I feel like I’ve been working incessantly on the blog for the last two weeks and yet have had nothing to post on it! This has been a mixture of disasters learning experiences – Cornish fried ravioli (let’s not even go there!) – AND preparing for my next guest blog at LiveGlutenFree, which should be going live sometime at the end of next week (here’s my last one!), AND developing my contribution for the upcoming Gluten-Free Recipe Challenge hosted by Caleigh over at GlutenFree[k] (here’s my last one!).

Both of these have not been without their problems. My first effort for LiveGlutenFree was a gluten-free version of ‘le pounti’, a speciality of the Auvergne in France, which I can best describe as a cross-between a crustless quiche and a savoury clafoutis: it’s made with smoked bacon (or lardons), ham, onion and Swiss chard or spinach, mixed with a batter and baked in the oven. Sounds pretty good so far, I hear you say.

On paper, it was a winner. In reality, it was horrible. The batter had a rather unpleasant soapy texture and there was a noxious reek and aftertaste of still-raw spinach. My husband and I stoically munched our way through our portions and I even managed to sneak a couple of spoonfuls into my toddler. When the meal was over, I wordlessly ushered the rest of it down the food waste disposal chute and we didn’t speak of it again… So, no ‘le pounti’ and it was back to the drawing-board… Do give the LiveGlutenFree blog a visit next week and see what I managed to come up with instead!

My travails with the gluten-free, egg-free, minty-licious recipe challenge, I will regale you with on Monday when I unveil my contribution…

Gluten-free gnocchi with bacon and artichokes

I made this dish last week with stuff from the fridge and a packet of ready-made gluten-free pasta, when I realised that the meat I had taken out of the freezer hadn’t defrosted in time. It was so good, I decided to do it again, but this time I thought I’d ring the changes by using gnocchi rather than pasta. The sauce is extremely reminiscent of ‘alla carbonara’ although I’m not sure if it’s even remotely authentic. Artichokes are my current favourite vegetable (high in prebiotics!) but, if you’re not keen, I think blanched asparagus spears would work just as well.

When gnocchi are done well, they are bee-yute-ee-full. When they’re not, they’re horrendous. In the years BGF, I used to buy them already made and found the taste of flour overpowering.  Homemade are soooo much better, and I think particularly so when they’re gluten-free and made with potato starch. They are the lightest and fluffiest gnocchi imaginable and the starch allows the unadulterated taste of the potato to shine through.

Lots of recipes I’ve seen are quite precious about the way in which you cook the potatoes: some bake the potatoes in the oven first and scoop the insides out and others boil the potatoes whole in their skins and peel them in a tea-towel when they’re cooked. These methods don’t sit well with me. They take ages, the oven going on is an added expense, I always manage to burn myself and there’s a mucky tea-towel to be washed . Basically, you need dry potatoes so I cut them small, boil them for a short time and allow them to steam dry in the colander. It still works and takes a fraction of the time and effort. You really do need to use a potato ricer or equivalent though so that you get lump-free mash. They’re not massively expensive and once you’ve eaten mash that’s been riced, you’ll never look back. If you’ve never seen a potato ricer, imagine a garlic crusher on steroids…

The consistency of the dough is really important. If it’s too wet, it will disintegrate in the water; too dry and you’ll end up with stodgy, glutinous cannonballs which will lodge in your throat and weigh heavy in your gut. So don’t be too cavalier with the flour – if you add too much, you’re faced with the unenviable choice of either boiling more potatoes to redress the balance or a post-prandial snack of a packet of Rennies.

Serves 2-3

500g floury potatoes (peeled weight – equivalent to 3 medium-large King Edward’s)
25g butter or butter substitute (I used a low-fat olive spread)
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper
115g Community Foods potato flour (potato starch)

125ml double cream or low-fat thick cream equivalent (I used WeightWatchers)
60ml milk
50g Parmesan or Grana Padano, grated finely
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
4 rashers of smoked back bacon, trimmed of fat and cut into pieces (I usually cut into 1 cm strips and then halve)
6 tinned artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

You will also need a potato ricer, mouli-légume or a sieve.

Cut the potatoes into 1-2cm pieces. Place in a large pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Boil for 10 minutes, until tender to the point of a knife, and then drain in a colander. Leave in the colander to dry for five minutes, shaking them once after a couple of minutes to enable steam to escape – you want the cut edges of the potato pieces to look floury and fluffy.  Don’t leave them any longer than this, as you need them to be warm in order to melt and absorb the butter and egg yolk.

Push the potatoes either through a potato ricer or a mouli-légume (or, at a pinch, through a sieve) into a large bowl. This will ensure the lightest, fluffiest gnocchi possible. I really wouldn’t recommend using a masher because it always seems to come out lumpy. Add the butter (or butter substitute) and the egg yolk. Season generously with salt and pepper and mix well to combine.

Now stir in about two-thirds of the potato starch. Using your hand, gently bring the mixture together, gradually adding more starch until you have a soft and silky dough. Tip the dough out onto the work surface and gently knead: you shouldn’t need to flour the surface – if you do, your dough is too wet and you need to add more starch.

Take a handful of the dough at a time and roll out gently into a snake about 1.5cm thick. Cut into pieces about 2.5 cm long and lay out on a plate. Continue until the dough has been used up. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate whilst you make the sauce (or at least 15-20 minutes if you’re using a ready-made sauce).

Mix the cream, milk, grated cheese and egg yolks in a bowl or jug and season with pepper (you shouldn’t need any salt because of the cheese and bacon) and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying-pan (skillet) or sauté pan over a low flame. Add the chopped onion and cook gently for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another couple of minutes until the onions have softened and are translucent. Add the chopped bacon and continue to fry for another five or so minutes. Then add the quartered artichoke hearts to the pan and continue cooking until they are heated through.  Switch the heat off. (If you’re cooking this in advance, you can refrigerate this mix at this point until you need it).

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Take the gnocchi out of the refrigerator and gently press each one of them with the back of the prongs of a fork (I usually do them diagonally because I think they look better!). When the water has come up to the boil, cook the gnocchi in three batches. The gnocchi will sink to the bottom of the pan when they go in the water but they will gradually float to the surface. When they’re all merrily bobbing up and down on the surface, put the timer on for one minute. At the end of the minute, scoop them out, using a slotted spoon, into the bacon and artichoke mixture and continue with the next batch.

When all the gnocchi are cooked, turn the heat back on under the pan (a low flame again). Pour in the cream and egg mixture and stir gently until the gnocchi and bacon are piping hot and the sauce has thickened and is bubbling (about 5 minutes).

Advertisements