Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Three Ways with Beetroot Gnocchi
In it’s own right, most pasta couldn’t be more bland. Beige and almost flavourless it is like a silent servant being ordered around by the other ingredients. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been neglecting pasta. So in my quest to eat less refined carbohydrates and following the success of my experiments of using root vegetables as pasta substitutes I decided to have some colourful fun creating beetroot gnocchi.
In my head it seemed a fairly simple task. Substitute the potato for beetroot, mix in some flour, add an egg, season, knead, prove, roll into a sausage, chop into nuggets, boil and serve. But I hadn’t accounted for the fact that my kitchen would transform into a blood bath, or that my hands would be caked in lurid red Playdough rendering me incapable of doing anything. But it was well worth all the scrubbing and hard work.
I made enough dough for several meals so played around with various beetroot friendly flavour combinations. Of all the combinations I tried, a simple pairing with a lip pursing goat’s cheese worked well as did a creamy chanterelle sauce and a bowl of super charged aniseed soup with beetroot gnocchi dumplings.
6 large beetroots
2 large potatoes
1/6th weight of beetroot and potato of plain flour
Boil the potato until tender, drain, allow to cool for a bit and then mash. Do not under any circumstances whiz in a food processor as it will become gluey and the texture of the gnocchi will be damaged.
Roast the beetroot on a bed of rock salt for 40 minutes. Others suggest boiling or steaming them, but having tried different methods, the salt roasting technique is best. The beetroot keeps its colour better and the flavour is enhanced. Remove the beetroot from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the skin and blend in a liquidiser.
Combine the beetroot puree with the potato and marvel at the bright red mixture.
Season with salt and pepper. Next beat in the flour and the egg. Keep adding flour until the mixture turns from unmanageable red gunge to a well behaved dough. It took far more flour than I had expected to achieve this, so be patient.
Once it is becoming dough like transfer the mixture to a well floured work surface and knead like you’ve never kneaded before. Make sure your hands are well floured and you are wearing a T shirt you don’t care about much.
Tear off a piece of dough for your serving and roll into a thin sausage shape. Roll in flour and cut into little nuggets.
Boil in well salted water until the first red blob floats to the surface and then drain immediately. Serve with any of the flavour combinations below.
Beetroot Gnocchi with Goats Cheese, Toasted Walnuts and Chives
Once cooked, simply place the gnocchi in a bowl, top with goats cheese and toasted walnuts and place under the grill for a few moments to melt the cheese. Then sprinkle with finely snipped chives and season maniacally with salt and pepper. It’s a delicious autumnal lunch time dish that, once you have made the dough, is unbelievably simple to make. The subtly earthy flavour of the beetroot was a super match for the sharp cheese and the soft texture was enhanced by the crunchy walnuts.
Beetroot Gnocchi with a Chanterelle and Goat’s Cheese Sauce
The woody, earthy tones in mushrooms and beetroot are made for each other. Coupled with a splodge of crème fraiche and a knob of goat’s cheese it made for a more indulgent main dish than the previous version.
Sauté two large handfuls of chanterelles in butter and olive oil over a high heat. Sprinkle with salt and continue cooking until they have leached their water out and taken on some colour. Lower the heat. Then add a finely minced clove of garlic and cook for a few minutes to take the raw edge away. Then add several spoonfuls of crème fraiche and bubble away until it has become saucy. Toss in the goat’s cheese and then slather over your just boiled beetroot gnocchi.
Garnish with chives and sprinkle with smoked salt and season with black pepper. Just writing this makes me want to eat it all over again, but this time either with a glass of white wine like a Grüner Veltliner or something more woody like a Chassagne-Montrachet.
Fennel Soup with Beetroot Gnocchi Floaters
Being very partial to the taste of anise I decided to buy up my local store’s stock of fennel bulbs and make a fennel soup supercharged with star anise and tarragon.
I simply roasted 4 chopped fennel bulbs until golden with a couple of shallots and 5 star anise and then added them to a pan of simmering water with a glug of chicken stock. I removed the star anise and then blitzed in a food processor before seasoning and topping with beetroot gnocchi and a sprinkling of goats cheese and walnuts.
The photo doesn’t really do it justice. So you’ll have to take my word for it that it’s a cracking combination and is something I am going to make time and time again. I’ll just have to work on the presentation!
If you’ve been inspired to make some beetroot gnocchi by this post, I encourage you to make a large amount and store the remaining dough in the freezer. After the fun of making beetroot gnocchi, my next task is to do something similar with all the glut of pumpkins that November is promising.
If you’ve got any further ideas about what to do with beetroot or pumpkin gnocchi please let me know.