Lately, I’ve spent an awful lot of time on the weekends in the kitchen. During the week I just can’t muster the strength or the pantry reserves to make anything interesting for dinner, even though cooking is one of my true loves in life. I just want to plop on the couch with a book and a cuddly puppy and pretend I don’t have to work in the morning.
But the weekends arrive and all of a sudden, I’ve built up this huge need to cook. There are piles and piles of recipes that I’ve decided I want to make. There are brunches I want to help with. There are meals that I can prepare for the coming week so we won’t have to order pitas for the fourth night in a row (Exaggerating, but you can see where scrambled eggs, cereal, and fruit might start to get old for dinner during the week and it might feel like we’ve eaten the same thing four nights in a row.)
And so it starts. The reason that my Ayi hates coming on Mondays. Flour gets scattered across the counter. Dishes pile and teeter precariously as we stack them in a great choreographed avoidance tactic. And my kitchen towels are all quarantined in the laundry hamper. It’s a war zone.
I carry on three or four projects simultaneously, fighting the war on all fronts, whisking something for one recipe, marinating for another, and roasting for yet another. Recipes are scribbled on the backs of scrap paper which litter the counters. Let’s just say that Walker likes to avoid the kitchen on the weekends and I can hardly blame him.
But to me, it’s heaven. I wash what I need when I need it (I know Mom, cleaning as you go is better, but Ayi comes on Mondays), and I come out thoroughly floured and pleased with myself.
One of the products of this masterful forethought or terrifying neurosis, depending on your perspective, was this fantastic gnocchi. First let me say, that before this recipe I had only tried to make gnocchi once, for my Italian ex boyfriend, who was rightly disgusted when the potatoes for some reason quickly discolored. It was, to date, my most horrible experiment in the kitchen and my dense, brown gnocchi put me off trying again for quite a while.
I roasted the celeriac one day – I happened to find it at the market out of the blue one day, who would have thought? – formed the gnocchi the next, and then in the middle of the week, boiled and pan seared the little pillows of celeriac and flour and whipped up a sauce in no time flat. I looked like I really had life under control in that night. If only you could have seen the war zone this came from.
From the British Larder
Makes 4 portions
400g celeriac, peeled and diced
10g olive oil
salt and pepper
160g “00” flour + 30g extra for dusting
1 large whole free-range egg
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Peel and dice the celeriac into small cubes. Use a large piece of parchment paper and a baking sheet. Mix together the celeriac, olive oil and seasoning and spoon onto the center of the parchment paper. Wrap the parchment paper to form a parcel. Put the parcel onto the baking sheet and then place on the middle shelf of the preheated oven. Roast the celeriac for 30 minutes. The celeriac would have steamed with no color. Open the parchment paper and dry the celeriac in the oven for a further 10 minutes, no color and no liquid.
2. Spoon the hot celeriac in to a ricer and push the celeriac through, or just mash it really well, until smooth.
3. While the celeriac is still warm, place the mashed celeriac in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg and flour. Gradually incorporate the egg and flour to form dough.
4. Bring a large saucepan with salted water to the boil; place a large bowl of ice water, extra bowl and olive oil ready with a slotted spoon.
5. Divide the gnocchi dough in to three/ four balls. With the palms of your hand roll each ball in to a long sausage shape with the help of the extra dusting flour.
6. Cut each roll of dough into little pillows, dipping a broad knife in flour if the dough puts up a fight. Dust a large tray with semolina and place the cut pillows of gnocchi on the semolina. Use semolina as it sinks to the bottom of the boiling water and does not form an excess lump of flour stuck to the gnocchi.
7. Once you have cut all the gnocchi blanch the gnocchi in three batches in the rapid boiling salted water. Once they start to float about 5 – 6 minutes remove the gnocchi from the boiling water using the slotted spoon directly in to the ice water. Continue until all the gnocchi is blanched. Once completely cold drain the gnocchi from the ice water and lightly coat with olive oil. Set aside until ready to serve.
Idea from the British Larder
20g plain flour
100g vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Warm the butter, flour, and milk, stock in a small sauce pan. Add in the basil to wilt.
2. Move the sauce into a blender or if you’re lucky enough to have a stick blender use that. Blend until smooth.
3. Return to pan to rewarm. Add in flour, whisking to avoid lumps. The sauce will continue to thicken as it heats, so if you don’t immediately like the consistency, wait it out for a minute or two, continuing to whisk, until it looks like it would coat a bite of gnocchi.
Assembling the dish:
1. Heat a large non-stick frying pan with the olive oil, sauté the gnocchi until golden brown on both sides.
2. Spoon the hot watercress sauce onto the base of warm serving plates ,arrange the golden brown gnocchi pillows with a few extra greens. Finish the dish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
All the different flavors and textures in this dish made it really rich and it felt very indulgent for a week night dinner. Next time, Walker has requested more cheese, but he has made it clear that he thinks we should start giving other gnocchi another try since these turned out so well!
Definitely easier than I thought it would be, and it really shows off your vegetarian cooking prowess! A great dish for wowing your vegetarian friends.