These are strange times we are living in indeed. Coronavirus has changed our daily lives so much. Some people are called to the front line to keep the world running and the rest of us must play our part by isolating. I’m in the latter category although I hope to start selling vegan bakes again. I took a break because I just couldn’t get enough ingredients without constantly visiting the shops, which is obviously not a sensible thing to do.
We are all struggling to find food items that we have previously taken for granted. Rice, flour and pasta being among the most difficult ingredients to locate in my local shops. Thankfully, fresh veg seems to be in plentiful supply, mostly thanks to our local vegetable farms. After my once a week essential shop I found myself with a lot of potatoes, so with no pasta in the house I decided to turn to the trusty spuds and make gnocchi.
I love these beautiful little pillowy, light dumplings. You can serve them with pesto or crispy fried sage leaves, lemon juice and olive oil. Last night I had made a tomato sauce, which I would normally have with penne and it tasted tasted great with gnocchi.
Obviously, being vegan I can’t use eggs in my gnocchi but there are gnocchi recipes that don’t include them. I have read that this makes them more likely to disintegrate when boiling but I really haven’t found that to be the case. I think what’s really important is the potatoes you use. Think floury rather than waxy, like King Edward or Maris Piper. When it comes to the flour you need, Type 00 pasta flour is great but if you can’t get that plain flour (which is hard enough to come by these days) works perfectly well, and I haven’t had a problem when I have tried making gnocchi with gluten free plain flour.
Now, the thing to remember when kneading is you want to knead it enough so that it all forms together but not over knead because then the dough becomes tougher. It’s hard to give advice but it’s really all just practice and recognising the texture. Go for soft and pliable but not sticky. I have to say cookery writers frequently say that gnocchi’s difficult to make but I really haven’t found it too hard. Mine are never usually perfectly shaped and I try to mark them with the prongs of a fork but I'm actually not patient (and probably a bit too greedy to perfect that. I'm determined to improve and will be making that a lockdown goal!
All you need is
1 kg potatoes (King Edward or Maris Piper)
200g white flour
2 tbsps oil (olive, sunflower or vegetable)
½ tsp sea salt
This recipe serves 4-6
Peel and chop potatoes and put into a pan of boiling water for 15 mins until very soft.
Add the oil.
Mash, and I mean, really mash. I don’t have a potato ricer so I do mine with a stainless steel potato masher and I use a lot of elbow grease to make sure they are lump free. Don’t be tempted to puree the spuds though as that will make them too gloopy.
Sprinkle the salt into the mashed potato
Then gradually add the flour and gently knead with your hands so you don’t over work it. You might not use all the flour but keep adding until the dough is soft but not sticky. Remember don’t over knead because that will make the gnocchi too heavy.
Flour your work surface and divide the dough. Roll into long thin sausages and cut into 1 inch pieces. Roll a fork over the piece to get grooves. I have to admit I haven’t completely mastered this and you can skip this if you want.
Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil and drop the pieces in. Do this in small batches. When the gnocchi pieces float to the surface remove them with a slotted spoon.
Either cook with straight away, or put covered in the fridge to use later. If you want to freeze the gnocchi, lay separately on to a floured baking tray and pop into the freezer. When frozen they can go into a freezer bag and be returned to the freezer. They should be kept frozen for up to 3 months.. but they will probably be eaten way before then.