There is something wonderful about making food from ingredients growing in the back yard – the freshness of just picked, just cooked food simply cannot be beaten. While visiting mum and dad in Perth we stayed at the family holiday home for a few days which had recently been renovated. The house itself is quite amazing (a big change from the small red brick, 3 bedroom shack I grew up with for all of those years) but the best part of the renovation is the addition of garden beds at the bottom of the property where all manner of vegetables are thriving.
There are wonderful things growing in those garden beds (an abundance of spinach, kale, potatoes, carrots, shallots, broad beans, tomatoes, artichokes… etc.) and when planning breakfast, lunch and dinner meals at the house, a visit to the garden beds is all you need for inspiration.
The second thing on the list of recipes I wanted to cook with my mum was gnocchi. The women in my extended family have been making gnocchi for years and somehow I just never got around to making it properly as an adult (why would you when the family masters are always making it). So with some time to kill at the holiday house, my mother, sister-in-law and I decided to make spinach gnocchi and pumpkin gnocchi.
Making gnocchi is wonderfully tactile and makes you feel like you have put your heart and soul into every little bite sized pillow. It is extremely satisfying to eat knowing what it took to make it. That being said, it is actually extremely easy to make and once you have made it once, you have a feel for the consistency of the dough.
Below is the recipe for spinach and pumpkin gnocchi. I hope you enjoy making it as much as we did!
Spinach and Pumpkin Gnocchi
4 large old potatoes, of the starchy variety (one large potato per person)
1/4 small Jap pumpkin roasted and finely mashed (no lumps)
1/4 cup of cooked spinach, drained of all moisture then blended
Place unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Place on stove and bring to the boil, then simmer until potatoes are cooked through ready for mashing. Once cooked, drain water and allow potatoes to cool to the touch. Peel skin from potatoes and put through a potato ricer to mash without lumps.
On a clean bench top separate the mashed potato in half. To one half add the pumpkin and mix until combined.
Surround the pumpkin and potato mound with a generous ring of flour. Make a well in the middle and add one egg. With a fork break the egg and slowly mix it into the potato mix until combined. Then using your hands slowly collect small amounts of flour from the outside ring in a circular motion working it into the potato mix. Slowly gather flour in small doses and continue in this way until a generous amount of flour has been absorbed. Then lightly kneed the dough and add more flour if needed until the resulting dough is soft and springy (but not sticky).
Roll the dough into a log and cut a one inch piece. Flour your bench top and roll the cut piece between your fingers to the diameter of a 10 cent piece (it will look like a long snake). Cut into small pillow like portions (about 1 inch long) and roll the pieces in a little flour on the bench so the cut edges are coated. Then, using your index finger place a dent in each gnocchi. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
To the other half of the potatoes add the spinach in the same way as you did the pumpkin earlier and follow the above procedure.
Transfer the gnocchi one by one to a tray covered with baking paper that is lightly floured.
To a large pot of salted boiling water add the gnocchi and carefully stir into the water. Leave the gnocchi to cook with the water boiling. Wait until the gnocchi have gently risen to the surface one by one and continue cooking for another 3 minute. Using a hand sieve carefully lift the gnocchi from the pot and transfer to a bowl. Once all gnocchi have been trasfered to the bowl add tomato sugo and serve with freshly grated parmesan.