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Beef & Gruyère lasagne

25 Jul

I’m a huge fan of Terra del Capo – the Italian-inspired wine range & destination by Rupert Wines, a premium wine estate situated on the outskirts of Franschhoek. Apart from classical Italian wine varietals, they offer a range of Italian-style tapas at their tasting room eatery, one of which is a mini lasagne. It pairs beautifully with their Sangiovese, a red wine with juicy cherry and plum flavours, tinged with spice and black pepper. The team of Terra del Capo approached me to create a lasagne recipe of my own to celebrate their Sangiovese in these colder months – what better than a glass of red with a freshly baked, hearty lasagne for dinner?

My recipe to pair with Terra del Capo’s Sangiovese is a beef & Gruyère lasagne, made with 100% pure beef mince, fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme & sage, beef stock, red wine (Sangiovese, of course), and smoked paprika for added smokiness and to elevate the slow cooked beef flavours. Instead of parmesan cheese, which is delicious but can be very expensive, I’ve chosen a local vintage Gruyère-style cheese – strong and nutty. It just goes a little further than the parmesan, and is a much better choice than a young cheddar or mozzarella. If you want to use cheddar, a 9-12 month mature will also work wonders.

My lasagne was made with freshly rolled pasta sheets – only because I recently got the attachment for my Kenwood mixer – what a pleasure! If you don’t have a pasta machine at home, store-bought dried lasagne sheets work just as well and they don’t need pre-cooking because my bolognese sauce is quite saucy.

My lasagne has four layers, so when you’re assembling keep in mind how much meat sauce and bechamel you’re using to have enough left for a last top layer of meat and a thick layer of bechamel. It makes all the difference.

This is a family-size lasagne and the recipe can easily be halved to serve only 4. However, if you’re going to take the effort to make something as delicious as this, you might as well make enough to last for seconds and thirds over the next few days. It lasts very well in the fridge (for a few days) and can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

 

Ingredients: (serves 8)

For the beef bolognese sauce:

  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 1 kg lean beef mince
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • a handful fresh herbs, finely chopped (rosemary, thyme, sage)
  • 250 ml red wine (Terra del Capo Sangiovese)
  • 375 ml beef stock (or 1 stock cube dissolved in 375 ml boiling water)
  • 800 g canned Italian whole tomatoes, pureed
  • 15 ml smoked paprika
  • 10 ml sugar
  • 10 ml salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a large heavy based pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions, carrot & celery. Stir, then cover with a lid and leave to steam while frying (you don’t want to brown these yet, you just want it to soften.) Fry, stirring often, for about 7-8 minutes until they are soft.
  2. Add the mince and turn the heat up to high. Stir, breaking up all the lumps as you go. The meat will at a stage release quite a lot of liquid, just keep on cooking until it evaporates and starts to fry in it’s own fat. You want the bottom to start catching and turn brown – it takes about 15 minutes.
  3. When the bottom starts to turn brown, add the garlic and herbs and fry for another minute. Then add the red wine and remove the pot from the heat for a minute to stir and loosen any sticky brown bits from the bottom. If you don’t do this, the pot might burn easily later on.
  4. Return the pot to high heat, add the stock, pureed tomatoes, sugar, salt & pepper. Stir and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so to prevent the bottom from burning. When done, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Note: The bolognese can be made a day in advance, cooled and refrigerated until ready to use. Reheat in the microwave for easier assembly.
  5. Remove from the heat and leave to cool until ready to assembly.

For the bechamel (white sauce):

  • 80 g (1/3 cup) butter
  • 1/3 cup cake flour
  • 1 liter milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) Dijon mustard
  • 5 ml salt (plus more, if necessary)
  • ground black pepper to taste
  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and add the flour, stirring. Cook for at least 2 minutes taking care not to brown the butter.
  2. Add the milk all at once, stirring vigorously with a wire whisk at first. Continue stirring every now and then as it heats up, taking care to scrape the bottom as the sauce starts to thicken. Just as the sauce starts to bubble and it gets thick like custard, stir very well and remove from the heat.
  3. Add the nutmeg, mustard, salt & pepper and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning – the bechamel should not be bland, it should be able to “stand on its own”. Cover with a lid until ready to assemble.

For assembly:

  • 1 batch bechamel sauce (see above)
  • about 500 g fresh lasagne sheets or 400 g dried lasagne sheets
  • 1 batch bolognese sauce (see above)
  • 200 g mature Gruyère-style cheese, coarsely grated (about 3 cups)
  1. Preheat oven to 180 C.
  2. Whisk the bechamel to remove any skins that has formed on top. (Heat the bolognese sauce in the microwave, if using from refrigerated.)
  3. In a large deep oven dish or roasting tray (about 30 x 22 x 7 cm) , add a ladle full of bechamel on the bottom of the dish and spread it all over to prevent the pasta from sticking. Continue with your first layer of lasagne sheets, covering the whole surface (break/cut off pieces if they’re too big). Continue with your first layer of meat sauce, spreading it out into the corners. Then your first proper layer of bechamel – not too much, just drizzle a ladle-full all over and continue.
  4. Now do the second layer of bechamel, pasta, meat sauce & bechamel. Sprinkle half the cheese over.
  5. Assemble the third and the fourth layers. End with a thick layer of bechamel and top with the other half of the cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, then turn up the heat to 220 C and continue for another 10-15 minutes until it is golden brown and bubbly on top.
  6. Remove from oven and leave to stand at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving – the lasagne will be very runny at first but will stabilize on standing. Serve hot with a green side salad and Terra del Capo’s Sangiovese.

This post was proudly created in collaboration with Terra del Capo.

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Butterflied leg of lamb with chimichurri, feta & rosmarino

7 Jul

Folds of thin roasted lamb on a bed of rosmarino, chimichurri, feta and baby spinach. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

These are some of the flavours and textures that I love most: silky rosmarino (orzo) pasta cooked to al dente perfection and coated lightly in the finest olive oil, creamy salt feta, punchy zesty chimichurri and delicately roasted boneless leg of lamb, thinly sliced into beautiful folds. Top with a handful of fresh baby spinach leaves and you can serve this warm (winter) or room temperature (summer) – it’s fabulous during any season of year.

This is the last recipe in a collaboration series of “lighter winter recipes with lamb” with SA Lamb & Mutton – what a great opportunity to take yet another fresh look at one of South Africa’s favourite meats. I look forward to many more collaborations. See the other recipes here:

For the roasted leg of lamb: (serves 4-6)

  • 1,5-2 kg leg of lamb, bone out (ask your butcher to cut it out, or use a small sharp knife to remove it)
  • 45 ml olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 200 C.  Place the meat in a large roasting tray. Drizzle all over with olive oil and lemon juice, then season generously with salt & pepper. Roast for 40 minutes without covering, then turn the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar for the meat to rest for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven – the inside of the lamb should still be slightly pink, but not bloody. Transfer to a large cutting board and use a large sharp knife to carve into thin slices. Return the slices to the roasting pan to rest in the juices if not serving immediately. Note: If you prefer your meat more cooked, leave it in the oven for a little longer.

For the chimichurri:

  • 1 punnet (20 g) fresh coriander
  • 1 punnet (20 g) fresh parsley
  • 1 red chilli, stalk removed
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 45 ml red wine vinegar
  • salt to taste

While the meat is roasting, make the chimichurri. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to create a paste that is loose enough to drizzle over the meat. Add more olive oil if ncessary, and adjust salt levels to your taste. Cover until ready to use. Remember, this should be very punchy, as it will be the “seasoning/sauce” for the meat and the pasta. (Note: If made ahead, it should be refrigerated until ready to use. Use at room temperature.)

For assembly:

  • 500 g rosmarino/orzo (flat, rice shaped pasta)
  • 30-45 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • a generous handful baby spinach leaves
  • about 200 g feta, roughly crumbled
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh lemon wedges, to serve

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil, then cook the rosmarino for about 7 minutes until al dente. Drain and transfer back to the pot, drizzling with olive oil. Add 3 tablespoons of chimichurri and stir through. Add the baby spinach and give it a light stir. Transfer to a large serving plate. Top with the slices of lamb, crumbled feta and drizzle with more chimichurri. Top with ground black pepper and add a few fresh lemon wedges on the side. Serve warm or at room temperature. (If making ahead, only add the baby spinach when the pasta has cooled.)

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Lamb meatballs in smoky tomato sauce

28 Jun

Baked lamb meatballs in a smoky tomato sauce with parmesan shavings and freshly cooked tagliatelle. Photography & co-styling by Tasha Seccombe.

 

After the winter solstice has come and gone a few days ago, we can safely say that we’re smack bam in the middle of the coldest season in the Cape. Most of us are looking for something hearty to cook for dinner, so why not try these incredibly flavourful lamb meatballs in tomato sauce. They are easy to cook and perfect for any day of the week, served with your choice of pasta.

If you don’t see any lamb or mutton mince on the shelf at your local butchery, just ask for it. Most butchers are more than happy to grind a chunk of boneless leg (or perhaps a boneless shoulder) into beautifully pink lamb/mutton mince. Leg mince is relatively low in fat compared to chops and makes excellent, juicy meatballs. I don’t add any breadcrumbs to my meatballs because I love the flavour and texture of the meat as it is, but if you want to stretch it a little and have an even softer texture result, add a cup or two of soft white breadcrumbs (process 2-3 slices in a food processor).

Thank you SA Lamb & Mutton for another opportunity to collaborate! Check out more wintery lamb dishes that’s on the lighter side of winter entertaining: Pulled lamb pitas with tomato salad & tzatziki, tabbouleh bowl with shredded lamb, lamb steak salad with figs & courgettes, lamb ramen with star anise, ginger & chilli, Italian-style white bean soup with lamb knuckle.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

For the tomato sauce:

  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely grated or chopped
  • 2 cans whole Italian tomatoes, pureed
  • 10 ml sugar
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 10 ml smoked paprika

For the meatballs:

  • 700-800 g lamb mince
  • 1 red or white onion, coarsely grated
  • 5 ml dried oregano
  • 10 ml smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 ml Dijon mustard
  • 15 ml olive oil, for greasing

To serve:

  • 500 g dried pasta, cooked al dente (tagliatelle/spaghetti etc.)
  • shaved or grated parmesan cheese (or grana padano or pecorino)

Method:

  1. Make the sauce: heat the oil in a medium saucepan, then fry the garlic over medium heat for just a minute. Add the pureed canned tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper and paprika. Stir and bring so a simmer. Turn heat down to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes while you make the meatballs.
  2. Preheat oven to 200 C.
  3. Make the meatballs: in a mixing bowl, add the mince, onion, oregano, paprika, salt, pepper and Dijon. Use a fork to mix it well (or use clean hands). Shape into balls about the size of golf balls. Pour a little oil into a large (30 cm round) oven proof dish and use your hands or a brush to cover the base with oil all over. Arrange the rolled meatballs in the dish, then pour the sauce all over the meatballs. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minute or until brown on top and fully cooked.
  4. Serve with freshly cooked pasta and shaved parmesan.
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Lamb ramen with star anise, ginger and chilli

14 May

Slivers of lamb on a bed of noodles in a fragrant lamb broth. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Ramen has made a huge splash over the past few years in the Western world, although it’s been a staple for in the East for ages. The stuff that we know as “two-minute noodles” turned out to be much more posh that we could have ever imagined! Served right, it’s light yet incredibly flavourful and packed with umami because of a magnificent meat broth, layered with deep flavours and exotic spices.

The good news is that it can be made with major shortcuts, and it’s also the perfect way to enjoy leftovers from your Sunday roast. These days you’ll find excellent lamb & mutton fonds (and some pretty decent stock cubes) in most supermarkets, which means you don’t have to start from scratch with a homemade stock. Add a few key aromatics like star anise, ginger, garlic, chilli, shiitake mushrooms and soy sauce, and you’re pretty much already there. Top with fresh bean sprouts, chopped spring onions and a few slices of roast lamb (or pan fried lamb steaks) and you’re ready to rock your ramen.

I made the ramen in the photo with homemade lamb stock (using roasted lamb bones, onion, carrots, celery, black peppercorns, bay leaf, and water). Whether homemade or store bought – use whatever you prefer and have time for.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 1,25 liters good quality lamb stock/broth
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, whole
  • 1 knob ginger, peeled
  • 1 star anise
  • 30 ml soy sauce
  • 1 chilli, halved and seeds removed (plus more for serving, optionally)
  • 3-4 large shiitake mushrooms (or other exotic mushrooms, like shimeji), sliced
  • 4 x 70g packets ramen noodles (noodles only, not spice sachets)
  • about 2 cups leftover roasted lamb, shredded, warmed (or about 300 g lamb steak, pan-fried and finely sliced)
  • one bunch spring onions, sliced, white part only
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • a handful fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped, to serve

Method:

  1. Place the stock/broth in a medium size pot with the garlic, ginger, star anise, soy sauce, halved chilli and sliced mushrooms. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, covered. Remove from the heat and let it stand while you prepare the noodles.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles until just tender. Drain and transfer to 4 bowls.
  3. Strain the broth through a sieve, then top each bowl of noodles with warmed lamb, hot broth, spring onions, sprouts, more chilli (optional), and fresh coriander. Serve at once.

This recipe was created in collaboration with Lamb & Mutton South Africa. #CookingWithLamb #LambAndMuttonSA #WholesomeAndNutritious #CleanEating #TheWayNatureIntended

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How to make great pizza: from scratch, at home, without a pizza oven

17 Apr

After many requests, here it is! My essential guide to making exceptionally tasty pizza at home, from scratch, without a pizza oven.

We’ve been making pizza at home for many years, at least once a week. Pizza is obviously a popular item all over the world because it’s tasty, but making it at home is also a great way to spend time together and get people excited about midweek dinner. You won’t be able to serve 6 pizzas at once, but it will be a sharing-kinda-evening with everyone choosing their favourite toppings. My 7 year old daughter has always loved pizza, but now that she’s gotten used to my homemade version over the past few years, she’s turning her nose up at restaurant pizza (which is becoming a problem when we do eat out!).

So let’s talk pizza: this is almost a New York-style pizza with a thin crust (but not the thick outer rim), freshly made with Italian whole peeled tomatoes, grated mozzarella cheese (not fior di latte), salami and fresh basil leaves – you can leave the salami and add whatever you want. New York-style pizzas have a signature way of cooking where the tomato sauce and grated cheese integrate in the oven to form an almost “orange” top with a slight release of oil from the cheese, resulting in a look very different from the Italian (Neopolitan) classic made essentially with white blotches of fior di latte (fresh mozzarella) and a wood fired oven which results in spotty, blackened crusts.

Of course I also enjoy a proper wood fired Italian pizza made with fior di latte, but I’ve found that this semi-New York-style satisfies a much wider audience in my house.  There’s no pizza oven at my place, so I’ve learnt how to use my regular oven (a Bertazzoni La Germania Americana) with a few tips and tricks to reach incredible temperatures, straight onto a pizza stone (using a regular sheet of baking paper) without extra flour or a baking shovel. The results are just this: you’ll want more.

Here are my top 10 tips for making great pizza at your home. Once you try it, you might never order in again.

  1. Make a pizza base sauce from scratch: This is probably the biggest contributor to the flavour of your pizza. Most store-bought sauces just don’t hit the spot. If you think you can use tomato puree straight out of a can as a base sauce, you are horribly mistaken! Please don’t do it. My recipe includes no tomato puree (I find it too concentrated), but rather canned whole Italian tomatoes, pureed. Use a little more olive oil (than you think is adquate) to fry your garlic in, this way the garlic won’t burn easily. I add salt, pepper, sugar and dried origanum. My secret ingredient, smoked paprika, is optional, but adds phenomenal smokiness. Simmer and reduce the sauce for about 25-30 min over low heat, with a lid partially on so it doesn’t splatter all over your stove top. You’re looking for a hearty, bright red tomato puree that is slightly chunky.
  2. Use a good quality flour for your dough: For me there’s only one option, and that is stone ground white bread flour. Not only is it a more natural choice, but the texture result is far superior to processed and bleached commercial cake flour (there are scientific reasons for that, like the strength of the gluten etc. – I won’t go into it here). I’ve recently converted from making dough in my stand mixer to making dough in my food processor, after reading about it on Serious Eat’s Pizza Lab (a great read, by the way). It’s so much faster to make, and results in a really smooth dough that rises a little faster too.
  3. Be choosy about cheese: Not all mozzarellas are equal. Choose a good quality mozzarella and grate it coarsely, by yourself (ready-grated mozzarella are usually coated with a floury substance that prevents it from sticking together, and when that melts the result is just not the same). And don’t be tempted to use too much – it makes the pizza heavy and the base will be soggy.  If you are using fior di latte, tear it into chunks and arrange it with some space inbetween, as it will melt and “pool” to the sides. For this option, you won’t want to cover the full base, you’d still want some red spots inbetween.
  4. With toppings, less is more: This is a rookie mistake I see over and over again. A Margherita with salami, bacon, mushrooms, onion, red pepper, feta, artichokes and extra garlic WILL be a soggy mess. Choose 2 of your favourite toppings, if you must, and add it sparingly. That way, you’ll enjoy a much better end result with proper crunch. Lastly, remember to put the toppings on top of the cheese, not under (otherwise nothing gets cooked, it only gets horribly mushy).
  5. Properly preheat your oven: That means at least 30 minutes to an hour. You’ll be surprised how much it changes your game. Pizzas need exceptionally high temperatures to bake from scratch and cook through all the lovely layers. A moderate hot oven just won’t win the game.
  6. Choose the right oven setting and rack position: In my Bertazzoni La Germania Americana, I’ve found that the convection oven gets hotter quickly, but it doesn’t give enough directional heat from below – which is what you specifically want for a crispy base. The regular baking setting, using the top and bottom elements at the same time without convection, works fantastic for me. To make the most of the bottom heat, the pizza should definitely be baked on the lowest rack.
  7. Choosing between a pizza stone or a baking tray: I’ve had great results with both options, but the pizza stone still wins. I recently bought a nice cheap-ish one from Agrimark for only R220,00 (it even includes a pizza slicer!). The cool thing about the stone is that it absorbs and radiates heat, which means that it contributes to raising the heat even more with proper preheating. Remember to place it in the oven BEFORE you turn it on, otherwise it might crack (and only remove it after the stove has cooled properly). Another option is to buy untreated terracotta tiles from a tiling company – I’ve used it many times with phenomenal results. This way you can also pack them tightly together to create a larger baking area on your bottom tray for baking more than one pizza at a time – great for entertaining larger crowds. Last note about using baking trays: assemble the pizza on the BACK of the tray, that way it will slide off easier without having to go over a lip (see next point about using baking paper for sliding). These days you can also find lipless baking trays that work perfectly.
  8. You don’t need a shovel: Cooking the pizza directly on the hot pizza stone is what you’re aiming for. If you had a proper pizza oven, you’d use a shovel to get it in and out – it looks great, but it’s quite a technique to master, using just the right amount of flour/semolina underneath the fully assembled pizza to slide it onto and off again – believe me, it can be a disaster. In your kitchen, you probably won’t have the space for it anyway. So make your life easier by just using sheets of regular, non-stick baking paper (NOT wax paper). Transfer the rolled dough onto it, then assemble from there. This way, you’re left with an easily sliding device: sliding it onto a tray, onto the stone, off the stone, onto a board – you’ll easily get the hang of it. You can tug on the edges because it never really becomes too hot to touch (just be careful not to touch the actual stone or the oven). The paper will turn a little brown, but it won’t catch fire (unless you forget it in the oven…).
  9. Serve it on wood: Slice and serve the pizza immediately after cooking, on a flat wooden board. Hot pizza on regular ceramic plates turn sweaty quite quickly – not nice. Top with fresh herbs for extra flavour and texture.
  10. Condiments, anyone?: Many people love a little extra salt and freshly ground pepper on a pizza, but if your base and sauce is properly seasoned it shouldn’t even be necessary. I do like the crunch of a few salt flakes on top, so I always add that. Hot sauces like Tobasco or Sriracha are also crowd pleasers, so make a little condiment station in the middle of the table if you want to – totally optional.

Pizza base sauce recipe: (serves 6-8 – recipe can also be halved)

  • 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2 x regular cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes, pureed
  • 10 ml sugar
  • salt & pepper
  • 5 ml dried origanum
  • 2,5 ml smoked paprika

Heat the oil over medium heat, then fry the garlic until fragrant but not brown. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, origanum and paprika, stir and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 25-30 minutes until almost reduced by half (keep partially covered to prevent splattering).

Pizza dough recipe: (makes 8 medium or 6 large – recipe can also be halved)

  • 600 g (4 cups) stone ground white bread flour
  • 10 g (15 ml) instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) sugar
  • 1,5 teaspoons (7,5 ml) salt
  • 1,5 cups (375 ml) luke warm water
  • 15 ml extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for oiling hands and bowl)

Place the flour, yeast, sugar, salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the water and olive oil and mix for 15-20 seconds or until it forms a ball. With oiled hands, remove the dough and place it in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let if proof in a warm place for about 30 minutes until doubled in size.

To make your pizza:

  • flour, for rolling out dough
  • about 125 g mozzarella per medium pizza, roughly grated (about 1 kg for 8 medium pizzas)
  • toppings of your choice (optional, like sliced salami, ham, mushrooms, crumbled feta, wilted spinach, etc.)
  • fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • condiments like hot sauces (optional)
  • salt flakes & freshly ground pepper (for serving)

When you place your dough in the bowl for proofing, then is a good time to start pre-heating your oven, with shelf on bottom position (if using a pizza stone, place it on the bottom shelf before turning the oven on). When the oven is hot (more than 240 C) and the dough has doubled in size, divide the dough into 8 portions (for medium pizza). On a floured surface, roll out the dough into thin circles (about 27-28 cm for medium), then transfer to a square sheet of non-stick baking paper on the back of a baking tray or on a lipless baking tray. Use the back of a spoon to cover all over with the cooked tomato pizza base sauce (see above), then top with mozzarella and your choice of topping, used sparingly. Carefully slide directly onto the hot pizza stone (or if you don’t have a stone, just place the baking tray in the oven). Bake for 4-7 minutes until golden brown on the edges and bubbly on top. Remove by carefully tugging on the baking paper and sliding the pizza onto a tray again. Transfer to a wooden serving board and remove the baking paper. Slice, top with fresh basil and serve at once.

Find more info about my Bertazzoni La Germania Americana stove on www.chefspride.co.za.

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Lamb & tomato ragu with gnocchi

5 Apr

Lamb & tomato ragu with gnocchi, basil and parmesan (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

 

This is hands-down one of the most comforting dishes I’ve ever eaten. It is made with boneless lamb that’s been cubed into 1 x 1 cm blocks – don’t stress about the labour, it goes quickly and it’s actually quite therapeutic (read: pour yourself a glass of wine while you do it). You can use chops, leg or even stewing meat, just remove the bones and chop-chop-chop. The result is a chunkier ragu than those made with ground meat, very tender with an incredible mouth-feel and packed with simple, robust flavours. Just the way the Italians intended.

I love serving this ragu with gnocchi, but it also works well with pasta – homemade is best. Fresh basil and grated parmigiano is compulsory. Bellissima!

Ingredients: (serves 6)

45 ml olive oil
1 large onion, peeled & finely chopped
1-2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled & finely chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, woody stems removed & finely chopped
1 kg boneless lamb/mutton, cubed into 1 x 1 cm pieces
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
2 cans whole Italian tomatoes, roughly chopped, with juice
salt & pepper
5 ml sugar
about 750g-1 kg fresh gnocchi, cooked, to serve (or 500 g dried pasta, cooked)
a handful fresh basil leaves, to serve
grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Method:

  1. In a heavy based large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and fry the onion, celery, carrot and rosemary until soft and fragrant.
  2. Add the cubed meat and turn up the heat. Fry until it starts to catch (get brown and sticky) on the bottom stirring often – this is important, so be patient. It takes about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add the wine and stir to deglaze. Add the chopped tomatoes with juice, season with salt & pepper, add the sugar and stir. Bring so a simmer, then turn the heat down low, cover and cook for 2-3 hours until very soft. Stir every now and then.
  4. Serve with cooked gnocchi or pasta, with fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese.

Note: Store-bought gnocchi don’t pan-fry well and should rather be boiled briefly in salted water until they pop to the surface. Freshly made gnocchi can be directly pan-fried in butter until golden, it only take a few minutes over medium heat and it is most definitely my preference.

This is the second recipe in a series of four Mediterranean-inspired Autumn/Winter dishes for Lamb & Mutton SA. Also check out my recipe for Greek-style 8-hour leg of lamb with origanum & preserved lemon.

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Mothers Day Lunch with Poetry Stores

12 May

A delectable home cooked feast from Barbara Joubert’s book KOSTALGIE, available from Poetry Stores. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

There’s nothing that says “I love you” like a thoughtful, scrumptious and beautiful home-cooked meal. The recipes in Barbara Joubert’s (Afrikaans) book Kostalgie are the perfect choices for a Mothers Day lunch at home, with flavours and influences from her travels all around the world.

I have never made caramelized figs before, and they truly are just magnificent to look at. Almost too beautiful to eat! With the creamy custard tart, they are the stuff dreams are made of.

I love slow roasted pork – it seems to always get raving reviews in my house. I opted for serving the pork with buttery beans instead of potatoes, because of my choice of pasta and tomatoes as a side dish (a stunning meal on its own too).

Have a happy Mothers Day everyone!

Barbara’s book, the homeware and beautiful black floral scarf are all available online and in store from Poetry Stores.

Tagliatelle with burst tomatoes, blue cheese and rocket. Photography by Tasha Seccombe

Homemade tagliatelle with burst tomatoes and blue cheese (serves 6)

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

For the tagliatelle:
300 g (535 ml) cake flour
3 eggs
20 ml olive oil
10 ml water

For the burst tomatoes:
125 ml olive oil
3 garlic cloves
550 g small red and yellow rosa tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper
a handful fresh basil leaves
100 g blue cheese
40 g rocket

For the tagliatelle:
Place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer with dough hook. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the eggs. Switch the machine on at low speed. Add the olive oil and water. Increase the speed until a soft dough forms. If the dough is too stiff, you can add a little water. Knead for 10 minutes with the machine, then take the dough out and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for 1 hour at room temperature. If you have a pasta machine, sprinkle a little flour on your working surface and on the rollers of the machine. Cut the dough into smaller pieces. Set your machine on number 7 and feed the dough through. Set it one setting lower, feeding the dough through until you get to number 1 (the thinnest setting). Hang the pasta sheets over the back of chairs for about 20 minutes to dry out a little. Attach the tagliatelle attachment to the machine, then feed the sheets through the cutter. Place the bundles of cut tagliatelle onto a baking tray sprinkled with flour. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a little olive oil, then add the pasta and cook for 3-5 minutes. Drain and top with the roasted saucy tomatoes.

For the burst tomatoes:
Heat olive oil in a large deep pan. Add the garlic whole and fry for about 2 minutes to flavour the oil. Add the tomatoes and fry until they burst. Season with salt & pepper. Tear basil leaves in pieces and mix with the sauce. Cut slices of blue cheese and arrange on top of the pasta. Sprinkle with rocket and serve.

My notes: A good quality store bought tagliatelle will also work well, if you don’t have a pasta machine.

Overnight leg of pork, so soft that you can pull it with a fork. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Overnight leg of pork (serves 6)

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

100 ml olive oil
2 kg leg of pork (I used boneless)
juice of a lemon
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 bay leaves
250 ml white wine
8 baby leeks
1 x 439 g can chestnuts

Preheat oven to 200 C. Place half the olive oil in a roasting tray. Place the pork in the bowl and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Rub the garlic all over. Season with salt & pepper, then add the rest of the olive oil. Place in oven with skin side down. Remove after 30 minutes, then turn the leg over with skin side up. Cover with foil. Lower heat to 140 C, then roast for 6 hours.
Remove the netting around the meat, then add the bay leaves, wine, leeks and chestnuts. Roast uncovered for an hour at 180 C. Remember the skin won’t be crispy. The meat will be soft enough to pull apart with forks.

My notes: The original recipe calls for leeks, which were unfortunately out of stock everywhere at the time of the shoot, so I substituted these with slices of red onion. I also couldn’t find chestnuts, but I’m sure these will be stocked at a good exotic speciality store.

Custard tart with caramelized figs. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Custard tart with caramelized figs (serves 8-10)

(Recipe from Barbara Joubert’s Kostalgie)

For the dough:
200 g (360 ml) cake flour
50 g (60 ml) caster sugar
100 g (110 ml) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
45-60 ml cold water

Place the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor. Mix until the butter is well incorporated. Add the yolk and mix. With the motor running, add the water spoon by spoon, until it just comes together. Remove from mixer and cover with plastic wrap. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200 C. Roll out dough on a floured surface. Line a greased 18 cm tart tin with the dough, then prick with a fork all over. Line with baking paper on top and fill with dried beans. Bake blink for 10 minutes at 200 C. Remove paper and beans and bake for another 5 minutes until the base is cooked.

For the filling:
10 egg yolks
20 g (40 ml) cornflour
125 g (150 g) caster sugar
2 ml vanilla powder
200 ml milk
500 ml cream

Whisk the yolks, cornflour, sugar and vanilla together with an electric mixer in a mixing bowl. Heat the milk and cream together in a pot, but don’t let it boil. Add the cream mixture to the egg mixture and mix well. Pour back into the pot, then continue stirring over medium heat until the custard thickens. (You don’t want to make scrambled eggs!) Pour the custard into another bowl and place a piece of wax paper on top to prevent a skin from forming. Let it cool to room temperature. Pour filling in baked tart base and bake for 20 minutes at 180 C. Let it cool overnight, preferable in the fridge.

For the caramelized figs:
500 g (625 ml) sugar
100 ml water
about 25 small figs

Put the sugar and water in a large pot with a lid and place over medium heat until the sugar has melted. Now remove the lid and let it boil until it reaches a light caramel colour. The caramel will continue to darken, so remove from the heat immediately. Carefully dip the figs into the hot caramel and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper to cool. Place on top of the cooled tart when ready to serve.

My notes: The recipe doesn’t mention what size eggs to use, but I found that XL is adequate. I found that I needed to increase the baking time for the base and for the assembled tart to achieve a golden brown result. I couldn’t find small figs, so 9 large ones were enough as a substitute. Don’t caramelize the figs long before you’ll be serving the tart, as the caramel will eventually start to melt as the figs release steam and water, and you’ll be left with syrupy half-coated figs. (Remember, the caramel will harden on standing in the pot, so when you’re done dipping the figs, carefully add some boiling water to the caramel and leave to soften before cleaning.)

This post was created in collaboration with Poetry Stores.

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Caprese salad, triple cheese beef lasagne & tiramisu jars with Galbani Cheese

3 May

Caprese salad, triple cheese beef lasagne and individual tiramisu jars – my ultimate Italian-style feast! Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

When it comes to laid-back, festive, scrumptious food that’s packed with flavour, the Italians just know how. I’ve taken a few tips from their most popular traditional cheese-themed recipes to come up with my favourite three-course Italian-inspired feast: an over-the-top caprese salad, triple cheese beef lasagne (made with mozzarella, cheddar and mascarpone) and individual tiramisu cups with chocolate flakes and fresh raspberries. You can assemble the lasagne and tiramisu ahead so that you have more time to spend with your guests – the most important thing when hosting friends and family!

All my recipes serve 8, because they deserve a crowd. If you’re keen on a smaller gathering, just halve the ingredients to serve 4.

And don’t miss my video below – it shows how to make this killer lasagne.

Buon appetito!

My ultimate caprese salad with soft mozzarella, an array of tomatoes, fresh basil, pesto, toasted pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, salt flakes and ground black pepper. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Ultimate caprese salad (serves 8)

  • 3 very big ripe tomatoes, thickly sliced
  • about 400 g smaller tomatoes on the vine
  • a handful baby tomatoes, halved
  • 3 x 125 g Galbani soft white mozzarella, sliced into rounds
  • a handful fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • 3-4 tablespoons basil pesto
  • extra virgin olive oil, for serving
  • balsamic vinegar, for serving (optional)
  • salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Arrange the tomatoes on a large platter, interleaved with slices of mozzarella. Scatter with basil leaves and pine nuts, then drizzle with pesto (add a little olive oil to the pesto if it is very thick). Serve with olive oil and balsamic on the side, seasoned with salt & pepper. Serve immediately.

Note: The tomatoes will wilt on standing, so this salad is best served straight after assembling.

Triple cheese beef lasagne (made with mascarpone, cheddar and mozzarella). Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Triple cheese beef lasagne (serves 8)

For the beef Bolognese sauce:

  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 1 onion, skinned & finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled & finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 kg lean beef mince
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, stalks removed & finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried origanum)
  • 375 ml (half a bottle) dry red wine
  • 1 beef stock cube dissolved in 250 ml boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cans whole Italian tomatoes, blended to a pulp
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

For the white sauce (béchamel):

  • 80 g (80 ml / 1/3 cup) President Butter
  • 80 ml (1/3/ cup) plain/cake flour
  • 1 liter full cream milk
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • a generous tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 250 g Galbani Mascarpone
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

For assembling:

  • 1 batch Bolognese sauce
  • 1 batch white sauce
  • 500 g fresh/dried pasta sheets
  • 200 g President Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • 300 g Galbani Creamy Mozzarella (semi-hard), grated

For the Bolognese sauce: Heat the olive oil in a wide, large pot with a heavy base. Fry the onion, carrot and celery over medium-high heat until soft and lightly brown. Add the garlic and stir. Add the mince and stir, breaking up any lumps and scraping the bottom to loosen any sticky bits. Add the rosemary and thyme. Continue to fry on high heat to brown the meat slightly, then add the red wine, stock, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and stir well. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for 2 hours, stirring every now and then.

For the white sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat, then add the flour and cook for a minute, stirring. Add the milk and stir with a whisk until the mixture becomes smooth and thickens slightly. Add the nutmeg, mustard and mascarpone and season well with salt & pepper. Set aside.

To assemble: Preheat oven to 180 C. In a large rectangular roasting tray or oven dish, start with a thin layer of white sauce, then a layer of pasta sheets (they will swell so don’t fit them too snugly), a layer of meat sauce, more white sauce, a layer of cheddar, etc. Continue and repeat, ending with a layer of white sauce and the grated mozzarella on top. Bake for 45 minutes until golden on top, then let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: I sometimes chop my onion, carrot and celery together in a food processor to save time. The cooked lasagne will continue to stabilize on standing, becoming firmer and easier to serve. The assembled lasagne (cooked or uncooked) freezes well – thaw completely before returning to the oven.

Individual jars of tiramisu, made with mascarpone, brandy and some chocolate flakes. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Individual tiramisu cups: (serves 8)

  • 5 XL eggs, separated
  • 1 1/4 cups caster sugar
  • 2 x 250 g Galbani Mascarpone
  • 1 Italian-style sponge finger biscuits (Boudoir/ladyfinger)
  • 375 ml strong coffee, warm
  • 75 ml brandy
  • cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 2-3 chocolate flake bars, for serving
  • fresh raspberries, for serving

Place the egg yolks and caster sugar in a large bowl. Use and electric whisk to mix until it is very thick and creamy. Add the mascarpone and whisk until smooth.
Clean and dry this whisk, then whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff. Add half the egg whites to the mascarpone mixture and fold in with a large spoon, continuing with the second half and folding until you have a smooth, creamy, mousse-like mixture. Set aside.
Working quickly, cut the finger biscuits into thirds, and divide the pieces into 8 groups of 9 pieces each (for 8 cups of 250 ml capacity each). Place the coffee and brandy in a shallow flat bowl, then dip 4 cookie pieces at a time into the coffee mixture, and place them into the bottom of each dessert glass/jar. Top with a dollop of the mascarpone mix, then a sifting of cocoa powder. Top with a second round of 5 dipped biscuit pieces, then place the remaining half of the mascarpone mix into a piping bag and pipe dollops of the mixture at the top of each glass to cover the biscuits. Dust some cocoa powder over the top, then cover with plastic or lids (not touching the mixture) and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
To serve, add some chocolate flakes and berries on top and serve straight from the fridge.

Note: The biscuits need time to soften in the fridge. If you serve them too soon, the cookies will still be tough. The tiramisu cups keep very well in the fridge for up to 3 days and the flavour improves with time.

(This post was created in collaboration with Galbani Cheese.)

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A Simple Italian Feast with Poetry Stores

1 May

A collection of Roman-style recipes from Eleonora Galasso’s new book As The Romans Do, available from Poetry Stores. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Rain or shine, summer or winter – Italian cooking wins my vote every single time. There’s just something generously simple about the food culture of Italy: not too many ingredients, comforting and robust, fragrant and delicious.

I recently had a look through Eleonora Galasso’s new book As The Romans Do: La Dolce Vita in a Cookbook – Classic and Reinvented Recipes from Rome, available from Poetry Stores. The book is positively vibrant, filled with familiar Italian favourites like saltimbocca, panzanella, semifreddo, various pastas and porchetta. She puts a playful twist on many of the recipes, accompanied with excellent photographs of the dishes as well as her beautiful surrounds in Rome. She’s an international Instagram sensation, so her pictures are stunning.

Here are three of Eleonora’s recipes – easy and accessible enough to make all year round. In the photographs you’ll see some of Poetry’s new black and gold tableware that made these vibrant dishes look even more delicious. Everything is available online and in store from Poetry – look out for the noir and petra ranges.

Pizette Rosse. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Mini pizzas with tomato sauce (pizzette rosse): makes about 40 pizette

Recipe from As The Romans Do by Eeleonora Galasso.

  • 250 g passata (sieved tomatoes)
  • small handful of basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 100  mozzarella, cut into cubes

For the dough:

  • 500 g strong flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 250 ml lukewarm water
  • 30 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

To prepare the dough, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl with the sugar. Dissolve the yeast into 250 ml lukewarm water, add it to the flour and sugar and mix together for 5 minutes. Add the butter, oil and salt and mix for a further 2-3 minutes to form a soft, sticky dough. Add up to 50 ml more water as needed, the goth should feel neither sticky not dry. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 200 C. Mix the passata, basil, oil and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

To make the pizzette, roll out the risen dough on a clean, floured surface, to a 1 cm thickness. Press down on the surface of the dough with a small cup of glass of your choice to form your pizzette circles. Spoon a little of the passata over the centre of each pizetta, being sure to leave the edges empty so that you have that typical white/red contrast of a good margherita.

Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes, adding a few mozzarella cubes to the top of each pizzetta halfway through cooking, until the cheese is bubbling and the pizzetta bases are crisp. Enjoy.

My notes: I prefer the pizzette a little thinner, so I roll out the dough to a thickness of 5 mm.

Panzanella. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Bread salad (panzanella): serves 4

Recipe from As The Romans Do by Eeleonora Galasso.

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 200 g rustic bread loaf, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 4 firm tomatoes
  • 2 large red onions, peeled
  • 1 celery stick, trimmed and cut into 2 cm cubes
  • 15 pitted black olives, finely chopped
  • 40 g rocket leaves, finely chopped
  • small handful of basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 20 ml white or red wine vinegar
  • 100 g pecorino romano cheese, cut into 2 cm cubes
  • salt & pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the bread pieces and fry, turning occasionally, for 5 minutes until crisp and golden all over. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the tomatoes in a bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Leave for 1-2 minutes, then drain, cut a cross at the stem end of each tomato and peel off the skins. Cut the tomatoes roughly into 5 mm cubes, discarding the seeds.

Slice the onions and place them in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes. Drain and dry on a clean tea towel. In a salad bowl, mix together the sliced onions, chopped cucumber, celery, tomatoes and olives, then add the chopped rocket an basil leaves, pour over the vinegar and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt & pepper. Finish the panzanella by adding the toasted bread pieces and giving everything a final gentle mix to ensure the bread is covered in all the juices. This salad is delicious served immediately, or you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, letting it absorb the mix of aromatic flavours. Scatter over the pecorino before serving.

My notes: Peeling and deseeding the tomatoes are not always necessary – I love serving them unpeeled and with seeds. I also love serving the herbs and olives whole and not chopped.

Braised sausages with lentils, leeks & fennel. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Braised sausages with lentils, leeks & fennel: serves 4

Recipe from As The Romans Do by Eeleonora Galasso.

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, trimmed, leanend and finely sliced lengthways
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into rough strips
  • 400 pork sausages
  • 250 Castelluccio or Puy lentils
  • 350 ml vegetable stock
  • 10 g fennel seeds
  • small handful of chives, chopped
  • salt & pepper

Warm the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the leek and fry for 5 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the fennel and sausages and cook for 5 minutes until the sausages are browned on all sides.

Add the lentils to the pan and pour over the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and leave to cook for 25 minutes, or until the lentils have softened and the sausages are cooking through. Divide the lentils and sausages between plates and scatter over the fennel seeds and chopped chives to finish. Serve.

My notes: I used black lentils.

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Pan-fried potato gnocchi with blue cheese sauce

26 Apr

Pan fried gnocchi with crispy sage and brown butter on blue cheese sauce. Bliss in a bowl. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Some classic dishes are not to be tampered with. They are beautiful in their simplicity, their uncomplicated perfection, their timeless deliciousness.

I feel that way about potato gnocchi with blue cheese sauce. It was the very first recipe that I’d published on my blog www.thefoodfox.com on 21 January 2011. Over the past few years since that post, I’ve published hundreds of recipes, cooked MANY batches of gnocchi (not only for myself but also for groups of guests while catering) and learned that you always return to simple, old favourites.

I’ve also learned that making gnocchi is not as difficult as everyone says. You just need to “understand” your potatoes and know that they are going to react slightly differently each time (the texture and water content will be different for every single batch). Once you get the hang of the consistency in the dough, the rest is truly child’s play.

I often make potato gnocchi with blue cheese sauce at home for my family. I sometimes add a swirl of truffle oil or a drizzle of sage butter, but you don’t even need to. I mostly boil the gnocchi, but some days I prefer golden pan-fried nuggets of plush pillowy potato. Serve them straight from the pan as they can slightly lose their crispy exterior texture on standing.

Note: For the blue cheese sauce, I prefer using a strong-flavoured gorgonzola-style cheese. The blue veins of the cheese don’t completely melt into the cream, it remains delicately textural. The sauce always looks a little too runny at first, but be patient – when you serve it in bowls with the gnocchi, it is just right. Leave the salt & pepper up to your guests as the cheese can sometimes be very salty already.

Making potato gnocchi is not difficult once you get the hang of it. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Ingredients for gnocchi: (serves 6)

  • 1 kg floury potatoes, skin on
  • 1 XL egg
  • 1 generous teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 250 g cake flour (about 2 cups)

Method:

  1. Boil or bake the potatoes until they are completely tender. Cool slightly and remove the skins (in Italy they believe that cooking the potatoes in their skins add a lot of flavour to the gnocchi).
  2. Press the cooked potatoes through a sieve (this is a laborious process, but the end result is well worth it) or use a potato ricer to create finely minced potato.
  3. Place the fine potatoes in a mixing bowl, then add the egg, salt, pepper and half of the flour. Use a fork or spoon to mix it, adding more flour as you need it (you might not need it all). Turn it out on a floured surface and delicately knead the mixture until it forms a ball that resembles smooth bread dough. Do not over work the dough – you’re looking to create a smoothly textured potato dough that is not lumpy but just kneaded to the right consistency.
  4. Divide the dough into 8 pieces, then roll out each piece on a large floured working surface, one at a time, into a long sausage shape of about 2cm thick. Use a knife to cut each strand into gnocchi, flicking the pillows as you’re cutting (so that they don’t stick to the knife or to each other). Quickly toss in a light coating of flour, then pan-fry in butter on both sides until golden (about 1-2 minutes a side). Serve with blue cheese sauce.

For the blue cheese sauce:

  • 500 ml fresh cream
  • 200-250 g gorgonzola-style blue cheese

Method:

Place the cream in a small sauce pan over high heat. When it just comes to a light simmer, crumble the blue cheese into the cream and turn down the heat to very low, stirring for a few minutes until the cheese is completely melted. Pour a pool of sauce into bowls, then top with pan-fried gnocchi (and optionally some crispy fried sage leaves and a few drops of truffle oil or extra virgin olive oil).

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