Simple pleasures

Gnocchi on Heaven’s door

I may be the only person in our house that likes gnocchi. I’ll find out for sure on the weekend when I feed the ones left over from today’s lunch to the children on the weekend. Perhaps I’ll sneak them into a tomato sauce with sausage chunks and see what happens.

I’m a fan of the soft squidginess of them, the slight bite and the comforting blandness. I’m not a fan of the shop bought ones that more often that not are like trying to chew through a squash ball. But these ones, soft and light but with a little resistance are actually squash balls. Butternut squash.

It’s been hanging around long enough. And to avoid peeling it, I unsheathed my longest and heaviest knife, and smote it, cleaving it clean in two. That is how it happened in my mind. The reality may have been a little different, but what I ended up with was two long halves ready for a roast in the oven while I used the saved time to stare out the window and drink coffee.

Well, it makes a change from potatoes in the gnocchi. Potatoes and flour does seem a little bit of overkill, and these are bright orange, slightly sweet and the perfect comfort food when the weather outside has turned from sunny skies into having to use the shipping forecast as a guide to leaving the house.

The recipe makes enough for four people. If the other three aren’t interested you can blanch the gnocchi quickly in boiling water, then plunge them into cold water, drain and toss through with a little olive oil. Then you can freeze them and use for lonely suppers when your other half has gone out for a fun-filled evening leaving you alone with your worthy subtitled black and white films they never want to watch.

1 butternut squash, medium size
220g strong flour, plus extra for shaping.
1 egg, beaten
A handful of fresh sage leaves
40g hazelnuts, toasted in a frying pan then chopped
Chilli oil to serve, or olive oil and chilli flakes
Zest of an orange
Salt and pepper to season

Heat the oven to 200c/gas 8.
Cut the butternut in half lengthways, being careful to not sever your hand.
Scoop out the seeds and throw them away. You can spend the next hour trying to separate them from the fibrous strands they are attached to for roasting or toasting, but surely life is too short. They can go in the compost.
Drizzle the squash with olive oil, season well and roast for about an hour.
Leave to cool, scoop the flesh out into a bowl and blitz to a pulp. Season and taste then beat in the egg and incorporate the flour until you have a sticky dough.
Pour a pile of flour onto the kitchen bench and take a tablespoon of the dough. Drop it into the flour roll it into a little cylinder. Squish a dent in it with your thumb and set aside while you repeat with the rest of the dough until finished.
Cook the gnocchi in boiling, well salted water for about three to four minutes then drain, drizzle with olive oil and keep warm.
Heat a small pan with about a centimetre of olive oil then fry the sage leaves in batches for about five seconds until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.
Serve the hot gnocchi with a scattering of sage leaves, the orange zest, a sprinkle of hazelnuts and a good hand with the seasoning. Finish with the chilli oil.
By all means add Parmesan; and if you really fancied it, you could melt some butter, add some chopped sage to it, cook gently for a few minutes before pouring it over with a squeeze of the orange juice.

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