The Little Cooking Company

Providing a bespoke personal chef service to Oxshott, Cobham, Esher and the surrounding areas of Surrey

Joining the Revolution....

Today is Food Revolution Day 2013, a day of global action which aims to raise awareness about the importance of good food and better food education. It’s a chance for people to come together within their homes, schools, communities and workplaces to cook together and share tips and skills.

I will be teaching my three little girls to cook scrambled egg for their tea this evening. Sure, it’s not ground-breaking stuff, but it’ll be fun and it’s about laying down the foundations and getting them interested in food, and at the same time passing on the essential skills that they, in turn, will hopefully one day share with their children….my grandchildren (scary thought!).

I also thought I’d take the chance to share a recipe with you that I cooked last night: Gnocchi with Pumpkin Seed Pesto. It’s a pretty simple recipe, but it was delicious, and can be cooked in stages – which is always good if you’ve got little kids running around who require a fair bit of your attention in the afternoon.

Making the Pumpkin Seed Pesto

You will need: Olive Oil, Pumpkin Seeds, Garlic, Fresh Basil, Parmesan Cheese, Salt.

Stage 1:

Start by toasting the pumpkin seeds. In a frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and add 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, stirring from time to time until they begin to ‘pop’. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a small processor (a mini veg chopper type thing works well here) chop the toasted pumpkin seeds, 1 garlic clove, a couple of large handfuls of fresh basil leaves and a good glug or two of olive oil (or Extra Virgin if you want to add a bit of peppery flavour to it) until you have an earthy green paste. Remove from the processor and scrape into a small bowl. Grate a handful or two of fresh parmesan cheese into the bowl and stir together. Taste the pesto; it will need some salt. Add a pinch and possibly a bit more oil, and keep tasting, until you have a taste and consistency that you are happy with. Set aside in the fridge until later. You can use a pestle and mortar to do all of the above too – it just requires a bit of brute force!

Making the Gnocchi

You will need: 3 Large Potatoes, 1 Egg, Plain Flour. 

Stage 2:

Place 3 large potatoes in the oven to bake for 40-50 mins, or until they are cooked right through, but not too squishy. I used Waitrose baking potatoes as this is what I had, and I think you’d be better off with a floury potato – so something like a Maris Piper or a King Edward would be perfect.

Stage 3:

Remove the potatoes from the oven and set aside to cool for a few minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, using a knife gently peel the skin off. Place the unpeeled potatoes in a potato ricer and push through into a large bowl. If you don’t have a potato ricer, I’d be inclined to place them on a large chopping board and kind of mash them with a fork until you have a pile of fluffy, floury mash which you can then scrape into the bowl.  Leave the potatoes for another 5 mins or so to cool a bit more. <wipe snotty nose, separate two fighting siblings, get load of washing out of the dryer>

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Stage 4:

Measure out 175g of plain flour into a bowl. Beat one egg in another bowl. Now is the time to make the gnocchi! It’s a bit like playdough and if you’re not too precious about the consistency, you could even let an older child help with this bit – or give a bit of the potato dough to little ones and encourage them to roll their own gnocchi!

To the bowl containing the mashed potato, add 1 tsp salt and all of the beaten egg. Add 1/3 of the flour and gently, using a fork or spoon, begin to combine the potato with the flour and egg. Add another 1/3 of the flour and gently mix. You are aiming for a dough that is light, and can be rolled out without it sticking to your fingers, the table, your toddler’s hair, etc too much. The less flour you add, and the less the dough is worked, the lighter the gnocchi will be. So go slowly, and only add just enough to bring the dough together so that it can be rolled. You might not need all of the flour.

Sprinkle some flour over your worktop. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 pieces and gently roll each piece into a long strand, about the thickness of a cocktail sausage.

Cover a large baking sheet or chopping board with parchment paper and sprinkle a bit of flour over it – this is where you are going to keep the gnocchi until it’s time to cook them. (Gnocchi can be covered with cling film and then frozen on a baking sheet like this. When frozen, put them in a plastic bag and keep in the freezer for another meal if you’ve made too many, or if you’d like to make them in advance).

Right...cutting the gnocchi. Grab a fork and rub some flour over the prongs, and using the side of the fork, gently but firmly begin to cut the dough sausage into individual gnocchi, using a kind of flicking motion. They will look like little pillows. You could probably do this stage with a knife too, but I was shown with a fork and so always do it this way. From time to time, you might need to wipe dough from the prongs and rub a bit more flour in to stop the fork from sticking as it cuts through the dough. As you cut the gnocchi, place them on the floured baking sheet.

When you have cut all of the gnocchi, either get ready for supper and encourage your little helpers to wash their hands and set the table, or else cover with cling film and place them in the fridge or freezer for use later. <change nappy, clear up spilled drink from the playroom, separate fighting siblings again>

Stage 5:

Bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to the boil (you will cook the gnocchi in this pan). Place a large frying pan on a low heat (you will heat the pesto and toss the gnocchi in it in this pan). Have extra parmesan ready and kids assembled at the table, as gnocchi cooks fast!

Add a few tablespoons of the pesto to the frying pan and rotate the pan around so that the surface is covered with the lovely green sludge. Begin to add the gnocchi to the pan of boiling water. You might need to cook them in a few batches, depending on how big your saucepan is. It is very difficult to overcook gnocchi as they float to the surface when they are cooked. So…..when you see them floating to the surface, use a slotted spoon and carefully place them in the frying pan with the pesto. As you continue to do this with all the gnocchi, give the frying pan a little shake to ensure that the gnocchi don’t stick to the bottom. When all the gnocchi are cooked, add a little more pesto if you think it needs it, and shake the frying pan one last time until all the gnocchi are coated in the deliciously pungent sauce.

Divide the gnocchi between your hungry brood, sprinkle with parmesan (or add a dollop of ricotta and a few shredded basil leaves, as I did) and tuck in!

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