Saturday, June 19, 2010

Getting Serious About Shanks

Brown shanks in 2 tbsps oil and remove. Melt 50g butter and sweat 2 each of sliced onions, garlic cloves. leeks, potatoes, carrots, parsnips and celery sticks. Add back shanks, 1/2 cup pearl barley, a bay leaf and a sprig of thyme. Add 2 litres of water and simmer for 3 hours. Remove shanks, allow to cool and break up meat and return to soup. Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with chopped parsley and lemon zest.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Saracino's Way

Ida Saracino (below left) is a friend of ours and teaches with Mary's younger sister Therese McDevitt (below right). Ida has been cooking her Nona's gnocchi recipe for many years and is good at it. There is gnocchi and there is gnocchi. Ida's is the lightest and most flavoursome I have ever eaten. Today she took over our kitchen for a gnocchi masterclass. Judge for yourself.

First the recipe. Take 900g of Dutch Creams, weighed after peeling, cut them in quarters and steam them for 20 mins. Then put them through a potato ricer or a mouli legume and let them cool completely (I put ours outside on a cold day for an hour and a half). Then sift 225g of plain flour into a bowl and break two eggs into a jug and whisk with a little salt and pepper.

Next, make a well in the bowl of potato and mix in very gently with your hands 1/3rd of the flour and 1/3rd of the eggs and repeat till all the eggs and flour are combined with the potato and formed into a ball of dough.

The trick is not to over knead the mixture and not to let it get too wet and sticky. Just fingertip it and if necessary add just a little more flour. But remember don't make it too dry either because you will be rolling it out on a floured surface to stop it sticking to the board and it will take up a bit more flour then.

Cut slices off the ball of dough and cut again into pieces about the size of a medium onion. Then roll them out into lengths about as round as a thin sausage. Then cut the lengths into about 2cm pieces .

The next trick is to roll the cut up pieces so that they have a hollow underneath to hold the sauce. You can press them gently down the tines of a table fork with your thumb to mark them and shape them like half moons or you can acquire a ridged gnocchi board and roll them across it widthways with two or three finger as shown above and below.

When they are all done, (and the mix makes about 150 and feeds about 6 people for a main course), boil up a big boiler of salted water and add about 25 gnocchi at a time. As soon as they start to rise to the top, about a minute, fish them out with a spider or slotted spoon and keep them warm in a serving dish until they are all done. Then pour over your sauce. Today we had a puttanesca sauce with grated parmigiano reggiano, but melted gorgonzola dolce with a couple of teaspons of white wine makes a very simple alternative sauce. Go on, give it a go. Oh and a glass of Soave to wash it down.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Where the Heart Is

I have spent 35 years of my professional life endeavouring to avoid publicity so it was with some trepidation and more than a little reluctance that I accepted Linda Smith's offer to do a piece in the Mercury on my kitchen. Well, it turned out more like a life story but she is a very talented young woman and the result was most pleasing. Thanks Linda and thanks Sam Rosewarne for the great photos. For anyone who wants to read it at the Mercury online it's under the title "Advocate of Home and Hearth" The pictures below are Sam's but the bottom two are from my advocacy teaching week in South Africa in January and February this year as mentioned by Linda in the article.