Potato gnocchi has a bad reputation for being difficult and temperamental. I recently got the hang of it and it is now a regular favourite in my household. It’s amazing how the humble potato can be turned into something so delicately soft and dreamy – little pillows of potato delight! I also sometimes serve them on top of a hearty roasted tomato & chorizo stew with lots of extra parmigiano – my husband’s favourite.
I recently bought myself a potato ricer for making proper potato gnocchi. It’s a weird contraption that almost looks like a giant garlic press. But it works like a charm to get rid of any lumpy cooked potato bits. If you want a smooth result but you don’t have a ricer, press the cooked potato through a sieve (you’ll need a bit of elbow grease for this, but the result is worth the effort).
For the gnocchi
1 kg potatoes
1 egg, lightly beaten
300 g cake flour (you might not need all of it)
10 ml salt
freshly ground black pepper
Cook the potatoes in a large pot filled with salted water (in their skins) until tender. Drain off water and leave to cool slightly.
Remove potato skins, then press through a potato ricer or a sieve to remove any lumps. Set aside (you can leave it to cool completely if you want to).
In a large mixing bowl, add riced potatoes, beaten egg, 1/3 of the flour, the salt and pepper. Mix with a fork, then continue to knead to a smooth dough, adding a little extra flour as you go, if necessary. You are looking for a workable consistency that feels like a very soft dough, but not sticky at all. Don’t add too much flour at this time as you want to keep a light texture.
Divide the mixture into 4 balls, then roll each ball out into long strips, using extra flour on your surface to prevent sticking. Carefully cut into little squares/pillows and sprinkle with a little extra flour to prevent them from sticking together (I like to toss them around a bit in the flour to make sure they are fully covered).
Heat a large pot filled with salted water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi and cook for 1-2 minutes or until it rises to the surface. Do not overcook – they will become sticky and soggy. Drain and serve immediately with cream sauce and/or sage butter and pan-fried mushrooms.
For the sage butter
125 g butter
a large handful of fresh sage leaves
Place the butter in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil until the butter starts to turn golden brown and starts to smell nutty. Add sage leaves and remove from heat at once, swirling the butter round to fry the leaves evenly. Set aside.
For the pan-fried mushrooms
45 ml olive oil
about 500 g mixed exotic mushrooms (break/cut larger mushrooms into bite-size pieces)
125 ml cream
salt & pepper
grated parmesan cheese, to serve
Heat the oil on high heat in a large pan, then add the mushrooms and fry for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Add cream and reduce a little to form a thicker sauce that will coat the mushrooms. Season with salt & pepper. Note: the mushrooms with absorb the cream on standing, so serve this immediately.
Have the sage butter and mushrooms warm and ready before you cook your gnocchi. Serve the gnocchi in bowl topped with pan fried mushrooms and a drizzle of sage butter. Top with some grated parmesan cheese.
Michael’s wine recommendation – click here
Ilse van der Merwe is one of my favourite food writers. Enthusiastic, innovative and her website www.thefoodfox.com is full of exciting food ideas. Ilse appears regularly on television and does regular pieces for The Pretty Blog. She recently opened the demo KITCHEN in the heart of Stellenbosch which is a venue for her regular cookery classes.