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!
Having two young men of four and six years old (grandchildren), visiting twice a week, who grew up enjoying some of Nonno’s best efforts in baking bread, and who are now considering themselves as experts, Nonno has to keep up the quality and deliver at least twice a week. Normally focaccia in this house has garlic and rosemary as toppings, which meet with the approval of the critics. Last week I tried a plain focaccia with olive oil and salt, which was instantly rejected as quality. This week I am trying my hand at tomato and garlic – let us wait on feedback from the experts.
In the Italian Viterbo area where this recipe stems from, the term “porchetta”, which means roasted pig, is applied to any dish that use wild fennel, being it fresh or dried flowers. The wild flowers should not be confused with fennel seeds.
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I am fortunate to have access to hunting areas and friends that hunt rabbits with me. I also breed rabbits for the table on a regular basis. Last week, I could not make it to the hunt and my friend was good enough to bring the only Hare they shot for me to cook. I also have a good friend across the road that showed me the wild fennel growing in the old quarry across the road, so I had assembled all the ingredients for my dish of wild hare with wild fennel!
Wild Hare with Fennel
One large Hare, cleaned, gutted and washed
Heart, liver and kidneys of the Hare (Coratella) – Cleaned, washed and cubed or minced
Extra Virgin olive oil
Six large sage leaves
4 Garlic cloves – cleaned and crushed
1 Cup dry white wine (the best is from Orvieto)
2 Medium potatoes peeled and cubed
2 Slices of Prosciutto or Pancetta (home made if possible)
1 handful of rosemary leaves
Half a handful of fresh Fennel Flowers
12 Black Olives – pitted
Salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 150C. Heat some olive oil in a heavy pan and ad the coratella, sage, half the garlic, salt and pepper. Brown the coratella, add the wine that you have not drunk yet and allow it to evaporate. Ad the potatoes and mix through, then take it off the heat. Wrap the coratella mixture in the prosciuto. Stuff the hare with the fennel, rosemary and wrapped coratella. Sow the rabbit up so the stuffing would not fall out. Put some olive oil in a heavy oven pan large enough to take the whole hare. Add the hare to he pan with the rest of the garlic, salt and pepper. Roast the hare about two hours. Halfway through the roasting process, add the olives and the rest of the wine you have not drunk. Turn it once or twice and baste it every so often. If the rabbit legs look dry, wrap the leg ends in aluminium foil.
Do not forget the home made red wine!
If one has space to grow pumpkins (I dug up some of the front lawn to plant mine), gorgeous, fresh, yellow flowers are a great perk this time of the year. Fried simply they are spectacular on the plate and the crispness of the batter and tasty flower make them the best starter for any meal.
Fried Pumpkin Flowers
Luke warm water
salt to taste
Use a whisk to mix the salt and flour well. Add small amounts of water and keep whisking until a batter forms that is the consistency of cream. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, the oil should be about 3 cm deep and very hot. Dip each flower in the batter, top and bottom, shake off excess batter and slip the flower into the oil. When crisp and slightly coloured remove an drain on kitchen paper. Do not overcrowd the pan. When done arrange all the flowers on a serving platter, serve hot.
ENJOY with a glass of home made wine!
The joys of fresh organic produce straight out of the garden. The less complicated a dish is, the more chance there is of it being superb. I go so far that before looking at a new dish, I count the ingredients and if the list is too long, it does not even warrant my time to read any further. Carciofi bolliti is the ultimate of simplicity, and in our house probably the favorite way to eat these wonderful flowers. Boil the already cleaned and prepared carciofi in water until the leaves are easy to pull off with a gentle tug. Drain and serve with a bowl of very good extra virgin olive oil, salted to taste (about a teaspoon of salt per 1/2 cup of oil) Pull the leaves off one by one and dip in the olive oil salt mixture and rip the flesh off with your front teeth – discard the hard part. Of coarse the younger the flower and the closer you get to the heart, the more and more of the leave you can eat. When all the leaves are gone and the heart is exposed, make sure the choke is not stringy, and if so, remove and discard before eating the heart – soft and creamy.
Enjoy!!! Do not forget a piece of home made bread to mop up all the olive oil and wash it down with good home made wine.
Breakfast cannot be more enjoyable than with fresh home grown free range eggs and organic spinach out of the garden. I am lucky enough to have a combination of quail and chicken eggs for breakfast.
Wash two large bunches of spinach (beetroot or radish tops work equally well). Do not add water, the water clinging to the leaves from the washing will be enough. After a while press as much water out of the spinach as you can and put aside. Add one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and one tablespoon of butter to a pan. Also add three large cloves of garlic and one small chili finely chopped, simmer for about two minutes on low heat. Add the spinach to the pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Now break in as many eggs as required and cook until eggs are done to your liking. You can cover the pan for a while when cooking if you want the eggs hard. Sprinkle with grated parmigiano, black pepper, add a dash of olive oil and serve with home made bread.