Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

Simply Gnocchi

GnoochiMDLiving in Central London is a privilege, but it also comes with a few drawbacks. One of them is sourcing fresh ingredients.  Taking the car anywhere during the day for me is a fraught affair, and even if I actually manage to get to my destination, finding a parking space is like trying to find a hen’s teeth.  So I resort to either catching a bus or walking.

My quest for ingredients takes me all over London. The Athenian in Moscow Road for Greek, Green Valley in Upper Berkeley Street for Lebanese, Church Street Market off Edgware Road for fruit and vegetables, not to mention an array of little shops dotted all over the metropolis.

Today I wanted Italian, so I took the twenty-minute walk up to Little Italy in Clerkenwell, cutting through the busy Leather Lane market – giving the sole surviving vegetable stall a quick glance as I strolled past.   The market mainly caters for lunch time office workers who want fast food and cheap clothes.    Right at the end of the market on the opposite side of the road stands Terroni & Son – the oldest deli in London that has been going since 1878.  I have been visiting them now for nearly twenty years.  As the years have gone by the shop has changed beyond recognition.  I know change is good but I hanker after the old days. When the deli was packed to the rafters with produce and there was always a noisy background of Sicilian banter.

The shop has been opened up, allowing the light to flood in.  The islands of shelves that were once tightly packed with every imaginable Italian produce now gone, replaced with long sleek modern tables and chairs.  Terroni’s now serves coffee, lunches and snacks and very good ones at that.

There is still a trace of the old shop in the two large glass counters that sit at the back of the shop showcasing an array of charcuterie, cheeses, Italian sausages and a fine selection of Italian sweets and cakes.  I tend to stand at the charcuterie side to give my order so as not to be tempted by the cakes.  I can resist as long as I don’t catch sight of the sfogliatelle – then all is lost.

Today I had a bigger problem to deal with – they no longer appear to sell pasta flour.  I haven’t visited them all summer and so it came as a bit of a shock to find the eating area has expanded and as a result their selection of dry goods has decreased.  This is not good.  It throws out of the window my carefully planned meal of ravioli.  I am not good with change and cannot think what to do.  I buy my cheese and bread and leave.  Succumbing only to the smallest box of sweet delicacies – I need to ponder on this new problem of where to get pasta flour.

As I walk back through Hatton Garden I try and think what I am going to cook for supper.  To add to my misery it starts to rain.  I rack my brains of what is in the cupboard that will make a meal and save me from trekking elsewhere.  All there is in the fridge of any note is a large bag of potatoes. Then it comes to me – Gnocchi!!!  Necessity is the mother of invention.

It’s straight back home, feet up and maybe a small reward from inside the cake box before I put my potatoes on to cook.

Gnocchi is the simplest and most heavenly of recipes.  A few potatoes can be turned into light soft potato dumplings that melt in the mouth.   As my ingredients were limited I went for the simple accompaniment of sage and butter with a generous heap of Pecorino.Gnoochi2MD


2 –3 servings


500g  floury potatoes (Maris piper, King Edwards or Desiree are good).


50-75 gm 00 pasta flour

1 egg yolk

Extra flour for rolling out


Put unpeeled potatoes in a pan filled with cold water and bring to the boil.  Cook until tender.  Drain.  Allow to cool slightly and then remove the skins.  Push the potatoes through a ricer.  The potatoes should be cool before adding the egg yolk and some of the flour.  Knead lightly.  If you feel the mixture is too wet add more of the flour.  I start off with 50 gms and add more if needed.

Flatten the dough into a rough flat square and cut into roughly 2cm wide strips.  Take a strip and lightly roll into a sausage shape.  Cut into 2/3 cms pieces.

Take each gnocchi piece and with your thumb gently push it against the tines of an upturned fork which we give you a groove to one side and roll back.  This will make an indentation to the gnocchi.  Place the gnocchi onto a floured tray and repeat.

To cook – bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and then carefully drop them in – be careful as they can splash back which can be a little painful on the hand.  Give the pan a gentle stir and wait for them to start to rise to the surface.  This will take about a minute.  Once they have risen wait ten to twenty seconds and then remove them with a slotted spoon.

Butter and Sage Sauce


2/3 oz butter

6 sage leaves fresh

Salt and pepper


Put the butter in a pan and heat.  Add the sage leaves and seasoning and tilt the pan to turn the sage leaves.  The butter will turn a caramel colour.  Take off the heat and toss the gnocchi in coating them well.

Serve with a generous helping of Pecorino


I didn’t have even shaped potatoes so I put in the pan what I had, checking the smaller ones first, and as soon as they were tender taking them out.

Instead of a fork I used a gnocchi ridger which also doubles up to make garganelli pasta (which is similar to penne).



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Pumpkin Risotto


Risotto is definitely a dish that has to be made with love and care.  For me it is comfort food.  Last time I made risotto it was for Sophia my daughter.  We both stood and chatted taking it in turns to stir, only slowing or stopping when talk got a little more interesting than making the risotto.  I also had a small problem of mid way through cooking that two more places at the table were added so to eek out the risotto I served it with rocket and a little balsamic vinegar.

I don’t know why, but I go through phases with risotto – it’s a fantastic way to use up the last little bits of the roast chicken, using the chicken carcass for the stock.  I rely on a risotto to help with the glut of courgettes from the garden, or as in this case a large pumpkin that needed eating.

I am also prone to being a little fussy with my risotto and there are certain types I really like.  Riso Superfino Carnaroli is one of them.  I am a bit of a sucker for nice packaging and Riso Superfino Carnaroli certainly ticks that box with its white cotton sack and bright red writing.  The downside is I can never bring myself to throw those little bags away after I have used up all the rice.  I have a little growing collection of them in my kitchen drawer.  I am getting to the point that I need to find a use for them otherwise they are going to have to go because space is getting very tight.


Risotto is easy to make, but it doesn’t like being reheated as the rice goes stodgy and is unpleasant.  If all the ingredients are prepared before hand it makes the standing and stirring a rather relaxing experience.  I tend to let my mind wander to what I am going to cook tomorrow or looking out of the window to see if the dog has disappeared into the vegetable garden which he knows is an out of bounds area.

There are no hard and fast rules with what you add to the risotto except it is best cooked and eaten straight away.  Risotto rice is different from other rices – so if you haven’t got a risotto rice in the cupboard leave it until you do.  Finally, as you add the stock remember to keep it simmering as you don’t want to slow down the cooking of the rice.

There are two methods of cooking the pumpkin for this recipe either on the top of the stove in a pan with foil or roasted in the oven.  I find the top of the stove the quickest.

Pumpkin MD

Pumpkin Risotto  (feeds 2 as a main)


1 small/medium onion chopped finely

Slice of pumpkin –  cut into bite-sized cubes

1 wine glass of white wine

2/3 tbs oil

570ml/1 pint vegetable stock/or chicken stock

200g/7 oz risotto rice

small piece of butter (optional)

Parmesan cheese grated


Put the stock in a pan and leave on a slow simmer.  You need to keep the stock at roughly the same temperature as the risotto – I sometimes put the stock in a jug and keep heating it in the microwave as I need it.

Heat the oil in a large pan then add the onion, turn down the heat so that the onion gently cooks and becomes translucent without browning.

While the onion is slowly cooking put the pumpkin in a pan with a knob of butter or oil and some silver foil over the top to act as a loose-fitting lid, this will help the pumpkin to steam and retain its moisture.  It cooks fairly quickly, about 10mins – you know when its cooked as you can just put a knife into it.  When it is cooked, save some of the pumpkin putting the rest in a blender to puree.  Set aside, it will be added later to the risotto.  Or roast in the oven with garlic and a little olive oil drizzled over.  I find a pan on top of the stove the quickest.

When the onion is cooked, add the rice and turn the heat up, keep stirring so all the rice is coated in the oil.   The rice should very quickly start to change colour slightly. Now add the white wine, stir slowly until all the wine is absorbed then start to add the stock, a cup at a time.  Once added the risotto needs to be stirred.  There is no need for frantic stirring, just enough so that the rice doesn’t catch or start to stick to the bottom of the pan.  As the rice absorbs all the liquid add some more stock and keep going until the rice is cooked.  If you run out of stock and the rice still needs further cooking just add some boiled water.  There is not exact timing for risotto – you need to taste as you go along, you will know when it’s cooked because it will taste as you would like to eat it, some like it al dente and others a little softer.  Just before the risotto is cooked add the pumpkin chunks and puree, and any further seasoning.

As you take the risotto off the heat add a knob of butter and the grated parmesan cheese.  Stir, leave for a couple of minutes to stand and then serve.

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