ROASTED GNOCCHI WITH SAUSAGE, TOMATOES AND CHEESE

In recent weeks I’ve developed a somewhat shameful addiction to vacuum-packed gnocchi. You know the stuff I mean – little huhu grubs of potato and god-only-knows-what-else stuffed into flat packets that stack so easily in the cupboard. This gnocchi, which bares only a passing resemblance to the real deal, is the Italian cousin to the mighty two-minute noodle. It’s fast, convenient and – despite negligible nutritional value – can be just what you need in times of trouble.

The trick, of course, is knowing how to pimp them up. Here’s what I did the other night, cleverly combining the contents of the fridge with a packet of gnocchi for a dinner that practically cooked itself and cheered us all up.

Roasted Gnocchi With Sausage And Cherry Tomatoes

Roasted gnocchi with sausage, cherry tomatoes and cheese

Feel free to add any suitable vegetables here – eggplant or zucchini would be excellent when they’re in season. Tucking extra cheese in (feta or halloumi, perhaps?) is a good idea if you’re not fond of sausage.

Extra virgin olive oil

2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped

1 bulb fennel, trimmed and sliced

1-2 red peppers, cut into chunks

6-8 good quality pork sausages, cut into small pieces (use scissors)

2 cups cherry tomatoes, washed

500g vacuum-packed potato gnocchi

2-3 handfuls finely grated Parmesan cheese

A handful of finely chopped parsley

Heat the oven to 200C. Set a large pot of water to boil over high heat.

Pour a splash (about 1 1/2 Tablespoons) of olive oil in a heavy roasting dish. Add the onions, fennel, peppers and sausage chunks. Toss together, season well with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

When the water is boiling, add a handful of salt and the gnocchi. Cook for two minutes (the gnocchi should float to the top), then drain immediately. Tip the gnocchi into the roasting dish of vegetables and sausage. Add the cherry tomatoes and stir together. Drizzle with more olive oil and scatter over the grated cheese. Return the dish to the oven and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, until the sausages are cooked, the cheese is crispy and everything smells delicious. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve immediately with a green salad on the side. Serves 3-4.

sweet cheeses

Since October is National Cheese Month in New Zealand, today’s Three Ways With… column is dedicated to blue cheese. Well, I had to choose one, and if you can’t choose your favourite in these circumstances, when can you? Here’s my Kikorangi pannacotta in all its lovely wobbly glory.

If the thought of a blue cheese pudding freaks you out, here’s the equally lovely (but much less wobbly) cauliflower and blue cheese soup that features in the same column…

If you like blue cheeses but lack the time or will to do anything with them beyond sticking slices on a cracker, try this handy tip I picked up from a maple syrup seller at the Food Show. Simply cut a generous wedge of blue cheese (my all-time favourite, after discovering it at the Outstanding Food Producer Awards earlier this year, is Whitestone’s Aged Windsor Blue) and balance it on an oatcake or very gritty-textured cracker before drizzling it with the best maple syrup you can find (don’t try this with anything that pretends to be maple-flavoured). Repeat as necessary.

Lastly, if your cheese tastes tend to the plain and simple (or you are unexpectedly required to come up with some snacks for small children), here’s a handy cheese hack. Spread a sheet of shortcrust pastry with Marmite and top with grated cheddar before baking in a very hot oven for 10 minutes. The kids will love it, but they’ll have to be quick because any nearby adults will hoover it up as soon as it hits the table.

Made any excellent cheese discoveries lately? Let me know…

Shoe polish on toast & The Little Library Cookbook

“Angela lifted the toast on to the table. “I got Antoinette to make anchovy toast for us,” she said. “It looks good, doesn’t it? Take a slice, Anne-Marie.”

Anne-Marie took the top slice. It seemed to have rather a peculiar smell. Anne-Marie looked rather doubtfully at it.

“It’s all right,” said Alison, seeing her look. “Anchovy always smells a bit funny I think.”

She and Anne-Marie took a good bite out of their toast at the same second. The shoe cream tasted abominable.”

This is one of my favourite-ever scenes in Enid Blyton’s St Clare’s boarding school series, which comes after “fun-loving French girl” Antoinette pays out the mean fifth-formers by spreading their toast with shoe polish instead of anchovy paste. To add insult to injury, she then tells Matron of her ‘mistake’ so the three girls end up getting a dose of Matron’s nasty medicine while Antoinette gets cosseted with chocolate by Mam’selle.

I’ve been thinking about this scene a lot recently after discovering what might be one of the loveliest cookbooks I’ve ever come across. It’s The Little Library Cookbook by Australian/Londoner Kate Young and it is utterly perfect. 

 

As the name suggests, Kate’s book is a collection of recipes inspired by books old and new – from roasted pheasant inspired by Danny, Champion of the World, to spaghetti and meatballs inspired by The Godfather. There are lots of recipes from books I know and love (I Capture The Castle, The Goldfinch, Americanah, The Pursuit of Love) and lots from books I’m now desperate to read (How I Live Now, The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, The End of the Affair). Each recipe deftly weaves together a little about the book, a little about Kate’s relationship to it, and a lot about the food. It’s such a good idea – and so beautifully executed – that part of me wants to force-feed Kate shoe polish on toast because I’m so jealous of her cleverness. But mostly, I just want this book to be a roaring success so she writes another one.

In the meantime, here’s my homage to Antoinette’s anchovy paste (a rather more palatable version that won’t send you running to Matron).

Anchovy and black garlic paste

Black garlic gives this its rich, shoe polish-y colour, but you can omit it if you don’t have any.

1 x 50g tin (or 80g jar) anchovies, drained of their oil and chopped

50g softened unsalted butter

2-3 cloves black garlic

2 tsp capers

2 tsp pink peppercorns

Put everything in a small bowl (or, the bowl of a blender, if you’re lazy) and mix together to form a smooth-ish paste. Scrape into a jar (add optional ‘shoe polish’ label for kicks) and store in the fridge. Best served on very thin and crisp hot toast.

If anchovy paste isn’t to your taste, you might like to watch Kate making ‘An Enormous Round Chocolate Cake’, inspired by the one the Trunchbull forces hapless Bruce Bogtrotter to eat in Matilda. I think this is in my future these school holidays…

Kupu Kāuta – Te Reo Māori Kitchen Terms

It’s Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori – Māori Language Week – in New Zealand, which is as good a time as any to learn some useful words and phrases for your favourite kitchen activities. My te reo skills have not advanced since I was about seven years old (kia ora Miss Jones, you were SO ahead of your time), so thanks to the excellent team at Good Bitches Baking for the following handy list.

Kupu Kāuta – Kitchen Terms

Baking – Pēkena

Baking tin – Tini keke

Biscuit – Pihikete

Butter – Pata

Bowls – Rīhi

Bread – Parāoa

Cake – Keke

Cocoa – Kōkō

Cups – Kapu

Egg – Hēki

Electric hand beaters – Kōheri

Flour – Puehu parāoa

Food processor – Nakunaku kai

Icing sugar – Huka puehu

Measuring cups – Kapu ine

Spatula – Pātura

Sugar – Huka

Tihi – Cheese

Personally, I’m tickled at the realisation that the word for spatula, pātura, probably comes from the word patu – which is either used as a verb meaning to strike or beat, or as a noun meaning club or weapon. But that’s just me. If you’re new to te reo, check out this list of 50 Māori words that every New Zealander should know (they’re not related to cooking, but they’re very useful to know!)

Because cooking is rarely a solo activity, these phrases might also come in handy for you and your helpers:

Be careful – Kia tūpato

Clean the bench – Horoia te raumanga

Do you need help? – He āwhina māu?

How is it going? – E pēhea ana te haere?

How long is that going to take? – E hia te roa o tēnā mahi?

I need some help – Homai koa he āwhina

It needs more flavour – Me whakareka ake

That looks great – He āhua teka tēnā

That smells great – He kakara tēnā

That tastes great – He reka tēnā

Tahini, banana and almond bites

Tahini, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: there were three in yesterday’s Three Ways With… column, these tahini bars are so good I could probably eat the whole tray by myself, and Ottolenghi’s green tahini sauce is one of the most delicious things you could ever make. Then there’s my breakfast standby – sliced fruit, Greek yoghurt and tahini – and my rescue for those ‘oh-no-we’ve-got-no-peanut-butter’ moments, aka tahini on toast. Are you a tahini lover? Here’s another way to use it.

Tahini, banana and almond bites

If you’re an early-morning exerciser, one of these is just the ticket before you head out the door. Extensive research by my sample group (which is to say, me), found that eating one of these prior to a pre-dawn 10k run produced excellent results. They’re also good if your idea of exercise is limited to putting the kettle on.

1 ripe banana

2 Tbsp tahini

2 Tbsp date syrup (or honey)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup rolled oats

a good pinch of salt

2 Tbsp sesame seeds

12 whole almonds

Heat the oven to 180C. Mash the banana to a puree with the tahini and date syrup. Add the cinnamon, rolled oats, salt and sesame seeds and mix well.

Press the mixture into the cups of a 12-hole muffin pan (I use a silicone one for easy removal; you may like to grease the cups of a conventional tin) and press an almond on top of each one.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture feels set when pressed with a finger. Remove to a rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Makes 12.