Last night’s Master Chef (23 Feb 2011) saw fashion lecturer Claudia make a delicious gnocchi dish with chorizo and garlic sauce that certainly impressed the judges. Usually hard to please Greg Wallace said of her dish, “it may well look unusual, but it tastes great!”. We wish Claudia all the best as the competition progresses and hopes to see some more great gnocchi dishes on the show soon.
Claudia’s Gnocchi with chorizo and garlic sauce, Master Chef, BBC1, 23 February 2011
We have made it our mission to try the best gnocchi in town and report our findings back to you via this blog.
First stop was Ristorante Semplice in Mayfair (near Bond Street tube, just off Oxford Street). The restaurant is famed for its bone marrow risotto, of which Giles Corren says: ‘I had never been much of a one for risotto, bur now I am. By God I am’.
We, however, resisted the admittedly delicious looking bone marrow risotto (enjoyed by the man on the table next to ours) and instead opted for the potato gnocchi with duck ragu, savoy cabbage and teleggio fondue (like a white sauce containing wine, cheese, cream and nutmeg), or Gnocchi con ragu d’anatha, verza e fonduta al teleggio as it says on the menu.
I have to say that we were certainly not disappointed with our choice!
We enjoyed our gnocchi with duck ragu with a simple green salad and a glass of red (as recommended by the sommelier). The ragu was melt in the mouth divine and the gnocchi itself was light and fluffy without being rubbery.
We asked to speak to the chef after we’d finished our meal, and amazingly he indulged our request and came to our table in his chef’s whites. He informed us that the gnocchi was all made in-house, immediately frozen and then flash boiled just before being served. When we asked him how he got his gnocchi so light, he told us that using just a very small amount of the best quality Italian flour and either King Edwards or Desiree potatoes coupled with the freeze/boil method does the trick every time.
Our overall conclusion is that it is a great lunch venue and the gnocchi with duck ragu is a stellar choice but be warned that it might make you feel a tad sleepy in the afternoon!
Watch this space for further reviews of gnocchi dishes in central London restaurants, and feel free to get in touch if there’s a restaurant that you’d like us to review or if you have any recommendations.
When talking to a friend about my new found devotion for gnocchi last weekend, she proclaimed that I must try Nigella’s roast potato gnocchi! My puzzled expression resulted in her telling me that they are the best thing since, well, roast potatoes or regular gnocchi I suppose.
As soon as I got home I was straight on Google to find out more…
It turns out that ‘rapid roastini’ or quick ‘roast’ potatoes are simply shop bought gnocchi (more on the brands available in the supermarkets and our reviews and recommendations on them at a later date) which are fried in a pan or roasted in the oven (an area of considerable online debate is appears).
The basic recipe for rapid roastini’ is as follows:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 250g/9oz ready-made or leftover potato gnocchi
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan.
- When the oil is hot, put the gnocchi in, making sure you separate them as you do so, and fry for 3-4 minutes, or until golden-brown.
- Turn them over and give them another 3-4 minutes on the other side, or until browned on both sides.
- Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper, then sprinkle with sea salt flakes and serve.
(Note the difference from German Schupfnudeln which is similar but requires the gnocchi to be made from scratch and are longer than traditionally round gnocchi – something that I’m sure we’ll have a go at some point in the future).
Maggiedon says “These little babies may just change your life!” and I for one am keen to find if that’s true, particularly because the pictures of these golden brown balls that are light and fluffy on the inside, yet divinely crispy on the outside have well and truly got my mouth watering! I have therefore taken up the challenge to make these roastini myself this weekend. Update and photos from me to follow and in the mean time you can watch Nigella.
Only one question remains: what shall I serve my rapid roastini with? Free range Otway pork chops like fellow food blogger Sarah Speedy or with roast chicken instead of roast potatoes like Stephen?
Making Potato Gnocchi
The quality of your gnocchi depends on the quality of your potato. It should be a perfect balance between floury and waxy. Our team is planning and extensive planting programme so next year we will have scientific ‘proof’ but for now we are backing King Edwards.
Scrub, but do not peel, about a Kilo of potatoes. Place them in well salted cold water and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer until soft (depends on the size of your potatoes, it’s easier if they are all of a similar size). While still hot, peel them. Now you have a choice. Some say dry them out for 10 or 15 minutes in a medium oven. If you want to try this, break the cooked potatoes and place in a baking tray and cover loosely with foil.
Alternatively mash them finely – a ricer is perfect, a fork will do – but it is worth pushing the resultant mash through a sieve if you’ve gone for the fork method. Then add 300g of flour, 00 or plain. If using plain flour (it delivers a better result if sifted), one whole egg and a very good pinch of salt. Mix together whilst the potato is still hot.
Dust your work surface with flour. Giorgio Locatelli recommends flattening your mix in to a rough square about 1.5cm thick and slicing it in to 1.5cm strips then gently rolling it. I like the precision of this but it’s equally good to take off a chunk and roll it into a sausage about 1.5cm thick. Cut the resulting sausage in to 1 – 1.5cm lengths using more flour as needed to stop it sticking to the surface or to each other.
Lastly, take a small fork and lightly press it down on each piece of Gnocchi – so the fork leaves an impression.
If you are going to cook immediately, bring a pan of well salted water to the boil and gently pop the gnocchi in. When the Gnocchi comes to the surface, it’s cooked. Scoop out with a slotted spoon or sieve and sprinkle with olive oil and a sliver of butter to stop them sticking together whilst you warm the sauce of your choice.
Gnocchi freezes well but you need to do it on a floured tray so they don’t freeze into one big blob. You can cook straight from frozen and the same rule applies – when it rises to the top of the pan, it’s cooked
On the 29th of every month, Argentines eat ñoquis (gnocchis, as we would say). For the uninitiated, gnocchi is a potato-based pasta. It is pronounced nyoki. Like a lot of Argentine dishes, this flavourful dish has Italian roots. Many Italians worked on coffee plantations in Argentina during the 19th century and they left a permanent impression on the culture’s cuisine.
Why gnocchi? Why the 29th? Gnocchi is cheaply made and belly filling, a combination appreciated by the working poor on the night before payday. The story goes that a poor family welcomed a hungry man into their home and shared their gnocchi supper. To reward the family’s generous spirit, the man, who was a saint in disguise, left a gold coin under his plate. Hard financial times in Argentina after World War II may have helped the tradition to grow and now Gnocchi Night is practically sacred.
The tradition comes with hopes of attracting prosperity and involves putting money under your plate during your meal. Donate that money (it has to be that money, now warmed by the plate) to charity after the meal, and it will bring you good fortune.
It’s a refreshing celebration of the good value meal. I love the tradition of sharing what little you have and, with that sharing, nurturing hope for good fortune. Clearly the Argentine populace is infused with good spirits and good humour: government workers that are scarce except for when paychecks arrive at month’s end have been nicknamed ñoquis too!
Gnocchi can be made from scratch, of course, and we will be sharing our step-by-step guide so that you can take part in this tradition. The goal (and the challenge) of good gnocchi is that it should be light and fluffy while also dense enough to have flavour, but not so dense that they are chewy or gummy. Once you get started you can explore a whole host of amazing recipes, sweet and savoury, for this delightful tradition. We’ll be sharing our favourites and we welcome you to share yours!