I was invited to take part in a cooking competition using pesticide free potatoes by Good Natured. The top prize, a le Creuset pan.
Good Natured was born in Scotland in 2008; they offer a range of pesticide residue free fruit, salad, herbs, veg, and potatoes. All of Good Natured farmers use natural predators like ladybirds to control pests like greenfly which would cause harm to the plants. This natural way of controlling pests and diseases ensures their whole range is the safest it can be. Most of their packaging is also is recyclable and compostable. So their philosophy is definitely in line with ours – we even bought a ladybird house for our London garden… but that’s another story.
Why not take up the challenge, I said to myself? Potatoes are something we eat a lot of yet I never really use them particularly creatively.
I started thinking…. What could I make? I went back with my mind and my palate to my childhood and I keep going back to a dish my mum used to make occasionally, when my dad would come back from a business trip ‘up north’ and bring back … food of course! He would bring back a mysterious pasta called pizzoccheri, made with buckwheat flour. I remember the crunchiness of the pasta and the flavours of the final dish: spinach, gooey cheese and .. potatoes. However, in this dish potatoes are not the main show piece, they are a complement.
I thought then, how about recreating the flavours of the dish but with gnocchi, where potatoes are the main component. So I did. I kept the dish similar, but I decided to change some the elements. Instead of the original dish’ spinach or green cabbage I used Cavolo Nero – it is in season and I like its bitterness, its deep green colour and a bit of crunch given by its stem. As cheese, I mixed countries – I used a third of traditional Fontina (available from all good Italian delis), a third of British mature cheddar, and a third of mountain French Comte’.
The mix of cheese was not overpowering (as if using a blue cheese for example) but certainly gave the dish the texture necessary to balance the soft, sweet gnocchi and the crunchy, bitter, green.
I made this for friends and we all enjoyed it. It’s a great winter warmer, comforting dish. Below is my version of Gnocco Pizzocchero.
For the Gnocchi
To make the gnocchi, place the potatoes in their skin in a pan of cold water, salt lightly and bring to the boil. Cook until just done (keep them still firm) and once peeled, grind them in the potato grinder onto a wide, clean surface.
Add the flours, previously sifted together and mix well. Add a pinch of salt, half the beaten egg and mix well. If the mix is very wet, add more flour, gradually. If too dry, add a bit more egg.
Once you have a smooth, uniform mix, start cutting small pieces off and roll them on the floured surface into rolls of around 1.5cm thick.
Cut them into small sections (around 1.5cm) and then roll them onto a gnocchi press or if you do not have one, use a fork (works just as well).
Apply light pressure and roll with your thumb downwards. Add a bit of flour if they stick. Place the gnocchi onto a floured plate, ready to boil later.
Grate all the cheese and place in a bowl, all together and set aside.
Start ‘fishing’ them out with the colander and place in a large bowl with the knob of butter. With the gnocchi, also fish some of the cavolo and don’t worry about some of the water staying with the gnocchi and the cavolo, it will help with the ‘sauce’.
Once all the gnocchi are out, drain the remaining water and cavolo and add the greens to the bowl. At this stage, add the cheeses and mix well, adding a bit of butter if you like and to help with the mixing. Serve with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan and freshly ground pepper.
|Gnocchi with cavolo nero and 3 cheeses – All photos on this page by Robert Carr Images|
I received the potatoes complimentary; opinions are my own.