Time to Sup on Soup
This Saturday sees the fulfilment of my dream of starting a supper club/pop-up restaurant and I couldn’t be more excited! Yesterday, Nat and I had our first full run through of what we were going to dazzle the lucky people who are coming on Saturday evening and I will be giving you a sneak preview of the wondrous yummies that we will tantalise your taste buds with. We started the day at one of my favourite foraging spots, picking Wild Garlic for the de-constructed Salmon Wellington and Caramelised Onion Tarte Tatin, Ground Elder to add to the Consommé, and Nettles to make Pesto. We then drove a short distance away to another of my secret foraging spots where we harvested Quince Blossom to garnish our Quartet of Rose. Then we went back to my kitchen where we began to whip up the food.
Peter’s Hot Smoker (a.k.a The Bomb)
While I was busy making the Nettle Gnocchi (pronounced nyokki not nocky!) and Pesto, Nat made the soup, shredded the smoked mutton (which I stupidly didn’t take photos of but it was marinated overnight in a paste of Wild Garlic leaves, Black Pepper, Olive oil and Salt (I love Sel de Guérande) before being going in the smoker over charcoal and oak to be lovingly tended by my wonderful husband for 9.5 hours – 8 uncovered, and 1.5 wrapped in foil with extra marinade and smoking juices added). This was then tossed with some sautéed onions, herbs (including Winter Savoury from my friend’s garden) and Agar and rolled into logs. She made shortbread, pan fried the salmon, baked a salmon mousse, made salmon crackling, 3 different sauces to decorate plates with, caramelised red onion chutney, the tarte tatin and a cup of tea. This is why she’s the Chef and I’m the Wild Food Specialist!! In my defence, I seriously overestimated the amount of gnocchi I needed to make (I blame the fact that I would happily eat a huge plate of these but you won’t have room for more than about 10 pieces in a five course meal!) Never ever ever try to make gnocchi out of 4kg of potato – it’s ruddy hard work! It is also about enough to feed the five thousand. I have now got 6 bags of gnocchi dough in the freezer and each will feed a party of four at normal sized portions! So here are some lovely food pictures for you to drool over, followed by my recipe for Nettle Gnocchi.
The First course is a Consommé with Quinoa, Wild Garlic and Ground Elder.
The Second Course is a Caramelised Red Onion Tarte Tatin served on a bed of Wild Garlic with Nettle Pesto and a Balsamic Reduction
The Third Course is a De-constructed Salmon Wellington with Wild Garlic Leaf Curd, Salmon Mousse, Puff Pastry Finger and Ground Elder
The Fourth Course is Smoked Leg of Mutton Served with Nettle Gnocchi and a Chocolate Sauce
Fifth Course is a Quartet of Rose: Rosehip Panacotta with Quince Blossom, Dark Chocolate Dipped Candied Rosehips, Rosewater Shortbread, and a Rosehip Jelly
Gluten Free Nettle Gnocchi – Serves 4
(You can make these with ‘normal’ wheat flour too but you may need to adjust the quantities)
3/4 Cup White Rice Flour
1/4 Cup Sweet Rice Flour (Also known as Glutinous Rice Flour and available from Asian supermarkets; it’s used to make Mochi)
4oz or 113g Nettles
18oz or 510g Russet Potatoes (the choice of potato is incredibly important so change this at your own risk)
1 Large Egg
1/4 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
pinch of mace
Boil your potatoes in salted water until just cooked then peel while still hot (they’re easier to peel this way). Use a potato ricer or grater to ‘mash’ the potatoes. You need to do this as they must be completely free of even the tiniest lumps. Set this aside.
Blanch your nettles for about 5 minutes then drain and leave to cool slightly. Squeeze all the water out of them then put them in a food processor and pulse until very finely blended.
Knead the nettles, pepper and mace into the potato mixture until it is completely incorporated. Transfer this mixture to a clean surface that has been dusted with white rice flour. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and break in the egg. Sprinkle the flours over the top of the potato mixture and knead the whole lot together. Keep kneading to form a dough that doesn’t stick easily to your hands any more. It helps to wash your hands at this stage as the mixture will always cling to your hands a bit.
Use a dough scraper to clean your surface of any bits of dough still clinging then dust with a bit of flour. Roll your mixture into a log that is about 3 inches thick then cut off slices about 2 inches wide. Take out one slice and cover the rest with a tea towel to prevent it drying out.
Turn your piece of dough over so the cut side is facing upwards then roll into a long sausage about 1cm thick. Use your dough scraper or a knife that has been dipped in water to cut out little pillows about 1.5cm long. Feel free to make them larger if you want bigger mouthfuls, I prefer them to be small and dainty. They also cook more evenly this way. Shape the gnocchi either by pressing a small indentation into one side of them or by rolling over them with apastry cutter. I find a pastry cutter much easier to use than a fork. Before continuing to roll them, do a test cook. Put one gnocchi in a pan of boiling, salted water and watch what happens. If it falls apart, you need to add more flour. Do this a little bit at a time as too much flour will make your gnocchi really heavy which would be bad. If they hold together, continue to shape the rest of your dough. Put your shaped gnocchi onto a floured tray and cover with a cloth. Repeat this process until all you gnocchi is ready.
To cook, boil the gnocchi one batch at a time in a large pan of boiling salted water. They are ready after cooking for 4-5 minutes and when they flot at the surface of your water. Fish them out with a slotted spoon and put straight into your sauce. If you need to keep them aside, toss them in melted butter.
You can serve these gnocchi with any sauce of your choice. I like to still be able to taste the gnocchi so I served these tossed in Sage Butter and toasted pine nuts with shavings of parmesan cheese on top. Simple, beautiful and tasty. Let me know how it turns out for you!
PS: If you do want to freeze the dough, roll it into large logs before doing so and defrost in the fridge overnight. It will be much harder to work with as it tends to fall apart after freezing so you will probably need to add an egg and some more flour to it and knead again. Resist the urge to add too much flour or your gnocchi will be like little bullets, and roll them out thinly instead of the way I have done above. I found that rolling little balls of dough around the handle of a teeny wooden spoon to be a very effective method. Be warned, it will take you twice as long to roll them out than it did when they were fresh!