Day 9 – Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Blue Cheese and Walnut Sauce
I’m in the middle of the markets on Saturday morning, eyes deep in the last of the winter produce, eyeing off some local fresh walnuts when a Sydney-based friend messages me. We made it and are now settling into our hotel room. Where do you suggest we meet?
And that’s when I realise I had completely forgotten that she would be here and we have planned to meet for afternoon tea.
My heart sinks a little as I start going through my mental to-do list. Like most days it’s a long one, but it’s been a helluva week with all sorts of distractions and I’m running behind schedule. I had planned to go to the markets in the morning, with cooking in the afternoon. As it is I’m also heading out to the movies in the evening with a friend …
“Hi, it’s me. Question: If I come round and cook a meal and photograph it before we eat, can we go to the late session instead?” At the last moment, as if he might need further persuasion, I add the kicker: “It includes blue cheese.”
Which is how, Dear Readers, I came to have afternoon tea in the city in the late winter sunshine with a bag of sweet potatoes, blue cheese and walnuts (and a secret stash of movie-going Maltesers) at my feet.
In this case the blue cheese is very mild – it has to be if you’re to include everyone at the meal. Those who crave a stinky over-ripe cheese will find this a little too mild, but I loved it. Go for a bog-standard creamy blue cheese (I bought a half-circle blue foil wrapped version in Aldi) rather than a Roquefort or Gorgonzola piquante. If you taste-test it as you make it and find it to strong, remember that the potato in the gnocchi really will even things out. The nuttiness of sweet potato is the perfect partner.
800g or about 2-3 medium-sized sweet potatoes (you will need 4 cups of mashed potato); pinch nutmeg; 2 eggs; 5 cups plain flour; ½-¾ cup (about 100g) walnuts, roughly chopped into 2 or 3 pieces; 1 tbsp olive oil; 1 small brown onion, finely diced; 200g creamy blue cheese; 1 cup (250ml) pouring cream; sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Peel and slice the sweet potatoes. Steam them until soft and easy pierced with a knife. Remove from heat and mash, seasoned with a little salt and nutmeg. Set aside and allow to cool.
Add eggs to the potatoes and mix well to combine. The mixture will be quite wet at this point. Start adding flour and stir with a wooden spoon until you can handle the mixture as a dough with your hands. You may not need to add all the flour – the dough should be very soft and still a little sticky. Handle it lightly until it comes together just enough that you can roll it between your hands and it keeps its shape.
Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring to the boil.
Divide the potato dough into four pieces. On a well floured bench, roll out the dough with your hands into 2-4 pieces and begin to roll them out into long strands about 2cm in diameter. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 2.5cm pieces. Place the gnocchi on a lightly floured baking sheet or tray while you finish the rest.
When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the gnocchi. If you can, cook them in two or three batches for two minutes at a time. When the gnocchi come up to the surface of the water, they are ready. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them straight into the frypan holding the blue cheese sauce.
Stir or toss the gnocchi gently in the sauce and serve immediately.
Sauce: Heat a large heavy-based frypan over medium heat and add the walnuts. Toast them gently to release their fragrance. Set aside. Add the olive oil and onion and sauté for four minutes until the onion softens and becomes translucent. Crumble the cheese into the pan and add the cream. Stir well until the cream comes to a simmer. Add the walnuts and check for seasoning. Keep the sauce warm while the gnocchi finishes cooking.
$10.70 for four people