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Italian food for all the family

Lucie Carr

Posted on December 04 2016

Clare Keylock is back with another scrumptious food post. Think my favourite part of this whole post is wee Evie’s concentration tongue sticking out in the main image

It seems like forever since I have been on here – what a whirlwind life can be sometimes! I really can’t believe it’s nearly Christmas; this year is zooming by that’s for sure!

I have been busy with my photography business (you might have spied some of my work from the Autumn/Winter Lookbook on the Wee Stores’ Instagram feed) and those four little tinkers of mine, well they always keep me on my toes!

So what else have we been up to? Well, we got to spent the summer in Italy (my husband was working there so we got to join him for 6 weeks!). It was great and oh what an adventure. The architecture, the people, the accent and let’s not forget the food, the food *swoon*. Oh the food, how we all loved the Italian food.

Which brings me onto this months offerings, we certainly learnt a lot about the food there and practically ate our way around Italy. From the delicious ragu and tortellini’s of Bologna, the amazing lemons of the Amalfi coast to the wonderful Gelateria’s dotted all over Italy.

I couldn’t let the year go by without a post about Italian food, especially knowing how much all our little ones love it. One of the children’s favourite dish was gnocchi; so that has been our mission for the month to perfect the yummy gnocchi. Such a versatile dish and as with most Italian dishes it can be served with a variety of different sauces. Making the gnocchi is a great way to involve the children with cooking. I know mine certainly enjoyed it, I hope yours do too!

Cheese gnocchi

Ingredients

2 1/2 pounds potatoes
2 1/2 cups of plain flour
1 egg
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan)
1 tsp salt
black pepper to season

Some considerations to bear in mind with this recipe….

~ The general rule is 1 medium-sized potato per serving for every potato you use approximately 1/2 cup of flour

~ No need to peel the potatoes as the skin helps the potato not too absorb excess water. Ideally you want the potato to be as dry as possible, watery potatoes do not make good gnocchi.

~ Best to make when you have a few hours on your hands to leisurely make the gnocchi with the children.

~ You do not want to wait longer than 45 minutes to cook the gnocchi otherwise they will stick together.

~ If you want to freeze – arrange the gnocchi on a baking sheet and place in the freezer for about 2 hours or until they are completely frozen. Then place in a plastic container and store in the freezer until you are ready to use them. They can be frozen for up to 2 months. Do not thaw the gnocchi. Cook the frozen gnocchi in boiling water.

Method

In a large pot boil the potatoes with their skins on until fork tender. Around 25 minutes. Over boiling will cause the potatoes to become mushy and too wet.

Once the potatoes are cooked drain the water, allow to cool in a colander on the side.

Peel the potatoes, the skins come away nicely, remove any brown spots that might be below the skin. Using a potato ricer, I used an electric one, rice peel the potatoes.

Mound the potato on a clean worktop or table and top with the flour. Sprinkle with the salt and a nice sprinkle of the pepper. Using your hands scoop out the centre of the mound to make a well. Next break the egg into the centre. Take a fork and beat the egg into the mixture. Add the 1/2 cup of ricotta and the cheese. Start to pull together all the ingredients and mix. Use your hands to combine beginning to form a dough. Knead all the ingredients together. Be wary not to add more flour at his point otherwise you will get hard gnocchi.

Once you have formed a nice round ball and everything is combined cut into 8-10 pieces. Take an individual piece and roll into a long rope shape and then cut off 1 inch pieces. We rounded the little inch pieces off in our hands as the children liked them rounded like in Italy! Toss them with a little flour to prevent sticking whilst they are waiting to be cooked.

To cook place in a large pan of boiling salted water. Cook the gnocchi until they float to the top – the children loved watching this. About 2-4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain very well and either serve straight away with the sauce added on top or mix into the sauce and cook together for a few minutes. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cans of cherry tomatoes
1tbsp tomato puree
2 sprigs of basil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar

Method

Heat oil in heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat. Add onion and garlic, stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent. Add the wine and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Add the tomatoes and puree, red wine vinegar, basil and sugar. Simmer until slightly thick.

We also made a delicious Focaccia bread.

Focaccia Bread

Ingredients

500g (1lb 2oz) strong white bread flour, plus extra dusting
2 tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet of fast action dried yeast
80 ml (3fl oz) olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
150 – 250ml (5-9fl oz) warm water
vegetable oil for oiling
1 bunch of rosemary sprigs
large pinch of sea salt

Method

Put the flour in a large bowl, add the salt and yeast, then add the olive oil plus enough warm water to make a soft dough. Mix and form a ball. The dough should feel nice and soft to knead.

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes by hand on a lightly floured work surface. The dough will feel stretchy when pulled. To test if it is ready make a ball with the dough and then using a well-floured finger, prod a shallow indent in the side. If the indent disappears by way of the dough springing back then it is ready to shape. If the indent stays, knead for a few minutes longer.

Shape the dough and place onto a well oiled baking tray. Flatten it out into a nice oval shape. Cover the dough loosely with oiled cling film making sure its airtight.

Preheat the oven to 200 c

Leave the dough in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until it has almost doubled in size. With a floured index finger press holes equally all over the dough and push the rosemary sprigs in the holes. Sprinkle some sea salt over the dough and place in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the bread is well risen, light golden brown and feels hollow when tapped underneath.

Remove from the oven, drizzle the remaining olive oil and some good quality balsamic vinegar (the best balsamic vinegar you can get has the DOP stamp and are made in Modena, Italy) onto a plate and dip away. Delicious.

 

Buon appetito! As always, you can follow Clare on Instagram and Facebook. You can also have a look at her gorgeous website here.

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