Every meal has a story. The provenance of the ingredients, the journey traveled to get in your kitchen and the lives of those it passed on the way.
Returning from the Glengallan spring market on a Sunday afternoon, I felt inspired to make gnocchi. Making do with what I had in the unit, I pulled out a heap of ingredients to make a sauce. I have never made gnocchi before, so I googled a detailed recipe. It struck me that the ingredients laid out on the bench was a gorgeous representation of south-east Queensland produce. I love looking at all the raw ingredients before they are transformed. Then the sense of accomplishment, you get from cutting, dicing, mashing, frying, pressing, rolling and baking the ingredients to turn them into something wonderful.
Here is the story behind my kale and tomato gnocchi.
CHAPTER ONE: The Gnocchi ingredients
3 large sebago potatoes
The Potatoes: The previous weekend we drove down to Canungra on a whim. I picked up a 3kg bag of prize winning sebago potatoes from a roadside stall for $5. This cute tractor honesty box (pictured at the top) was set up on the right hand side of the road, as you you approach the town, just before the Canungra creek bridge. The Canungra show happened to be on the day before and apparently these spuds had won first prize (hopefully in a spud competition).
Canungra is a small rural town nestled in the back of the Gold Coast Hinterland. Also known as the “Valley of the Owls,” it is only an hours drive from Brisbane and a popular motorcycle stop over.
The Egg: Earlier in the day (gnocchi making day that is), I bought a dozen eggs from a roadside stall in Gladfield, on the Cunningham highway. This was after a particularly disappointing visit to the Glengallan spring market (a story I will share later). I can’t verify the provenance of these eggs but they had the tell tale signs of being straight off the farm.
The Flour: I used biodynamic wholemeal wheat flour from Red Gum Milling. This was an extra I ordered in my weekly Food Connect box. Red Gum milling grow, mill and store the grains on the farm without the use of chemicals.
1kg of this flour is $4.50 through Food Connect.
CHAPTER TWO: The Gnocchi sauce (kale and tomato)
As a subscriber to Food Connect, I now have a regular supply of local vegetables. My fridge is always stocked with an interesting range. For my gnocchi sauce I decided to use cherry tomatoes, kale, chilli, garlic, mushrooms, roma tomatoes and Italian parsley.
The imperfections of the cherry tomatoes remind me that produce is not meant to be supermarket perfect all the time. Taste and nutrition count more than looks.
I like the surprise each week when I open up my Food Connect box. It keeps my diet diverse and seasonal, plus it stops me getting in a rut with meals. Kale is not something I ordinarily buy but it is fun to play with new ingredients.
Being my first time using Kale, I had a quick google to see how to use it. I read that you can't eat the stems. Turns out this is more a matter of personal preference than in-edibility. The stems are thick and fibrous, some ideas for use are: juice, soup, stir-fry or even vegetable stock. Next time!
I added a bit of fresh rosemary to the sauce. I had bought the rosemary bunch for $1, from the heritage trust stall, at the Glengallan markets.
Steeped in history and grandure, the Glengallan homestead is a beautiful setting for a seasonal market.
CHAPTER THREE: Making the Gnocchi
I boiled the potatoes with the skin on for about 35- 45 minutes, until soft enough to skewer but so the skins were not split.
Once cool enough to hold, I scraped the skin away with a knife.
1 egg, freshly grated nutmeg and a bit of pepper and salt.
After mashing the potato and pushing it through a colander (best alternative I could think of to a potato ricer), I made a well with the potato and poured the egg mix in the centre. I kneaded the mixture together, gradually adding the flour. It is a bit messy at first.
It takes a few minutes of kneading to get a smooth but slightly stick dough. Don't over knead or add too much flour as this makes the gnocchi heavy and tough.
There are many ways to shape and indent the gnocchi. I found a few quick tutorials on You Tube and opted for the short roll and curl down a fork. Clearly this takes practise and no two pieces of mine looked the same.
I need practise, but this is not too bad for a first attempt.
CHAPTER FOUR: The Sauce
In a last minute decision, I browned a bit of steak to include with the sauce.
I cheated a bit and added a jar of tomato pasta sauce (provenance and story unknown).
To maximise the nutrients from the Kale, I added this to the mix at the end, once I had turned off the stove. The heat from the sauce was enough to wilt it down.
CHAPTER FIVE: Coming together
Once added to boiling water the gnocchi takes about 1 minute to cook. It is ready when the gnocchi rises to the surface. I recommend cooking the gnocchi in smaller batches.
Skim the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon and drain well.
I mixed my gnocchi with the sauce and baked it in the oven for 20 minutes , to allow the flavours of the sauce to nicely penetrate the gnocchi.
My gnocchi was light, fluffy and full of the tastes of south-east Queensland. Yum! It was also prize winning (best meal of the week that is).