Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I have wanted to make gnocchi for a long time but had heard that it was fiddly and as you can buy gnocchi in the chilled cabinet of most supermarkets in the UK I hadn't felt the need. But since coming to Singapore I haven't eaten gnocchi once. That was until we went to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Who would have thought that I would have the best gnocchi ever in Thailand! These little pillows of potato (if they were pillows they would be duck down ones) were heavenly with an asparagus and ricotta sauce and inspired me to create a recipe for gluten free gnocchi,which the whole family could have, a try. Now these are not as good as the ones I had at Pulcinella da Stefano, which I think had ricotta in to make them extra soft and delicate, but they really are nicer than the ready made ones and gluten free to boot. If gluten isn't an issue then I have provided amounts for using an all purpose wheat flour in the recipe.

These little dumpling are slightly sweet and can go with pretty much any sauce although punchy varieties might over power the delicate flavor. The classic sauce is to use butter melted with sage leaves fried until they are crispy and the butter has browned, then served with grated Parmesan. I made a dairy free version using spinach sauteed in olive oil with black pepper, grated lemon rind, fresh thyme and a squeeze of lemon juice as I am still working on a dairy free creamy asparagus sauce similar to the Chiang Mai one.

I think I will get better at these in time but I don't think they turned out too bad for a first attempt! I might try adding some potato flour instead of the cornflour next time to see if that is any better. The trick to gnocchi seems to be to add only as much flour as needed to keep the gnocchi together during cooking as too much will make it more akin to a bullet than a pillowy dumpling. You also need to use  floury potato varieties as you don't want the mixture too wet as you will have to add more flour to get a workable dough.

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Gnocchi (serves 2) 
Vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free

300g Sweet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
200g Floury potato variety e.g Russet or King Edwards, peeled and cut into large chunks
50g Fine rice flour mixed with 3tbs Cornflour, plus extra for dusting (alternatively, if gluten isn't an issue, use approximately 100g plain, all purpose flour)
1 Egg
Salt & pepper

  • First steam your sweet potatoes and floury potatoes in whatever steamer you have be it metal, bamboo or electric. The steaming is less likely to make the potatoes wet than boiling. Steam until cooked through.
  • Pass the potatoes through a ricer or mash with a fork into a non-stick pan. 
Potatoes after being passed through a ricer
  • Over a medium heat stir these potatoes to help get rid of any excess water. Mine steamed slightly and started to form a ball (see below)
Dried out potatoes starting to form a ball
  •  At this point allow the potato mixture to cool for 10-15 mins as you will need to add the egg which could cook slightly if the potato mix is too warm.
  • Once cool add the beaten egg, black pepper & salt and three quarters of the rice & cornflour mix. Mix together and see what the consistency is like. If it is still too wet to work with add some more of the flour mix and stir in. If your potato is dry you might not need too much flour but if it is wet then add more rice flour a tablespoon at a time and cornflour a teaspoon at a time.
  • Once the dough is soft but not falling apart take the dough and place on a rice floured work surface. Gently knead the dough until it becomes smoother. 
Smooth, soft dough that is not too gummy
  • Split the dough into four pieces and roll out one into a sausage shape approximately 2cm high. Cut off a square of dough off the end and gently flatten with the prongs of a fork to make ridges on the gnocchi.  Do this for a couple of gnocchi then do a test batch to make sure they won't fall apart on cooking.
Gnocchi before cooking
  • At this point I set a large pan of salted water boiling. Once it had reached a slow rolling boil, I added a couple of the gnocchi and cooked until they had pop up to the surface and stayed there for a few seconds. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and taste to try the texture. If they falls apart on boiling or are too mushy then add more flour to the dough and repeat the testing with a couple of gnocchi. Once you are happy that they won't fall apart on cooking add a larger batch to the water and cook the same way. Repeat until all gnocchi are cooked and stir through with your favourite (gluten free) sauce. Serve straight away.

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