Potato and Herb Gnocchi

Potato and Herb Gnocchi

It’s pouring rain outside and I have the heater on full blast. This weather calls for comfort food and right now I couldn’t imagine a meal more comforting than gnocchi.

Little soft pillows of dough. Tiny cushion dumplings. Small potato clouds… how many ways can you describe gnocchi?

But let’s put textures aside for a second. Obviously the melt in the mouth quality of gnocchi is critical, but let’s not forget the other aspect of what makes gnocchi so great: it’s a wonderful vessel for sauce. A rich tomato sauce, a creamy mushroom sauce or a simple browned butter, the possibilities are endless.

One of my favourites, which is what is featured in this recipe is a butter sauce with thyme, lemon and garlic. The simplicity of these three ingredients is sensational, and coupled with a fluffy gnocchi, it’s perfection on a plate. Before we can get there however, it’s important to understand what makes a good gnocchi (and what doesn’t!)

A gnocchi is a dumpling of dough. The dough can be made with a variety of ingredients such as semolina, wheat flour, cornmeal, potatoes, cheese or pumpkin. Whatever the dough ingredients, the idea behind them is the same: you want the gnocchi to be as light as possible.

Little dough bricks are a no-no.

This means the the dough needs to be worked as little as possible. Overworking gnocchi dough makes it tough and dense. This recipe uses potatoes as the main ingredients and potatoes too can be overworked. When mashing the potatoes, this needs to be done as briskly as possible, enough to get a rid of the lumps but not too much that you end up with potato glue. Using a potato ricer is a great way to get smooth mash effienctly without overworking.

If you don’t have one of those, I find pushing the potato through a sieve works too.

The potatoes that are ideal for gnocchi are the varieties that are fluffy and dry, a good baking potato. Varieties such as Agria (which I have used) Ilam hardy and Red Rascal. When you have boiled and drained your potatoes, return them to the pot and place it back on the still hot (but turned off) element to evaporate any left over moisture. Let your potatoes cool before mashing.

Once you have mashed your potatoes, it’s time for the other ingredients which are salt, herbs, flour and an egg. The herbs and salt add flavour, the egg will bind the mix and the flour helps to add structure. How much flour to use however will depend on your potatoes, how many you have, how much water they have retained and the size of your egg. It’s best to add your flour in slowly, half a cup at a time, until you reach a soft ball of dough. Don’t add too much.

When your dough is mixed, portion it into 5 even pieces and roll them out into long sausages, about 1.5 cm thick. Do this carefully but quickly so again, you’re not overworking your dough.

Lay your sausages out on a lightly floured bench and use a sharp knife to cut each sausages into small 1 cm gnocchi pieces. Place these pieces on a floured plate or tray until ready to cook.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Once it’s boiling, place about 10 gnocchi at a time in the water. If you add too many, the water will cool and your gnocchi will overcook and become gluggy. The gnocchi should cook for about 3-4 minutes and rise to the top when done. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and leave to drain in a colander while the rest cook.

Now that your gnocchi has been cooked, what sauce you choose is up to you.

I’ve chosen a butter sauce and as this is a simple sauce, you can add more flavour by frying the gnocchi a little in the butter and slightly caramelising them.  I also added in chopped thyme, lemon zest and garlic.

Potato and Herb Gnocchi - Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 750g peeled potatoes, chopped into 3cm pieces (a fluffy, baking variety)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2- 1 3/4 cups plain flour
  • 3 tablespoons chopped herbs (thyme, sage, parsley....etc)

Instructions

  1. Fill a large pot with cold water and add in your potatoes. Bring to boil and cook the potatoes until a knife slips through very easily.
  2. Drain your potatoes and place them back on the element for a minute to evaporate any left over moisture. Leave them to cool.
  3. Mash the potatoes.
  4. In a bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, the egg, salt and herbs. Mix in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough ball is formed. Only add the amount of flour you need.
  5. Roll the dough into 5 sausages, 1.5 cm wide.
  6. Slice each sausage into pieces of about 1 cm, and place on a floured tray.
  7. Bring a pot of water to boil.
  8. Add in the gnocchi, in small increments and cook them until they float (about 3-4 minutes)
  9. Let them drain, then add the sauce of your choice.*
  10. * letting them cooked gnocchi sit in your chosen sauce for a while will add flavour to the gnocchi as they will absorb some of the sauce.
https://homegrownhappiness.co.nz/potato-herb-gnocchi/

Homemade Ricotta Cheese from Fresh Milk or Powder (plus a handy gardening bonus!)

Homemade Ricotta Cheese from Fresh Milk or Powder (plus a handy gardening bonus!)

Today I’m talking two topics: cheese making AND gardening! How? Well, stay tuned!

I love cheese, all cheese but especially ricotta. I can eat a whole tub of it with a spoon. A little sprinkle of nutmeg, some salt and pepper…mmm.

But unfortunately, it’s an expensive habit to have and all those little plastic pots it comes in are no good for the environment. So I wanted to make it myself. I’ve been trying more and more to reduce our plastic waste and homemaking cheese seemed like a good step towards that. Now before you ask, do I get my milk in glass bottles, the answer is unfortunately no. So to get past the plastic bottles milk comes in, I now make my ricotta and yoghurt using milk powder. My local binn inn stocks powdered milk in their bulk bins and you can bring your own reusable container to fill.

The below recipe is for ricotta using fresh milk OR whole powdered milk, whatever you’ve got.

To make this ricotta, use fresh milk or make up your milk powder milk per the instructions it comes with, usually 125g of powder to 230ml of water to make one cup of milk. Heat up milk, then add an acid to split the curds from the whey. Once strained,  you are left with a clump of curds (the ricotta) and an acid whey. This is not the whey you might see advertised in protein shakes, that one is a sweet whey. Sweet whey is the whey byproduct of making hard cheeses like cheddar, and traditionally ricotta is actually made from sweet whey. I, however, am no expert cheese maker and don’t have access to sweet whey so today we are making it the easy way, from milk.

Once the curds split from the whey, you’ll have a whole heap of acid whey and not as much ricotta. This is the bit where people might not think it’s worth homemaking cheese if you’re left with so much acid whey you can’t use! Well, I have good news! You can DEFINITELY use this acid whey as well.

Acid Whey in The Garden (and other uses)

Do you have blueberries, hydrangeas, azaleas, rhododendrons or strawberries? These are a few acid-loving plants and acid whey makes an ideal liquid fertiliser! Add 10ml of acid whey to a litre of water and pour around the base of your acid-loving plants.

On top of that, acid whey can be added to bread, smoothies, juices and more.

What acid to use

So we have established you can use fresh milk or whole milk powder, what about the acid to split the milk? The good news is that this bit isn’t hugely fussy either. I have made batches using lemon juice, white vinegar and my own homemade Apple Cider Vinegar. The only vinegar types I would really stay away from are ones with a very strong taste or colour such as red wine, malt or balsamic vinegar as they would change the taste and colour too much of the whey and cheese.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese - Makes about 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese

Ingredients

  • 1.5 litres whole milk (powder, or fresh)
  • 4-5 tablespoons acid (vinegar or lemon juice)
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan, heat the milk until just before simmer. A collection of tiny bubbles will start forming around the sides but the milk should not boil.
  2. Slowly add in the acid, stirring gently. Keep an eye out on the milk as you do so, it should split into white clumps of curd and yellow whey. If it's not splitting, add in a little more acid. Stir in the pinch of salt.
  3. Let the mixture cool, then strain in a cheese cloth, pushing the clumps of curd together gently to form a ball of ricotta.
  4. Store the ricotta in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within 3 days.
  5. The whey can be frozen or stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.
https://homegrownhappiness.co.nz/homemade-ricotta-cheese-from-fresh-milk-or-powder/

Homemade Yacon Syrup

Homemade Yacon Syrup

Let’s take about the benefits of yacon. This sweet, juicy tuber is packed with vitamins for a healthy immune system but one of its best properties is that it is meant to help with regulating blood sugars. It has a very low GI of 1 (Glycemic Index) which means the carbohydrates in yacon are metabolised and digested slowly which stops the peak in blood glucose levels which regular sugar causes.

Because yacon is sweet and ridiculously juicy, it is a great vegetable to turn into a syrup.

The syrup is made by reducing yacon juice until most of the water has evaporated and you are left with a thick, dark syrup resembling molasses. You need a lot of yacon to make the syrup, in my recipe 4kg yacon makes 250ml syrup, but yacon plants produce easily and plentifully so that’s not a huge issue. I get between 1-2kg of yacon per plant. The bonus is that you can replant tubers from the plant you have just harvested and have an endless supply of yacon!

The yacon plant produces two sets of tubers, the eating ones and the reproducing ones. Once you have harvested your yacon, you can store the reproducing tubers under mulch and compost and they’ll pop back up in spring. If you live in an area with snow or regular frosts, it’s best to store the tubers in damp compost inside a glass house or shed.

Yacon reproducing tuber (purple)

In total I harvested just over 4kg of yacon, it came to 4kg exactly once they were peeled and prepped. You can tell how juicy yacon is when you peel it as often the tuber will just snap like ice, as it so water filled.

Then it’s time to blitz up the yacon. I used a blender as opposed to a juicer because my juicer doesn’t extract the same amount of liquid as when I do it manually but if you have an extra good juicer, by all means, do it that way. I got 3 litres yacon juice from my 4kg yacon.

When the yacon is blended it will oxidise quickly and turn green. This is just a visual difference and does not change the taste. The green colour is responsible for the dark, molasses style syrup at the end.

Once the yacon has been blended to a pulp, extract the juice by passing it through a fine sieve, cheesecloth or similar. I used my Onya reusable produce bags for this. This post isn’t sponsored, I just love their innovative, environmentally friendly bags!

Then, bring the juice to a boil, then keep at a rolling simmer for about 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally  (increasing the frequency near the end) while it reduces. Scum will start to rise to the top and this can be scooped off with a spoon. Once the syrup has reduced to a consistency of runny honey, pour it into a sterilised jar.

This syrup is sweet, but only about half as sweet as cane sugar or honey so bear that in mind when substituting for sugar. Taste-wise, it has that hint of yacon taste at the end so it’s not a syrup I would use to slather on my pancakes. It makes a great sweetener in dressings, smoothies, coffee and healthy baking.

Homemade Yacon Syrup (makes 250ml)

Ingredients

  • 4kg yacon, peeled and diced

Instructions

  1. Blitz up your yacon to a pulp, then pass through a sieve or cheesecloth to extract the juice. (alternatively use a juicer). Add to a large saucepan.
  2. Bring the juice to boil, on medium heat and keep it continuously simmering, stirring occasionally.
  3. Scum will rise to the top and you can scoop this off with a spoon.
  4. After about 3 hours the yacon juice should have reduced considerably. Increase the frequency of stirring now to avoid it burning.
  5. Once it is the consistency of runny honey, pour into a sterilised jar.
https://homegrownhappiness.co.nz/homemade-yacon-syrup/

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