I’m not sure which I prefer more, the making of gnocchi or the reward of eating it. I’ve always enjoyed preparing the potatoes: peeling the hot potatoes, pushing through the potato ricer, mixing the flour and potatoes into a soft dough, rolling into long sausage like shapes, cutting and rolling over a fork, scooping out the gnocchi from the simmering water. It’s almost meditative, taking time to slowly complete each step.
Spring is a time to celebrate the fresh green vegetables found in my garden and the market. So I’ve paired fresh spinach with the peppery taste of mustard greens, and a seasoned white cannellini bean sauce. I’ve added nutritional yeast for flavouring, loving the cheesy taste. If you’re making this dish for a fancy dinner, a grating of black truffles would be scrumptious.
Here’s a few basics to making the perfect gnocchi (nyokkey). Use a potato that’s not too waxy or starchy, like the Desiree. The trick to gnocchi is to keep the potatoes dry so the gnocchi are fluffy and melt in the mouth. So even though most people boil their potatoes, it is better to bake them in the oven on a bed of rock salt to absorb the moisture. Make the gnocchi when the potatoes are hot. Use a potato ricer from a little height to get some air into it. Use a ratio of 350 grams of flour to 1 kilogram of potatoes. Use very fine flour, like Italian 00 flour. Seasoning is personal; some add a pinch of nutmeg. Don’t overwork the dough or you’ll develop the gluten leading to chewy results. It’s best to mix everything straight on the work surface. Make sure everything is lightly floured, your hands and the tray. Stir the gnocchi in the pan so you can watch when they pop up and are ready.
· The reason potatoes have spread across the globe so quickly and have been so widely accepted is because they are a storehouse of energy and nutrition, including vitamins, minerals, and essential organic compounds.
· If you eat potatoes regularly, you ensure a good supply of water and ions in your body. This is because they are rich in potassium. The concentration is highest in the skin and just beneath it. So, eating the potato with its skin is always beneficial. They also contain calcium, iron, and phosphorus.
· Potatoes are known for the large amounts of vitamin C present in them. Typically, a 100 gram serving will contain about 17 mg of vitamin C.
GNOCCHI W SPINACH & MUSTARD GREENS
Makes 4-5 servings
For the gnocchi:
1 kg Desiree potatoes
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
350 grams fine flour
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
240 grams cannellini beans
1 tablespoon white grape juice
250 ml vegetable stock
1 teaspoon lime juice
ground black pepper
280 grams spinach
150 grams mustard greens
extra olive oil
Preheat the oven to 190’C/375’F/Gas 5 and wash the potatoes. Dry them and prick all over, and cover the bottom of a baking tray with a layer of rock salt and arrange the potatoes on top. Bake for about an hour until completely cooked through (this will depend on the size of the potatoes, so check regularly).
Meanwhile, for the sauce, braise the cannellini beans lightly in olive oil, then deglaze with white grape juice before adding vegetable stock. Simmer the beans for 10 minutes, cool. Add beans, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper to the blender and blend until smooth.
Remove potatoes from the oven, and as soon as they’re cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard. Scatter 250 grams of the flour over a clean work surface with salt and nutritional yeast. Using a potato ricer, push the potatoes through a fine sieve from elbow height, on to the flour. Mix together, adding more flour until it comes together into a soft dough. Set the dough aside while cleaning the work surface and dust with a little more flour. Divide into small balls, gently roll into long sausage shapes. Cut the gnocchi into 1cm wide lengths, dust with flour, and roll each over the tines of a fork, pressing your thumb into the back so you have and indentation on one side and grooves on the other (so they absorb the sauce). Put the gnocchi on a flour-dusted tray. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, turn down to simmer, and tip in half the gnocchi. Stir, and wait until they float to the surface. Count slowly to 10, and remove with a slotted spoon onto the greens in individual plates.
Saute the spinach and mustard greens in a large saucepan in olive oil until wilted, season with salt and pepper. Add the gnocchi to the greens in individual plates, and drizzle with sauce. Serve in bowls sprinkled with nutritional yeast or grated truffle.
If you prefer crispy gnocchi, scatter the greens in a dish, pour the sauce over the greens and add the gnocchi. Sprinkle with a little olive oil, and bake at 180’C in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast and serve.