Gnocchi di patate

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I made this as I had about 500g of mashed potato, half a tub of ricotta and some double cream (fast approaching its sell-by-date). Not a very colourful dish, but great comfort food! Serves 2.

  • 500g mashed potato
  • 130g strong (sifted) white flour (plus extra for rolling out the gnocchi)
  • 125g ricotta
  • 100g gorgonzola (grated)
  • 100ml double cream
  • Black pepper

Mix together the mashed potato, flour and ricotta. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and thoroughly mixed together. Cut into 3 pieces and roll each into a ‘sausage’ (about 2.5cm in diameter). Cut each sausage into 1cm thick slices (these will flatten out as you cut them as the potato, flour and ricotta dough is very soft), place on a floured tray, and leave in the fridge for at least an hour.

Cook by boiling about 5 litres of water in a large pan. Tip the gnocchi into the boiling water (the gnocchi are likely to be a bit sticky, so you may have to ease them off the tray with a knife/spatula). Remove the gnocchi on to 2 plates as they rise to the surface of the boiling water (using a slotted spoon) and keep them warm in a low oven.

In a small saucepan, gently heat the gorgonzola and the cream, mixing all the time, until it just begins to boil. Pour over the gnocchi and grind over black pepper to taste.

Flat breads and baba ganoush

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The flat bread recipe is rather like pizza (but with water rather than milk) – this should make six large flat breads (which would be fine for 4 people – I served the left overs the following day with chilli):

  • 500g of half white and half wholemeal strong flour (sieved into a large (microwavable) bowl)
  • 300ml water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp active dried yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Heat 100ml of the water (in a measuring jug in the microwave) to blood heat (c. 37C – or when you put your finger in it and it’s neither hot nor cold). About 350W for 10 seconds may achieve this, but it’s a bit hit and miss, and depends on the starting temperature for the water. If it’s too hot allow to cool for a bit to avoid killing the yeast.

Stir the sugar into the water and then sprinkle the yeast on top. Leave covered in a warm place (eg airing cupboard) for about 15 minutes (it should start foaming on top).

Heat the flour (microwave at 750C for 15 seconds) and microwave the remaining water to about 37C. Stir the oil into the yeast mixture, make a well in the middle of the flour and add the yeast mixture and most of the water and mix together with your hands. The aim is to create a ball of dough that sticks together but isn’t very sticky. Add more water as necessary.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes.

Place the dough ball back in the bowl, cover (I find those charity clothes collection bags really useful here!) and place somewhere warm. You don’t need to use an airing cupboard, the dough will rise at any reasonable room temperature, but it will take longer. In an airing cupboard the dough should be ready within 1.5 hours.

When the dough has risen. Divide in to 6 balls. Flatten them out, and roll each on a floured surface until they are the size and shape of a large plate. Transfer to sheets of baking parchment, and allow to prove in a warm place for 30 minutes.

I cooked mine, by removing the parchment and placing them directly onto oiled baking sheets in the oven, at 260C (Gas mark 10), for about 3 minutes, and then for 1 minute on the other side. I think the result may have been better had I used the smooth side of griddle, or a heavy bottomed frying pan. Don’t try cooking too many flat breads in the oven at once, as they puff up a lot during cooking (I used two baking sheets).

Keep warm and serve with dips, such as hummus or baba ganoush.

For baba ganoush (for 2 people):

  • 1 medium sized aubergine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 sprigs of parsley (chopped)

Wash the aubergine. Pierce the skin in several places with a fork. Place in the microwave and cook at 750C. Turn the aubergine over and cook for another 2 minutes. It will be cooked when it begins to look squashed. Remove from the microwave, wrap in a towel and allow to stand for 5 minutes.

Remove the stalk and peel away the skin from the aubergine, and then cut into small cubes.

Place all the ingredients except the parsley in a liquidiser or food processor, and blend until smooth. Turn out into a bowl and stir in the parsley.

Serve cold with flat bread.

Pizza – make it crisp!

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I quite often make pizza, but I was getting fed up with the crust being soggy in the middle. I wanted to replicate the effect of putting a pizza onto a shelf in one of those very hot ovens you get in places like Pizza Express or Zizzi’s. So I decided to try laying the pizza on pieces of backing parchment and then placing the pizza (on the baking parchment) on top of an already very hot baking sheet.

Makes 2 25cm pizzas:

  • 100ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried active yeast
  • 250g strong white flour
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • A little luke warm water
  • 200ml tomato sauce
  • 5 chestnut mushrooms (thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 large green pepper (cored, deseeded and sliced)
  • 125g mozzarella ball (cut into small cubes)
  • 12 black olives (stoned and halved)

Heat the milk (in a measuring jug in the microwave) to blood heat (c. 37C – or when you put your finger in it and it’s neither hot nor cold). About 350W for 10 seconds may achieve this, but it’s a bit hit and miss, and depends on the starting temperature for the milk. If it’s too hot allow to cool for a bit to avoid killing the yeast.

Stir the sugar into the milk and then sprinkle the yeast on top and stir. Leave covered in a warm place (eg airing cupboard) for about 15 minutes.

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Warm this up a bit (say microwave at 350W for 10 seconds). Mix the olive oil with the yeasty milk and mix in with the flour (use your hands). Wipe the dough round the edge of the bowl to incorporate all the flour.  You want quite a dry dough, but not too dry (ie you don’t want it to crack), so if it’s too dry add a little luke warm water (if you add too much you can always add some more flour). Take the dough out of the bowl and place on a floured surface. Knead until the dough is smooth (demo video here – although this small quantity will not require kneading for 10 minutes!).

Place the dough ball back in the bowl, cover (I find those charity clothes collection bags really useful here!) and place somewhere warm. You don’t need to use an airing cupboard, the dough will rise at any reasonable room temperature, but it will take longer. In an airing cupboard the dough should be ready within an hour.

When the dough has risen. Divide in to two balls. Flatten them out, and roll each on a floured surface until they are the size and shape of a large plate. Transfer to sheets of baking parchment.

Set the oven as hot as it will go (mine does 260C (Gas Mark 9)). Place two metal baking sheets on the oven shelves.

Smear tomato sauce generously on each pizza. Arrange the sliced mushroom and pepper on top, and then sprinkle with cheese and olives.

Leave for about 15 minutes, and then place each of the pieces of baking parchment (with the pizza on them) on top of a very hot baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200C (Gas Mark 6) and cook for a further 8 minutes (or until the cheese is just starting to brown). Enjoy!