Friday, 10 October 2014

Pumpkin gnocchis in sage butter

While the English-speaking world is attempting Sober October (well, some are, anyway - I'm fairly certain the Irish, the Scots, the Brits and the Australians aren't!) in Finland there's Lihaton Lokakuu, Meatless October. No, we're definitely not taking part... yet, what do you know - there's another vegetarian recipe on the blog!

As you already know, Hermés orange has always been a weak spot of mine and so there's no way I could resist the pumpkins that have just hit the shelves in their phenomenal Technicolor glory. First stop: gnocchi. And not just because I love how they sound. 

No, don't panic just yet. They're really not dificcult to make. But yes, they do take some time, though you get the hang of it really soon. I promise! But first time I made these I did find myself thinking about the women folk in Italy and how they've traditionally not joined the work force outside their home. Who has time for that when there's all that pasta to be made!

This recipe calls for 5 dl pureed pumpkin/ squash, which is conveniently just about the amount you get from one Hokkaido pumpkin (or red kuri squash as it's also known). Which ever type of member of the pumpkin/ squash family you use, you want the puree to be on the dry side, so in case yours is very wet, pour it into a sieve lined with muslin and let sit in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, overnight even. Traditionally gnocchi are made with potatos, but sweet potato would work too. As would carrots.

It's kind of difficult to estimate how many people this would feed as most of the gnocchi kept mysteriously disappearing as soon as they came out of the pot (according to CCTV footage we're looking for a 6ft 2 in IT systems architect with love of poetry). So, I dare say they were good. But my estimate is that as a starter this is enough for 6-8 people, as a main for 4.

In case you don't have use for all of them immediately, you can also freeze them after rolling. Just pop them out of the freezer when ready to use, dump into rapidly boiling water and hey presto: 6-8 minutes later you've got yourself a steaming bowl of fresh pasta!

PS. Don't discard the seeds. Rinse them, rub off the stringy pumpkiny bits (easiest between a dry tea towel folded in half) and keep them. Recipes for what to with them coming up too!

Pumpkin gnocchi:

1 pumpkin, weight a bit over 1 kg
1 egg yolk
4-5 dl all purpose flour (and more for kneading)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/3 tsp nutmeg

Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and place the pumpkin skin side up on a tray lined with parchment. Roast at 200º for about an hour or so, until pumpkin is soft. The skin comes easily off by pulling. Another, quicker way is to peel the pumpkin, cut into chunks, spread onto parchment and roast until done - 20-30 minutes. Puree and let cool. If possible, do this the day before to allow the pure to cool and set. 

Add yolk into the puree and then flour, a little at a time until you have a soft, not too sticky dough. The more you add four, the easier the dough is to work, but too much flour will result in rubbery consistency. Knead on a gently floured surface, cut the dough into 4 and each segment into 2. This way the ropes aren't too long and difficult to manoeuvre.

Roll into ropes as thick as your finger (I found this is easiest on a tea towel!) and cut into 2 cm- pieces. Transfer to a gently floured parchment/ kitchen towel to wait for the next step. 

Before they're boiled, gnocchi are rolled on a particular gnocchi board that cuts those typical indentations into the gnocchi. In case you too find yourself going through a shock of discovering you're not a) 103-year-old Nonna or b) working in a kitchen equipped with the said tool, you can also use the tines of a fork. Another way to get almost authentic results (read: not even close) is to roll gnocchi on the metal wires of one of those egg slicers you can pick up at any IKEA.  This step also helps to shake off the excess flour before into the water they go. No pressure though - I'm sure they're supposed to look charmingly rustic and anyway, I'm sure every Nonna has their own fingerprint, right? So, any shape and length is good.

Bring a big pot of salted water to boil and boil the gnocchi in batches until they surface ( a couple of minutes). Serve as you would serve any past: sprinkling of salt and pepper, glug of good olive oil, cloud of freshly grated Parmesan, with tomato sauce... or browned butter with crispy sage (I'm telling you - go for the last choice!)

Sage butter:

150 g butter
4 handfuls of fresh sage
8 large garlic cloves (or less, depending on which part of Transilvania you come from)

The quantities listed above are for the whole portion, but it's best to fry the gnocchi in 4 batches as this allows both the gnocchi and the sage to crunch up. 

Peel the garlic cloves and bruise a bit with the back of the knife. Throw into the pan with butter. Heat and add the sage. Let the butter brown (it stops bubbling and starts emitting that gorgeous, nutty, toffee-like scent) and add the gnocchi. Fry for a couple of minutes until they've got that lovely golden, crisp crust. Serve. And help yourself for some more. 

Wonderful. Just wonderful. Crispy exterior, dreamily rich interior... I can't think of anything more comforting right now!




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