A couple of weeks ago, I was taught how to make gnocchi by an Italian lady called Cinzia, at the little cafe I work in part-time. So last week on my own, without her supervision, I gave it a shot at home.
The way she did it was with potato puree, egg, and flour. After combining the three components, and rolling everything into a long roll, the gnocchi is cut into bite-size pieces. I did it with too little potato and the gnocchi came out a wee bit starchy. Nonetheless, the sage butter accompaniment was fantastic.
Sage butter gnocchi, with sautéed mushrooms, yellow peppers and fresh red chilli.
This is probably one of the best ways to have peppers, when they are the limelight of the show, no distractions, except for the lovely crunch of added pine nut or peanuts.
- In a hot skillet with a small knob of butter, let the butter foam till the foaming subsides.
- Toss in minced garlic and chopped red onion and fry till fragrant.
- Welcome the Aroma Fairies.
- Toss in the chopped peppers. Usually recipes of this kind call for only yellow and red peppers ‘cos they’re sweeter than the green ones, but I’m greedy so I add all three colours.
- Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Yes, season the yellow, red and green peppers with black pepper.
- Turn the heat down to a simmer and put a lid on. Let the peppers simmer happily for about 10 minutes; you wanna be doing this to extract the full flavour of the peppers.
- While waiting, set your pasta boiling away, as per instructions on packaging.
- Splash some red wine vinegar into the peppers and let it reduce slightly. If the Aroma Fairies don’t come by again, something’s not quite right.
- Drain your cooked pasta and add to the pan of peppers. Drizzle a good lug of extra virgin olive oil to deglaze the pan.
- Toss in pine nuts, or the cheaper alternative of peanuts. Mix everything up good.
- Serve with freshly grated Parmesan and chopped parsley.
A ballotine, which means ‘bundle’, is a French dish made of deboned meat fish or poultry (sometimes the whole animal) filled with stuffing and then rolled and tied into a bundle. It is roasted, poached or braised, and can be served hot or cold.
In this case, I made a couple of ballotines of pork shoulder and turkey breast, served on a bed of crushed peas and lemon-seasoned chopped peppers.
It’s a great thing that there’s still Christmas turkey left in the fridge, having it with a small bit of cranberry sauce is exquisite. The flavour of the bird having a friendly tug-o-war with the earthy aroma of pork is simply lovely. Not forgetting the fresh crunch of carrot ribbon rolls and subtle sweetness of the vegetables.
It’s amusing, I made a serving of couscous to go along with this; I need my carbs.
I hope everyone’s had a fantastic Christmas meal yesterday, with family and friends. Food, family and friends are three vital ingredients for a happy life; of course, the three are not in any particular order of importance.
Unfortunately for me, I’ve officially taken ill after the very busy week leading up for Christmas Day, flustered with Christmas shopping, Christmas dinner grocery shopping, house decoration, house cleaning, etc. Yep, you know the drill.
So this Boxing Day, while Sarah and Stephenie head out to battle the crowds in the (in)famous Boxing Day Shopping Sale, I get out of bed late and make myself a lovely little brunch.
Roast beef, with a lemon butter salsa of peppers, peas, onion, chilli and parsley, served with a cranberry sauce.
A delicious medley of tender meatiness from the blushing pieces of steak and the sourish yet sweet tones of cranberry sauce, combined with the zingy buttery dance of spicy chilli bits, fresh parsley and juicy vegetables. What a treat!
- 80g beef frying steak
- 1 generous knob salted butter
- 1 small handful peas
- 1 small handful chopped yellow pepper
- 1 small handful chopped orange pepper
- 1 small handful chopped white onion
- 1 pinch minced chilli
- 1 pinch finely chopped parsley
- 1 tiny squeeze of lemon
- leftover Christmas turkey cranberry sauce, or cranberry jam
- Season the beef with freshly ground black pepper and pan-sear it to its desired doneness. Then season with salt and let it rest.
- In a skillet on medium heat, melt the butter.
- Once the butter begins foaming, toss in the onion, frying till translucent.
- Add the yellow and orange peppers, and peas as well. Saute everything well.
- When done, squeeze of few drops of lemon and mix in the chilli bits.
- Slice the rested beef diagonally to expose its lovely red blush.
- Plate up and serve.
I wouldn’t call this a Mediterranean dish ‘cos it isn’t exactly one. But the combination of peppers and sage remind me of Greece. Anyway, here’s a simple recipe for a slight taste of the Great Middlelands.
Grilled Peppers & Sage Chicken Pasta
- 1 serving of long pasta
- 1 tsp of olive oil
- half a small white onion, minced
- 1 handful of sliced red peppers, inch-long
- 1 handful of sliced yellow peppers, inch-long
- 1 handful of sliced mushrooms
- 1 handful of chicken fillet, breast or drumstick meat, cubed bite-size
- half tsp of dried sage
- salt and pepper, for seasoning, to taste
- handful of spinach leaves, for colour
- Get your pasta cooking on the hob. (Remember: The Italians say the water used to cook pasta should be as salty as the Mediterranean
- Put a wok on the hob too. Turn the switch up to full whack and get the wok screaming hot. Add the oil in.
- Toss the minced white onion into the wok to flavour the oil.
- Before the onion turns brown, get the peppers to join the party. This time, let them sit still up to 2 minutes each time before tossing, until they show signs of slight charring. TIP! The trick here is that you don’t have the time to heat up an oven to specially grill your peppers. Pan-searing does the trick.
- Add mushrooms and toss.
- When the mushrooms are just about done, get everything out and put your chicken cubes in. You want to dry stir-fry them. This means you use the starchy water from the pasta, to stir-fry the meat. By adding the water in small quantities, stirring as you go along, you allow the meat to absorb all the liquid. Result: the chicken cubes are ‘dry’ yet juicy.
- Once the chicken is just done, add all the ingredients back in. And add salt, pepper and sage. Stir.
- The pasta should be just about done. Drain and add to the wok.
- Turn the heat off and add the lush green spinach leaves.
- Mix and serve.
Today, I choose option #4.
1. Piperies Yemistes
2. Psari a la Spetsiota
3. Scorthalia Salata
4. All of the Above
1. Piperies Yemistes (Stuffed Peppers)
- The sweet yet peppery twang of the capsicums merging completely with grainy rice, earthy with the taste of mushrooms and onions
- And the flowery aroma of sage and thyme
- With the occasional treat of bittersweet charred bits of vegetable
2. Psari a la Spetsiota (Baked Fish “Greek Island”)
- The sour and savoury created by the tease of white wine and vinegar
- The playful wholeness of rosemary and garlic – a match made in heaven
- How your teeth sinks into each bite, greeting a crisp crunch of breadcrumbs, followed by a plunge into the tender white fish
3. Scorthalia Salata (Garlic Sauce Salad)
- All of the flavours above appropriately punctuated by nutty wild rocket leaves and clean watercress, sitting in a sour garlic peanut sauce.
Where their powers combined, a time machine was created; I am transported back to Santorini in Greece.