Two Greedy Italians and a Plate of Ricotta Gnocchi

plate-of-ricotta-gnocci

This spring, the Beeb hosted the 4 part mini-series Two Greedy Italians and I was hooked…

The show followed Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio, two chef heavy weights in the UK restaurant scene, pootling back to their Italian roots after 40 years away in a 1960’s Giulietta (that’s an old blue Alfa Romeo to us girls)…

Each of the episodes focussed on a different region and theme: festivals, family, religion and the “can’t-help-but-laugh’ banter between the chef duo made for some very funny between-recipe entertainment. Although it is clear that Gennaro is the prankster of the two, pulling an octopus out of his speedos during a fishing trip, and hilariously catering for Antonio’s blind date, he also served up some of the simplest, traditional Italian grub I have come across.

The recipe which caught my attention was the home made gnocchi. I love gnocchi, but it can be overwhelmingly filling so this lighter version made with flour and ricotta was a must try. The recipe was Gennaro’s mothers, and featured as a “Cuccina Poveria” specialty from Northern Italy. It was a perfect Friday night tea with a cold glass of Pinot Blush.

Ingredients

For the dumplings
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tub ricotta
3 free-range egg yolks
30g parmesan, freshly grated
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:
6 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled, cut into thick slices
1 chilli, sliced
2 x 400g/14oz cans tinned plum tomatoes, each tomato chopped in half
few basil leaves

Method
1. Mix the flour, ricotta, egg yolks, parmesan, nutmeg and seasoning together in a large bowl to form a soft, moist dough.
2. Tip the mixture out onto a floured work surface and knead for 3-5 minutes. Roll the dough into a long, thin sausage shape, then cut into dumplings about 2cm/1in long.
3. Cook the dumplings for 3-4 minutes in a large saucepan of salted boiling water.
4. Meanwhile for the sauce, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the garlic and chilli for one minute, then remove the pan from the heat and add the plum tomatoes.
5. Return the pan to the heat, bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes.
6. Remove the dumplings from the pan with a slotted spoon and add them to the tomato sauce.
7. To serve, spoon the dumplings onto a serving plate and sprinkle over the basil leaves.

All the recipes from the series can be found on BBC Food.

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Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals… Don’t Count On It

Jamies-30-minute-meals

My love for Jamie Oliver took an unusual U-turn when I optimistically purchased his 30-minute meals. I thought my new life had arrived in the post; a life where dinner could be ready by 8pm instead of 9.30pm…

Sadly having cooked (and been invited round for) a number of the so called 30 minute inventions, I can now confirm that unless you have practised each recipe at least 5 times and spent 20 minutes preparing the kitchen and reading the recipe 3 times before you start, you don’t stand a chance.

On the brighter side however, there are some fantastic recipes and if you can spare the time, they are worth the wait. The spinach and feta Filo parcel and the broccoli orecchiette are gob-stoppers for me!

Quick tips
Jamie has quite blatantly gone for an overload of ‘blender plugging’ in this book, partly due to his friend from the blender/liquidiser industry having died and partly due to his new Tefal food processing range. If like me you are still saving up for all the kit you need, improvise:

  • Get a cheapy Braun handheld blitzer until you can afford the real thing
  • Grate anything really tough like raw carrot and broccoli stalk before you blitz to make life easier
  • No garlic crusher? Grate it (unless you chop like a ninja, in which case, use the skills)
  • Use a fork to mash your spuds – boil them for an extra couple of minutes to make them softer, or just tell people they’re rustic!
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Start A Herb Garden At Home

Basil-plant

I have always been a huge fan of the flavour of herbs, but have only in the last couple of years or so started to understand how they need to be used and how to get the best from them…

Obviously fresh basil works with just about any pasta dish but pile it into your Thai green curry and it takes on a whole new force.

Likewise, if you find yourself dropping sticks of rosemary in with every set of Sunday roasties, try crushing up a bit of lemon thyme with mint and garlic for a more summary taste, and a great kitchen aroma!

Having bought and killed upwards of 10 basil plants in my cooking career, usually during my Sunday shop I’ll pick up a small selection of Morrison’s usual 2 for 1 £1 herb packets.

Last month though, when considering having another stab at the indoor herb garden, I had some passing advice from my Aunty, who mysteriously had a thriving basil plant on her window ledge: “Water it a little bit every day”…  So this is where I had been going wrong. Thinking I would drown such a delicate plant has led to a ‘drought = death’ situation on many a window ledge.

Not this time! No. I have committed to keep my basil plant alive. 3 weeks in it is doing splendidly. When I have plucked the leaves, new ones are growing back and the feeling of growing and cooking with one of my favourite flavours, on tap, is great!

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