Gnocchi with Goats Cheese Sauce
I have a few vivid and comical memories of my time as an investment banking analyst. One pleasant Friday evening I was anticipating the return of N&D from abroad and had prepared for it to be a special evening, complete with risotto and wine. I made sure I had replied to all my urgent emails, completed the 123rd turn on an urgent teaser document for an urgent sale. Got on the tube at 8:30pm, which is an unheard-of time to leave work when you’re a lowly first year analyst, and dashed it back home. My stock was set to boil and I un-screwed a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Mid glass, at 9:30pm, I got a phone call that I chose to miss from my boss who had the likeability of a pneurotic hyena. After listening to her frantic non-sensical voicemail I decided to be the star analyst and call her back, soon after which I was flagellating myself.
PHB (Pneurotic Hyena Boss): Frantic “Reshmi, have you got plans this evening?”
Reshmi: “Umm, yeah but…”
PHB: Jubilant “Excellent. There is an urgent email with questions we need to answer and noone else is available or answering their phones”
Reshmi: Devastated “Oh? That’s a surprise – unavailable on a Friday night. Sure, I’d love to be of service. When would you like to chew me up and spit me out over this urgent email of yours?”
PHB: Hyena-pounce “If you get on the tube from Baker Street NOW it should take you 43 minutes to get to your desk and I will call you on the desk phone!”
N&D in tow, I got there in 50 minutes and had 3 voicemails from PHB while the phone rang impatiently.
PHB: “Reshmi, we have no time. Are you there yet?”
Reshmi: “Apologies for taking 50 minutes. I tripped and broke my face.”
PHB: “Log into my email. What do you see??”
Reshmi: “Your inbox is full. You have an email from BSD1 regarding inane project #32, email from 2nd lowly analyst regarding nonsense project #…”
PHB: “Okay…You have to archive all these emails into their respective folders now, on a Friday night. Put the inane project emails into folder named Inane, the nonsense project emails into Nonsense. I could’ve done this myself earlier but I was too busy shopping online. Oh that reminds me, put all my personal shopping emails into Personal Shite. Now, do you see the client email? How many questions are there?”
PHB: “Which ones can you answer? Read them all out to me. Let’s analyse this in detail tonight because I have no better plans and I don’t care about yours. Also, print it out and bring it over to my place, even though I have a laptop and a blackberry.”
Everyone has to put up with unsavory bosses – PHB wasn’t the last one I’ve had to work with and I’m sure I’ll come across more. Through this job though I’ve met some amazing people who are some of my closest friends now and I am glad I put up with the gruelling years.
I didn’t really fall over and break my face. Not that PHB would’ve cared.
What I could’ve done with the help of at the time were the rock hard gnocchi I made this weekend. They were so dense and doughy, they would’ve made the perfect projectile for a slingshot. I could aim three cubicles over and shoot wet, glumpy gnocchi at PHB’s prized handbag. Aah, sweet revenge that was never had.
Locatelli’s recipes are generally fool-proof. I guess I’m a bigger fool than the average fool he’s written for. Having gone through all the labour-intensive steps such as pushing boiled potatoes through a fine sieve and kneading by hand, I realised my week-old neon pink nail varnish had chipped and been incorporated into the dough. Whoops. So I employed my sexy new KitchenAid to carry on with the kneading and Bryony to make grooves using a Met Bar coaster. Idiot-me however used strong bread flour instead of plain flour ending up with rock hard gnocchi that could take someone’s eye out.
The sauce was the only saving grace. But it’s hard not to be amazing if you’re using a block of goats cheese the size of Shrek.
Locatelli’s Gnocchi Recipe
1kg floury, starchy potatoes (I used Desiree potatoes, the ones with the pretty pink peels)
2 small eggs, lightly beaten
about 320g plain flour – you may need less/more (I made the stupid mistake of using bread flour)
pinch of salt
1. Cover the potatoes (left whole, with their skins) with cold water in a pot and bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer until soft (around 45mins – 1 hour). Put the potatoes into a warm oven at 120C to dry out a bit (but not for too long otherwise the skins might stick). I completely forgot about this step and ended up with super soggy tatties, which in turn needed way more flour to turn into a manageable dough.
2. While the potatoes are still hot, peel them and put them through a fine sieve. Place in a bowl or work surface, make a well and add the egg, pinch of salt and three quarters of the flour. Mix well, and as soon as the dough comes together, stop – only adding the rest of the flour if you really feel that you need it. It will still feel soft, but don’t worry – the eggs will firm it up.
3. Flour the work surface lightly. Take the dough, flatten it down with the palms of your hands into a rough square about 1.5cm thick.
4. Cut the dough into strips about 1.5cm wide with a long sharp knife. Roll each square “cigar” until cylindrical with floury hands.
5. Taking two or three cylinders at a time, lay them next to each other, trim off the ends and cut into 1.5cm pieces. Repeat with the other cylinders until you have lots of little nuggets of dough of roughly the same size.
6. Lightly dusting with flour all the time, take a fork (or a gnocchi paddle – who has one of these?!?) and push each piece of dough onto the prongs, so that it rolls itself up and is marked with lines. They should all be roughly the same size as if they’re not then they won’t cook evenly. As you make each one, roll it on a tray dusted with flour.
7. Gnocchi is now ready to cook. You need to cook them as quickly as possible, but if you need to keep them for an hour or so, make sure you dust them with flour again, keeping them separate from each other on the tray and every 10 minutes give them a shake.
Locatelli’s Goat’s Cheese and Black Pepper Sauce
0.5 quantity gnocchi
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp milk
160g goats cheese
small bunch of chives, chopped
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
1. Dough: Follow the recipe of gnocchi above but mix 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper into the flour before you shape into gnocchi (annoyingly I read this AFTER I dealt with the gnocchi so had to leave it out. I doubt it made much of a difference to the overall disappointment).
2. Sauce: Warm the milk in a pan, add the goats cheese in chunks and let it melt gently to form a thick sauce. Grind in some more black pepper to taste.
3. Gnocchi: Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, put in the gnocchi and keep stirring until they rise to the surface (a minute or so), then lift them out carefully with a slotted spoon and put into the sauce.
4. Toss: Sprinkle in the chives and toss the gnocchi around carefully, just to coat them in the sauce. Add parmesan and a little of the cooking water if you think the sauce is too thick, but don’t leave the gnocchi in the sauce any longer than about a minute, or they will start to break up.