Lemon, ricotta and basil gnocchi
For the gnocchi:
350g floury (baking) potatoes
1 large egg, beaten
a pinch of nutmeg
zest of 1 lemon
a few basil leaves
Maldon sea salt, to season
black pepper, to season
For the beetroot:
8 baby beetroots (or 2 regular size, if you can’t find smaller ones)
150g Maldon sea salt
1 tsp black peppercorns
several sprigs of thyme
2–3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled and crushed
a splash of balsamic vinegar
a splash of olive oil
a squeeze of lemon juice
60g goat’s curd
200g peas, cooked lightly
200g broad beans, shelled and cooked lightly
Begin by baking the potatoes for the gnocchi. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Scrub the potatoes and bake them in the oven until cooked through, which will probably take about an hour. You can test them by sticking a knife in; if it comes out easily, with no resistance, they are ready.
Lower the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas 2 for the salt-baked beetroot. Wash the beetroot and trim off the leaves if still attached, but do not peel. Take two large sheets of foil and lay them out like a cross. Put the Maldon salt in the middle, and add the peppercorns, thyme and garlic. Place the beetroot on the salt. Lift the foil up a little, add one tablespoon of water and pull the foil together, closing it around the beetroot but not too tightly – they need room to steam. Put them on a baking tray and then cook them in the oven for about 30–40 minutes, or until soft (if you’re using two larger beetroots instead of the baby ones this will take longer – allow twice the time). Unwrap the beetroots as soon as they are cool enough to handle and gently rub off the skins; when they are cooked and still warm the skins should rub off easily. Discard the skins and the salt mixture, then set the beets aside.
This part is key. While the potatoes are still warm, just cool enough to handle without actually burning yourself, peel off the skins or use a spoon to scoop out the cooked flesh. While it is still warm it needs to be mashed in a ricer, with a potato masher or even passed through a coarse sieve into a large bowl – it should look like grated potato. After this it will have cooled down more, but it shouldn’t be completely cold. Fold the beaten egg into the potato, then add the nutmeg, ricotta, lemon zest, a couple of torn basil leaves, and enough flour to bind the mixture. Season with Maldon salt and pepper and knead the dough a little, adding more flour if the mixture is too loose. Lightly flour a work surface and tip the dough out onto it. Finish kneading the dough by hand – it should be light and dry to the touch. Then divide it into long sausage shapes. Cut them into pieces the size of large walnuts. For an authentic finish, roll these down the back of a floured fork.
Put a large pan of salted water on to boil, and then reduce the heat to a steady rolling simmer. Blanch the gnocchi in the water in batches (don’t overfill the pan as they need room to float up) for 3–4 minutes until firm; they will rise to the surface when ready. Lift them out with a slotted spoon, drain them briefly on kitchen paper and then set them to one side to cool and dry.
When you are ready to serve, halve the beetroots and warm them up in a pan with a little balsamic vinegar. Put the butter in a large non-stick pan and fry the gnocchi briefly, browning them quickly on all sides. Put a dash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon in another pan and toss together the warm peas, broad beans, a little of the ricotta and goat’s curd, and season with Maldon salt and pepper. Place half of this in the bottom of each serving bowl and build up with the pieces of baby beetroot, then a few small spoons of the goat’s curd, the pan-fried gnocchi, a little more pea mixture and a few torn basil leaves. Serve immediately.
This recipe is from Desert Island Dishes and Copyright of Maldon Salt Company Limited 2012