I have been honoured by my good friends, Peter and Mary, with a hessian bag full of just dug up organic potatoes. As my wife is away in another country for some months, I have had nightmares as to how I am going to eat through this mountain (as wel as all the other reserves in the pantry) all on my own. My decision was to attack from the beginning and start cooking and eating them immediately. My first endeavour is gnocchi di patate.
In making good gnocchi there are two golden rules to follow : 1 – Never be aggressive in handling the product. 2 – Never use eggs in the recipe as many experts propagate. The reason for this is that both transgressions cause the end product to be gooey, solid and rubbery.
Place 1 Kg unpeeled potatoes in abundant cold salted water. Bring the water to a boil and boil for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size. The pototoes should be soft, but not coming apart. Never pierce the potatoes to test if they are done as this makes them absorb water and your dough would be too wet. Peel the potatoes as soon as it has cooled enough to handle and put it through a potato ricer. Ad a pinch of black pepper and salt. Mix about 150 g of fine flour (Tipo 00) with the potatoes by hand until it comes together. We say abbastanza, which means – just enough. So ad the flour in stages until the dough just come together but still a bit sticky. Do not over work the dough and if you still see some potato particles it is fine. Roll the dough into long sticks of about 25 mm thick and cut across in about 25 mm long gnocchi pieces. Form the gnocchi now with a gnocchi former or fork and set aside.
In a large enough pan prepare your sauce. Any sauce normally associated with pasta can be used. A very popular sauce is butter and sage. I have been lucky to have some pesto, which I have made some weeks ago, to use. Boil the gnocchi in abundant salted water until they float and then for another 10 seconds. Mix with the sauce in the pan over low heat for a short period and serve hot, topped with some cracked black pepper and grated parmigiano.
Gnocchi can me made well in advance and kept for a few days in a sealed container in the fridge.
Enjoy with abundant home made red wine!
I came across these pictures taken over Christmas and remembered that I wanted to post them. The occasion warranted some extra work, and I had a request for home made pasta anyway. The brightness of the colours impressed everyone, including me.
Make fresh egg pasta dough as described, leaving out two of the eggs as the spinach / beet paste will have some moisture. Divide the pasta dough in to 3 equal parts
For the Colours
Blanch about 250 g spinach and then squeeze our all the water. Process in a food processor to a smooth paste then pass the paste through a fine sieve to have a thick intense green juice. Do the same with 2 medium sized beetroots processed to a thick intense red juice
Mix enough of the green juice into one third of the pasta dough, which should be very dry as one egg was left out, until you have an even coloured pasta dough with a smooth consistency. Repeat the process with a second of the three portions, using the red beetroot juice. The third portion should be corrected with water to ensure all three portions have the same amount of egg and consistency.
Cook in salted water until al dente, (make sure that you cook equal amounts of every colour). Drain the pasta (do not rinse it under the cold tap) and transfer it to the pan with hot sauce. Mix and serve with plenty of grated parmigiano.
The Quail Sauce being a home favorite as we have plenty of quail, goes particularly well with home made parpardelle and did the tricolore a lot of justice on this occasion.
ENJOY !! Do not forget the home made red wine.
See recipe for basic fresh pasta – https://backyardfarmer.co.nz/2015/05/05/pappardelle-al-ragu-di-quaglia-egg-pasta-with-quail-sauce
For the Pumpkin Filling
Use a small 1.5 Kg pumpkin, sliced in half, remove seeds, place the halves face side down and bake at 200 C until soft. Dry the seeds for next year’s planting and feed the peels to the rabbits. Scoop the flesh out of the peel. Mash the soft pumpkin and mix with two beaten eggs, 100 g grated parmigiano cheese, 100 g dried breadcrumbs, 5 crumbled amaretti biscuits, salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg to taste.
Roll out the pasta until it passes through the number 6 setting on the pasta machine and cut circles as large as you prefer. Place some pumpkin filling on the center of a circle, brush the edges with egg and cap with another circle. Press the edges down using a fork to prevent them from leaking while cooking.
Boil enough salted water to cook the ravioli until they raise to the top and float (al dente), which should take only a few minutes. In the mean time heat 100 g butter in a large pan with a handful large of sage leaves. The butter should just begin to burn and should be brown but not black when you dump the well drained cooked ravioli in the pan. Toss and cook for another minute. Serve immediately topped with the burnt butter sauce and crisp sage leaves and generous helpings of grated parmigiano. Do not forget the wine.
The off cut pieces are being used for maltagliata pasta, for another day, which goes very well with any ragu.
Fresh egg pasta and quail ragu shall always remain one of my favorites. Mrs BYF took off to foreign shores (again) and I shall have to look after myself for ten weeks. Tuesday being slaughter day and the quails were young, plump and very soft, so I decided to treat myself. While slowly simmering the quail ragu, I decanted a bottle of Blackcurrant wine, made on 2014-09-01, for the occasion. Even though I already racked it twice (and tasted it every time) I was pleasantly surprised. This is a bold and concentrated full bodied dark red wine with a pleasant strong velvety aroma and an endless after taste. Being young, I shall bottle tomorrow and keep it for some time and I am sure it is going to be very good as the bottle I had with the paste was excellent. I am fortunate to have made about 70 liters of this wine and I shall post the recipe later during the week.
Recipe for fresh paste
Mix 500 g plain flour with 20 quail eggs (5 chicken eggs). Knead until smooth (ad water or flour to get the correct consistency), cover and place in the fridge for one hour. Fold and roll the dough several times through the thickest setting on the pasta machine, then gradually pass it through at a thinner setting each time, until the desired thickness is obtained. Use ample amounts of flour whilst rolling the dough. The pasta can now be used or allowed to dry for later use. This fresh pasta cooks very fast and is ready in less than five minutes.
Today I was alone and very busy, but also very hungry. So what do you do to get a quick, filling and delightful meal. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, ad thirty pieces of Paccheri pasta. While it is cooking, put a few spoons of Salsa al Pomodoro (Traditional Italian tomato sauce), something an Italian kitchen is never without, into a pan, ad a handful of caper berries, another hand of marinated black olives, one freshly chopped chili and two fillets of anchovies. While simmering slowly and you taste the quality of the red wine, adjust for salt and ad enough freshly ground black pepper. When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain the water and ad to the sauce. The sauce must be thick and not watery. Mix through and ad a handful of torn fresh basil. Grate some home made Romano or Parmigiano cheese over the top and make sure the second glass of red wine is full. ENJOY
On the way to fetch milk from the farm I passed the bay where the locals forage for cockles and clams. The tide was right so I went down to the water and scooped up about 100 cockles with my hands. No implements allowed or needed and the quota is 150 shells per person. In the hour I was there I was kept company by a solitary black swan who kept an eye on what I was doing. I invited the troops for lunch and had Linguine alle Vongole on the table within 1 hour of harvesting. Next time I will soak them in fresh water for a little longer – my sauce was a little salty but no one complained
Linguine alle Vongole (spaghetti with a cockle sauce)
Use a large saucepan with a lid that can hold all the vongole
100 cockles or vongole
6 tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup of white wine
Pinch of chili
Cook the garlic until soft but not colored, add the chili and rosemary, add the wine and cook for a few minutes. Put all the cockles in the pan and cover tightly. Cook until the cockles open, releasing their liquid. Remove the cockles to a heated dish as they open. At this stage start boiling the pasta, I use spaghetti in place of linguine because the grand kids will not eat anything else. When all the cockles are removed from the pan turn up the heat and reduce the liquid by about half to intensify the flavor. When the pasta is done and drained return the cockles to the pan and add the pasta, mixing well. Serve immediately. Do not add salt at any time.
Simple Italian food at its best – and I got to forage for it myself. I love this island!