Just recently I’ve been taking part in a whole bucket load of twitter chats, if you’ve never done one before they’re great. Just imagine a room full of people, all talking over each other and you’re trying to listen to all of them at once and reply in meaningful ways. Yeah, that. Sounds manic, which it most definitely is, but you can get some truely great ideas and meet some really nice people. Last week I was part of #VeganRecipeHour which is every Thursday 8-9pm (GMT) and the topic was sweet potato, it was so inspiring to see the hundreds of really different ways people had used the sweet potato and so I thought I’d make something a little different with them to! That is how these little bits of yum came to be!
Well, that’s most of the story any way. It seems that I may have developed a gluten intolerance (boo!) and so, pending tests, I’m exploring this world of ‘gluten free’ and I’m quite liking the creative challenge side of it. Normally gnocchi would be made with plain, all purpose, flour which is quite honestly the devil to anyone dodging gluten. So what then? I know, gram flour! Made from a kind of small chickpea it’s completely gluten free but it holds together well when cooking as it’s packed with carbohydrates.
Unlike plain flour it does impart some flavour though, it has a slightly sweet, slightly nutty, earthy kind of vibe to it which lends itself to the flavours found in the sweet potato really well. To accompany these gnocchi I didn’t want to go down the traditional browned butter and sage route, although amazing, it just wouldn’t sit right with the the background savoury sweetness. So instead I turned to the trusty balsamic, rich and sweet in it’s own right with a really punchy flavour to cut through the gnocchi’s subtleness. Rosemary completes this dish with it’s perfumed heady flavour, keeping everything grounded.
Vegan, Gluten Free
Preparation: 20-30 minutes | Cooking: 15 minutes
For the gnocchi:
3 Good Sized Sweet potatoes (about 550g), left whole
200g Gram Flour + more for dusting
For the balsamic glazed mushrooms:
300g Mushrooms (I used a mix of Chestnut, Shiitake and Enoki), thinly sliced
1 Clove Garlic, minced or pressed
60ml (4 tbsp) Balsamic Vinegar + a little more for drizzling
1/2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Rosemary
2 Tbsp Olive Oil, for frying
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling
Making the gnocchi:
- Give the sweet potatoes a good wash and cut off and long fronds still attached, leave the skin on and place on a microwaveable plate and cook in the microwave on high heat for 10-15 minutes depending on the power of your microwave. Alternatively, bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. You want the insides to be really soft, if in doubt, cook for a little longer!
- Remove from the microwave and very carefully (they will be really hot!) cut them in half and allow to cool pretty much completely. Remove the soft flesh from the skin, if they are cooked enough the skins should pretty much just fall off but use a spoon to assist any stubborn bits and make sure you get as much flesh as you can, discard the skins. Mash the flesh really well with a fork, or ideally pass through a potato ricer.
- Sift your gram flour into a large mixing bowl and add about 3/4 of the flour, mix together really well. Use a wooden spoon to get it started as I warn you this is a messy job! Once the flour has been incorporated into the potato you need to asses your dough, its important to use as little flour as possible but enough to stop the dough from being too sticky. Some sweet potatoes will contain more water than others and you will need more flour and vice versa. Add more flour a little at a time, gently work it with your hands to incorporate the flour and feel for the point where the dough stops being really sticky.
- Once you reach that point dust a clean work surface with some flour and gently knead the dough a little, although there is no gluten to be worked in the dough you want to make sure the sweet potato is evenly mixed. Then gather your dough into a ball and divide into 4 equal portions.
- Dust your work surface again then take one of the portions of dough, form it into a fat sausage then gently roll it out using flat fingers, start from the middle and gentle push to elongate your small fat sausage to a long thinner one. You want your sausage between 1/2″ – 3-4″ in diameter.
- Using a clean and dry knife cut the sausage into roughly 1″ pieces, give them a very light dusting of flour then take a fork and press the tines (the pointy bits) flat against each piece to make lines across the top. Some people like to roll the dough pieces against the fork tines, it’s completely up to you. As is how deep you make them, the idea is that they trap the sauce so if you are planning on making a really wet sauce then make good deep ridges to catch all of the yummy-ness.
- Place to one side or on a lightly dusted plate and repeat for the remaining dough.
- You can cover and leave them here whilst you prepare your sauce or accompaniment (this is where you would start the balsamic glazed mushrooms detailed below).
- To cook the gnocchi bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and place in as many as you can, don’t overcrowd the pan though, cook in batches if you need to. The gnocchi should take only about 1 minute, when they start to float tot he top of the water they are ready. Remove with a slotted spoon and place into a colander to drain or on a clean cloth.
- Now you have yummy gnocchi ready for whatever sauce you wish to throw at them!
For the balsamic glazed mushrooms:
- Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan (a wok works really well to!) to a medium high-heat, make sure the oil is coating all the pan then add the mushrooms. Make sure they are pretty evenly distributed and as many are in contact with the pan as possible then leave alone for 4-5 minutes. You want the mushrooms to really caramelize on the pan so resist the urge to move them! Then toss and leave alone for another 4-5 minutes. (You could start cooking your gnocchi whilst the mushrooms cook).
- Turn the heat down a little and add the balsamic, this will rapidly reduce, stir well to coat all the mushrooms. Add the garlic to the pan and keep tossing/stirring until most of the balsamic has been cooked off.
- Add the rosemary and your pre-cooked gnocchi, toss everything together really well and allow the gnocchi to gently fry on the bottom of the pan.
- Serve in individual portions and drizzle a little balsamic and some extra virgin olive oil over the top, these go great with green beans or greek style salad.