I may be the only person in our house that likes gnocchi. I'll find out for sure on the weekend when I feed the ones left over from today's lunch to the children on the weekend. Perhaps I'll sneak them into a tomato sauce with sausage chunks and see what happens.I'm a fan of the soft squidginess of them, the slight bite and the comforting blandness. I'm not a fan of the shop bought ones that more often that not are like trying to chew through a squash ball. But these ones, soft and light but with a little resistance are actually squash balls. Butternut squash.It's been hanging around long enough. And to avoid peeling it, I unsheathed my longest and heaviest knife, and smote it, cleaving it clean in two. That is how it happened in my mind. The reality may have been a little different, but what I ended up with was two long halves ready for a roast in the oven while I used the saved time to stare out the window and drink coffee.Well, it makes a change from potatoes in the gnocchi. Potatoes and flour does seem a little bit of overkill, and these are bright orange, slightly sweet and the perfect comfort food when the weather outside has turned from sunny skies into having to use the shipping forecast as a guide to leaving the house.The recipe makes enough for four people. If the other three aren't interested you can blanch the gnocchi quickly in boiling water, then plunge them into cold water, drain and toss through with a little olive oil. Then you can freeze them and use for lonely suppers when your other half has gone out for a fun-filled evening leaving you alone with your worthy subtitled black and white films they never want to watch.Ingredients1 butternut squash, medium size220g strong flour, plus extra for shaping.1 egg, beatenA handful of fresh sage leaves40g hazelnuts, toasted in a frying pan then choppedChilli oil to serve, or olive oil and chilli flakesZest of an orangeSalt and pepper to seasonMethodHeat the oven to 200c/gas 8.Cut the butternut in half lengthways, being careful to not sever your hand.Scoop out the seeds and throw them away. You can spend the next hour trying to separate them from the fibrous strands they are attached to for roasting or toasting, but surely life is too short. They can go in the compost.Drizzle the squash with olive oil, season well and roast for about an hour.Leave to cool, scoop the flesh out into a bowl and blitz to a pulp. Season and taste then beat in the egg and incorporate the flour until you have a sticky dough.Pour a pile of flour onto the kitchen bench and take a tablespoon of the dough. Drop it into the flour roll it into a little cylinder. Squish a dent in it with your thumb and set aside while you repeat with the rest of the dough until finished.Cook the gnocchi in boiling, well salted water for about three to four minutes then drain, drizzle with olive oil and keep warm.Heat a small pan with about a centimetre of olive oil then fry the sage leaves in batches for about five seconds until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.Serve the hot gnocchi with a scattering of sage leaves, the orange zest, a sprinkle of hazelnuts and a good hand with the seasoning. Finish with the chilli oil.By all means add Parmesan; and if you really fancied it, you could melt some butter, add some chopped sage to it, cook gently for a few minutes before pouring it over with a squeeze of the orange juice.
Butternut squash is great to have around the kitchen. They normally hang around in mine for a while as I psych myself up to peel them. Fortunately, they keep for what seems an eternity, and can quickly become lunch when you are ready to battle with them. I like to sauté chunks of it in coconut oil and mix with chickpeas in a spiced tomato sauce. Here it's used as the base for a vegetable salad and works really well with the slightly bitter radish and kale. If you can't get barberries, use goji berries. The Parma ham gives crunch and saltiness and the dill cream brings a soothing calmness.I like the surprise of fiery green chillies, but you can leave these out if you're scared. And don't forget the squash seeds. You may want to roast all of them separately and keep them in a jar for future use.Ingredients500g butternut squash, peeled and cut into smallish chunks2tbsp of the squash seeds2 cloves of garlic, bashed with a knife1tbsp mustard seedsA handful of curly kale leaves, depending on how big your hands are. Cut out the big stalks4 slices of Parma ham30g sour cream2tbsp chopped fresh dill20g dried barberries1tsp chilli flakes or sliced green chillies1 watermelon radish, cut into chunks1/2tsp pink peppercorns, lightly crushedOlive oilSalt and pepperMethodHeat the oven to 190cMix the squash, seeds, garlic, mustard seeds and olive oil together and season well.Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, then toss through the kale and and curl through the Parma ham and cook for another 15 minutes or so, until the squash turns golden orange and the ham and kale become crisp.Remove from the oven and leave to cool to room temperatureMix the dill and pink peppercorns through the sour cream and add a little salt and pepper.Add the radish to the squash, throw over the barberries and chillies, season a little and drizzle over some olive oil and the dill cream and serve.
On Thursday night we went out for my birthday supper at Olivio Carne, the sister to what is pretty much my favourite restaurant in London (Olivio near Victoria station) and I had pasta for the first time in nearly two months. My new rule is that food like that has to be worth it. And it was. A beautiful wild boar pappardelle. I also had plenty of Kate's duck ragù just to help her out.I've been wondering how to recreate one of my favourite dishes, ravioli con burro e salvia without pasta while I've been avoiding carbs. My new rules are that it's fine to occasionally eat what you want, and to not make sugar and wheat part of my daily diet. There seemed, after thinking about it, little point in trying to recreate ravioli, so here's a new dish based on those flavours.Leek is nature's cannelloni. And with this, instead of the traditional sage infused butter, a creamy sauce seemed a good idea. And to keep it dairy and wheat free meant almond milk and tapioca starch, so it's also gluten free. And vegan. And paleo. And Whole 30. It also dances the can-can for you while singing the Nessun Dorma. This should win awards for the most inclusive dish in the world. Unless you are allergic to nuts. Leave them out if you are. Unless you like risk.It's quite straightforward to make, once you get everything together. Just try not to spill double the amount of tapioca you need into the saucepan. This is very upsetting and can lead to a bit of a strop.Ingredients for two people as a starterFor the filling:420g roast butternut squash or pumpkin, diced40g almonds, skin on, chopped a little1 large clove of garlic, smashedA few young thyme sprigs1tbsp shiitake mushroom powder (optional)Pinch of chilli flakesA big squeeze of lemon juicesalt and pepperOlive oilFor the sauce:1 leek, light green part, pushed into tubesA large handful of sage leaves, shredded3tbsp Olive oilThin bits of middle of the leek, finely sliced300ml Almond milk1 1/2tbsp Tapioca starchSaltShredded sage leaves, chopped toasted almonds and dried borage flowers to serve, if you have them on the shelf in a jar and keep wondering what to do with them.MethodRoast the filling ingredients (apart from the lemon juice) at 200c for 25-30 mins, until soft and golden then leave to cool before adding the lemon juice and blitzing until smooth (but not too smooth) in a food processor then put in a bowl. Taste it and adjust the lemon juice and seasoning if necessary.Cut the dark green and white parts off the leek and use for stock. Or, do what I did and forget about them in the back of the fridge then throw them away.Push out the inner tubes of the leek, leaving you with about six of the large outer tubes. Slice the inner ones then sauté them until soft in good olive oil, with sage and then season and transfer to a bowl. Add the almond milk and tapioca to the pan, heat and whisk until you have an emulsion as thick as double cream. Add the leek and sage mixture and leave to infuse for ten minutes before removing the sage stalks and blitzing the sauce in the food processor. If you prefer, you can leave it unblitzed, but I prefer it smooth.Stuff the leek tubes with the filling and cook gently in a little olive oil until soft. Turning occasionally and carefully. Chop some toasted almonds and get the sauce warmed.Put the sauce on plates, top with the leek then sprinkle over the almonds, sage leaves and borage flowers if using. Blowtorch the leek if you're feeling fancy. Finish with a drizzle of excellent olive oil and serve.