Portion/Yield:Serves 4 starter portions or 2 as main course
Making Gnocchi like an Italian mama is an art in itself. I have gone one step further and used celeriac instead of traditional potatoes. I guess that the Italian Mamas will never forgive me! Ross has been the king of gnocchi making in our household and while on holiday he has shown me the tricks and art of making gnocchi.
Personally I like the gnocchi best when it’s cooked twice, once blanched in boiling water and then the second time pan-fried until it crisps into fluffy pillows. The rich watercress cream complements the crispy pillows of celeriac gnocchi perfectly as the buttery peppery sauce highlights the nutty flavour of the celeriac. This dish is ideal as a starter or main meal and a perfect vegetarian recipe to show off style and skill.
Ingredients & Method
For the Celeriac Gnocchi
- 400g celeriac, peeled and diced
- 10g olive oil salt and pepper
- 160g “00” flour + 30g extra for dusting
- 1 large whole free-range egg
- 2tbs semolina
For the Watercress Cream
- 150g watercress
- 20g butter
- 20g plain flour
- 100g milk
- 100g vegetable stock
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 100g small asparagus spears, blanched
- 1tbs olive oil
- 50g watercress
First prepare the celeriac gnocchi. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Peel and dice the celeriac into 20cm pieces. Use a large piece of parchment paper and a baking sheet. Mix together the celeriac, olive oil and seasoning and spoon onto the center of the parchment paper. Wrap the parchment paper to form a parcel. Put the parcel onto the baking sheet and then place on the middle shelf of the preheated oven. Roast the celeriac for 30 minutes. The celeriac would have steamed with no colour. Open the parchment paper and dry the celeriac in the oven for a further 10 minutes, no colour and no liquid.
Spoon the hot celeriac in to a ricer and push the celeriac through, alternatively use a blender or Thermomix to puree the celeriac until smooth.
Place the mashed celeriac in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg and flour. Gradually incorporate the egg and flour to form dough. Do this while the celeriac is still warm.
Bring a large saucepan with salted water to the boil; place a large bowl of ice water, extra bowl and olive oil ready with a slotted spoon.
Divide the gnocchi dough in to three/ four balls. With the palms of your hand roll each ball in to a long sausage shape with the help of the extra dusting flour.
Cut each sausage in to little pillows, Ross uses a pallet knife dipped in flour. Dust a large tray with semolina and place the cut pillows of gnocchi on the semolina. Use semolina as it sinks to the bottom of the boiling water and does not form an excess lump of flour stuck to the gnocchi.
Once you have cut all the gnocchi, blanch the gnocchi in batches in the rapid boiling salted water. Once they start to float about 5 – 6 minutes remove the gnocchi from the boiling water using the slotted spoon directly in to the ice water. Continue until all the gnocchi is blanched. Once completely cold drain the gnocchi from the ice water and lightly coat with olive oil. Spread the gnocchi on to a large tray and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Next prepare the watercress cream. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat add the flour and seasoning, cook this for 3 – 4 minutes , stir continuously. Add the milk bits at a time, mix well after each addition to make a smooth bechamel sauce. Cook for 5 – 6 minutes, stir continuously, add the watercress and cook for further 2 minutes, transfer the sauce to a blender or use a stick blender to puree the sauce until smooth, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. If it’s a bit thick add a dash of milk to let it down.
For the Thermomix Method: Weigh the butter, flour, and milk, stock and seasoning directly into the Thermomix jug. Set the timer to 8 minutes, speed 3 at 90°C. Add the watercress and cook for further 2 minutes, speed 3 at 90°C. Turn the speed to 10 and blend till smooth for one minute.
While the sauce is cooking pan-fry the gnocchi so that the sauce and gnocchi is ready simultaneously (the sauce will turn brown if you do not serve it immediately). Heat a large non-stick frying pan with the olive oil, drain the gnocchi and sauté the gnocchi until golden brown on both sides about 6 -8 minutes over medium heat, add the blanched asparagus spears for a the last 30 seconds to heat them through.
Spoon the hot watercress sauce onto the base of warm serving plates, arrange the golden brown gnocchi pillows with the asparagus spears and watercress. Finish the dish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and enjoy!
To make successful light fluffy gnocchi pillows follow Ross’s guidelines:
- Ensure that the celeriac is dry and does not retain any water, if the mashed celeriac is wet you will have a sloppy dough and this will result you to add more flour, result heavy lumps of gnocchi instead of light and fluffy.
- Use a ricer to mash the celeriac.
- Work fast to ensure that the celeriac does not cool too much.
- Use semolina instead of flour once you have shaped the gnocchi as semolina is heavy and sinks to the bottom of the boiling water, this will prevent the gnocchi forming a heavy wet floury skin.
- Ross always test a piece of gnocchi before cutting the dough, by boiling it and testing the seasoning. You can easily add more seasoning before you have shaped the whole batch.