Back before I started obsessing over sourdough, I reviewed Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros. I’ve been wondering which recipe to choose from her book to share with you as an example of her work. Should I pick the gorgeous jam shortbread? The stuffed pancakes that I make for dinner party after dinner party? The risotto that started me making my own stock? This is my blog – surely I should choose one of the recipes I’ve really got mileage out of…
But there’s one recipe in this book which to me symbolises exactly why I love the book so much. I’ve only made the beetroot gnocchi once – it’s the sort of dish which is too light on vegetables for a main course and a bit too much for an entrée, as well as being a little rich and fiddly for everyday fare. On the other hand, it is absolutely spectacular to look at and lovely to eat – like an earthier, deeper sort of potato gnocchi. Which is pink!
Don’t serve these gnocchi with an ordinary pasta sauce – it would be a waste. Tessa Kiros suggests serving them with melted butter, toasted pine-nuts, basil and parmesan. Pesto would also work and, actually, a traditional creamy carbonara would be kind of cool, and would follow the whole insane pink theme. Or you could just go with the decadence and melt some blue cheese over them. I’d add a good winter salad of baby spinach, red onion, raisins, orange segments and walnuts for a side dish, and dress it with sherry vinegar if you have it – you need something earthy and acidic to cut the richness. And I’d probably do baked apples or poached pears for dessert. Hmm, I think I’ve just talked myself into making this next time someone comes for dinner – it’s the right season for it…
Finally, I should mention that this recipe got extremely silly. This should not be blamed on Tessa Kiros, who writes her recipes with enthusiasm but also with sanity, something which I seem to have overshot this time around.
Your Shopping List500g potatoes – the floury kind, not the new kind 1 medium sized beetroot, steamed until very tender, and then peeled 200g plain flour 50g parmesan cheese, grated 1 egg, lightly beaten
Now what will you do with it?
Peel the potatoes, and boil them until they are soft but not falling apart because no vegetable deserves that. Mash them very thoroughly. You can put them through a sieve or a food mill if you like – I won’t stop you – but if you put it in a blender I will not be responsible for the consequences. Which will be potato glue. You may, however, use the blender to puree the beetroot until smooth. In fact, mashing it by hand would be a bit crazy, so take your blender and go wild. Fold the puree into the potatoes. Hello, magenta potatoes! Actually, you could stop right here and just add a little butter and/or milk and have mad magenta mash to go with whatever else you were cooking.
Oh, you’re still doing gnocchi? Right, let the potato cool until it’s just cool enough to handle, then add all the other ingredients with a little salt and pepper to taste and mix until you have a smooth, soft dough. I’d start with a fork to get things combined, and then get in there with my hands and knead it a little. Incidentally, don’t stop in the middle of this, because the gnocchi will get sticky and will nagging you for more flour, and if you give in the gnocchi will become hardened and callous and the next thing you know it will be corrupting your cherry tomatoes (cherry tomatoes are very easily led) and beating up the carrots, and sneering at the celery. Delinquent gnocchi are the scourge of the modern kitchen, I tell you.
Yeah, I’m maybe a little tired. The point is, if you mix and shape the gnocchi immediately after mixing the dough together, you won’t need to add extra flour, and the texture will be soft and yummy.
Fill your largest saucepan with water and bring it to the boil with a little salt. I know this seems wasteful, but pasta always cooks better in more water, and this particular pasta will stick together like glue if it doesn’t have room to do its little gnocchi dance.
Divide your wonderful magenta dough into four, and roll each piece out into a long sausage about 1.5 cm in diameter. You may need to flour your hands and/or the board, or you can roll them out on baking paper which is inauthentic but effective. Since beetroot gnocchi are not exactly authentic, I don’t think you should let a lack of authenticity stand in your way at this point. If anyone complains, just cry ‘magenta food!’ and giggle like a maniac, and they will probably leave you alone. Possibly for quite some time. Use a knife to chop your dough sausae into short lengths, so that they look like little purple pillows. Don’t worry if they aren’t all identical – this isn’t MasterChef, and believe me, your guests will be far too busy boggling at lurid pink gnocchi to worry about individual sizes. I put them (the gnocchi, not the guests) on a tray with baking paper in nice little rows while I finish the other gnocchi (guests don’t stay put on trays).
Cook in two batches. The way you do this is to wait until the water is at a rolling boil and make sure you have a slotted spoon and a colander at the ready. Put about half the gnocchi into the water and stir around once, quickly, so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. The gnocchi will sink at first, and then float up to the top of the water. When it reaches the surface, it’s done – fish it out with your slotted spoon and pop it into the colander before it tries to dissolve into weak borscht. Repeat with the rest of the gnocchi.
Serve with your topping of choice, but I would start at least by tossing with either butter or olive oil so that it doesn’t all stick together. The gnocchi will fade from magenta to pink as it cooks. Oddly, this colour is even more disturbing than magenta, which is a win if you ask me.
Eat and enjoy!
Astute readers will have noticed that this recipe is not very vegan. Fear not! I have it on good authority that there are some excellent recipes around for vegan gnocchi. Since this recipe is just taking out some of the potato and replacing it with beetroot, I suspect you would be just fine making this substitute in your preferred potato gnocchi recipe.
And speaking of substitutes, if all the lurid pink is too much for you, I’m positive you’d get excellent results by substituting pumpkin or sweet potato for the beetroot. Actually, I’d use half and half sweet potato (or pumpkin) and potato if I were going that road. And then serve it with burned butter and sage, yum.