open window.) Now sift in the flour, add the egg yolks, seasoning and herbs. I have used chives and tarragon but you can use any soft herb you like.

Mix using your hands. It does get a bit messy but persevere. Add more flour if the dough seems too sticky. Once all combined, tip onto a well floured surface and shape into a long sausage.

Cut into pieces, roughly the same size, using a blunt knife. I have no qualms about odd shaped pieces of gnocchi, but if you’re a perfectionist then take your time as you cut. And to add that professional touch, indent each
piece with the prongs of a folk to add a pattern to each piece of gnocchi.

Keep dusting with flour if you think the dough is sticky as you are cutting. You are looking for a soft consistency, but dough that holds together. Place your pieces onto a tray covered in semolina to stop the pieces sticking together.

This is the point at which to freeze some if you wish to do so, simply transfer into a freezer bag with a little semolina to stop them sticking together and bung in the freezer for a later date. I would aim to eat them within two weeks.

To cook your gnocchi, simply add to bubbling boiling water. Let them cook until they rise to the surface (this should take about two minutes). Drain immediately. They can be served like this with some tomato sauce.

Or you can cook them in a little butter to make the outsides beautifully golden and even more inviting. This is what I did. Simply heat some butter in a pan and toss the gnocchi through for about two to three minutes. Serve immediately with tomato sauce and adorn with chives.

And that's it. Simple and delicious sweet potato gnocchi. Next time I might try adding different herbs and spices, this recipe is definitely worth experimenting with!

Until next time...