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.
Okay, I went a little ballistic with the ingredients in this one, but making a stew really is a good way to use up all those nearly-dead vegetables in your fridge. No prizes for guessing how fresh my veggies were.
- In a pot, toss together a knob of butter, smashed garlic, chopped fennel, diced carrots and potatoes, minced ginger, sliced chilli and a small stick of cinnamon. Fry everything till fragrant.
- Add in water to barely cover and bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, marinate diced beef chunks with a bit of cornflour, red wine and balsamic vinegar and chopped chives. Then add to the pot as well.
- Dump in a dollop of cranberry sauce if you’ve got some, if not, a pinch of sugar will do.
- Crush in a small bunch of dried sage leaves and add a teaspoon of dark soy sauce.
- When beef is almost done, add about 2-3 mugs of meat or vegetable stock.
- Season well with salt and pepper and put the lid on. Turn the heat down to a simmer and leave it for 20-30 minutes.
- After 20-30 minutes, add in a splash of red wine.
- Make a mixture of cornflour and cold water. Then stir in the cornflour mixture a tablespoon at a time till it’s reached your desired thickness. Alternatively, you could blitz a quarter of the stew to thicken it.
- Have it with a toasty crusty bread roll.
Seared fillet of salmon on pasta with Chinese leaf, mushrooms, chilli and dried sage.
- Set pasta away to cook in a pot of salty boiling water.
- In a pan with a little bit of oil, sear the fillet of fish skin side down till just done. Set aside to rest.
- In the same pan, toss in minced garlic and fry till fragrant.
- Add in shredded Chinese leaf and quartered mushrooms.
- Crush in dried sage leaves and season well with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.
- Add sliced chilli when vegetables and mushrooms are almost cooked.
- Drain spaghetti and mix together with the Chinese leaf and mushrooms well. Add a generous lug of good extra virgin olive oil to loosen everything up nice and smooth.
- Plate up and serve, boasting the skin of the salmon in its crisp golden glory.
It’s absolute melt-in-your-mouth heaven to indulge in a large nugget of fatty salmon meat, pan-seared to perfection and luxuriously devoured whole.
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.
There are a couple of things that are absolutely necessary in a couscous dish, especially if you’re making one ‘cos you crave the rich flavour of the brilliant Mediterranean. Oregano and Cumin are essential. Unfortunately, I had a craving and had no cumin powder of any sort. But here are the ingredients I used to satisfy the craving as best as I could:
- Onions, preferably red.
- Mushrooms, just because.
- Balsamic vinegar, for ZING.
- Garlic, for wholesomeness.
- Parsley, for healthy colour.
- Oregano, essential.
- Sage, as a pathetic substitute for Cumin.
- Tomato puree, for lush redness.
Roasted root vegetables like aubergines or cucumbers would’ve been lovely. Bell peppers even. But I really had to make do with what I had in the fridge and great thing I had Asparagus and Greek Feta to save the day.