This morning, there was a power cut. A big one – from 8am-2pm, in fact. That is a long time to go without coffee.
At first, I panicked. There were so many things I couldn’t do: use my laptop (no charge), cook, watch TV….TOTAL panic mode. Having just received the dreaded text letting me know I’d already used 80% of my data allowance for the month, I couldn’t even sit refreshing Twitter and Instagram for 7 hours. As a true child of the technological era, I was almost in tears.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a certain white fluffy dog snuggled in a tartan blanket on the sofa. That just happened to be against all the household rules…but…so cosy….my Kindle just also happened to be nearby, with a fresh download ready to go…
A long, quiet time later, I was given a rude awakening by the sound of the sink macerator, alarm and telephone all sounding at once, to signal the end of the power cut.
I had read the whole book.
I mean, I’ve been known to do this before, but only on a beach with the sound of the ocean spurring me on, or my sister telling me she’d googled the end of Harry Potter. But never on just a random Thursday. It was the nicest feeling I’ve felt for ages.
And being all snuggled and cosy, with the dog snoozing on my chest and smelling like wet leaves from her morning walk, it really started to feel like Autumn. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was sitting in the little glass pod that is our conservatory, sky indecisively changing from grey to blue all day, rain smattering at the windows.
So when the power did eventually come back on, I was ready to eat this. I wanted something filling and warming. Gnocchi always reminds me of being little, my mum always used to make it, piled high with grated cheese. The little pillowy lumps of potato really are the stuff of dreams; light but wholesome, and super cheap and fairly easy to make too.
You want you gnocchi dough to be quite sticky, but this can be tricky as when you add the flour, it tends to stick to the outside of the dough ball rather than running all the way through the dough. To combat this, use a knife to cut through the dough ball, creating gaps, then sprinkle on more flour and re roll, so the flour is well incorporated.
I’ve made this once before, a few Christmasses ago, and I always struggle to keep my gnocchi even. At the beggining of the batch, this worries me, but by the end…well, I’m a home cook, it helps it to look more authentic. It doesn’t really matter what they look like to be honest. It’s all in the taste with these.
This sauce is just thrown together from a few ingredients I had left over in the fridge, and it’s worked really well. The crispy sage leaves are something I’ve been experimenting a lot with lately, and their flavour also works really well with roasted butternut squash and pumpkin.
The smokey pancetta and blue cheese are the winners here though – with the sweet potato they really do create such a warming, comforting dish. Their saltiness perfectly compliments the sweetness of the tomato and sweet potato.
To serve 2, you will need:
For the sweet potato gnocchi:
2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled
1 small egg, whisked
About 4-5 tbsp plain flour
1x chicken/veg stock cube
For the sauce:
3 tbsp olive oil
4 sage leaves
60g pancetta/bacon lardons
handfull chopped tomatoes
1tsp dried sage
1 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp crumbled Stilton/any blue cheese
Pine nuts to serve (optional)
Start by making the gnocchi.
Boil the sweet potatoes until tender. Drain and mash, then leave the potatoes to cool to room temperature.
Mash until nice and smooth, then season and add about half the egg and 2 tbsp of flour, mixing to incorporate. Add more flour and egg as needed until you have a smooth, slightly sticky dough (see tip above).
Tip out onto a well floured surface and divide into 4 sausage shapes. Cut your gnocchi pieces (I went for about 2-3cm pieces, see pics) and gently roll down a fork to create groves, then roll the ends in a little flour to seal them. Place on a tray in the fridge to rest for about 30mins-1hr, or as long as possible (you can keep them in the freezer until you want them, too).
Next, make your sauce.
Heat your oil in a frying pan and drop in your sage leaves. They will sizzle for about 40 secs, and when they’ve stopped sizzling and changed from a light to a dark green, remove with a slotted spoon and place on some kitchen roll to drain. Your oil will be infused with their flavour now and the leaves will be nice and crispy later. Add your pancetta to the pan and let it get crispy, about 3 mins, then throw in your chopped tomatoes. Once they’re soft, add your dried sage, season with black pepper and stir. Take off the heat, then stir in your cream cheese and Stilton.
If at this point the mixture starts to separate, in a small cup stir a tsp of flour with cold water. Place the pan back on the heat and stir through the flour mixture.
To cook the gnocchi, add your stock cube to a saucepan of boiling water. Drop in your gnocchi and when it’s ready, it will start to float. This should only take 1-2 minutes. Drain, then place your sauce back on the heat, stirring, then tip in your cooked gnocchi. Toss it in the sauce so it’s got a nice even coating, but be careful as it’s quite delicate. Place on your serving plate and sprinkle over a little extra blue cheese or pine nuts if you fancy, then crumble one crispy sage leaf over the top, leaving the others whole.