The Dough Nuts Rainbow Gnocchi mayhem

It's been a hundred years since the last recipe post, sort of because winter, sort of because cakes... and much bigger children whose days are spent at school and whose evenings are mostly for sluggishly dragging themselves about looking exhausted and shovelling snacks into their mouths before passing out. No more golden mid-morning hours spent recipe testing with bright eyed assistants. But I miss it and it's important and once they get going they love it, so I'm taking a stand and bringing it back. My stand has been encouraged by magical Hattie Garlick, equally keen to come up with recipes and ways to engage children with food and meals, and encourage some genuine healthy meal enjoyment without being a total pain in the ass, resorting to bribery, ending up in tears etc. We don't want to buy expensive, aggressively marketed soulless snacks. We don't want to spend our evenings silently weeping as we scrape uneaten dishes into the compost. Back in the day children were a valuable extra pair of hands in the kitchen, and food preparation would be something they inevitably helped with and earned respect for. It encourages a connection to what's on the plate, an understanding of what ingredients do and why they're involved, and gives children the power to experiment and exert some control over their own supper. Glistening with all these grand ideas, we decided to drag five slightly-tired children together on a rainy afternoon in the midst of dry January and order them to whip us up some supper. On the menu...

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Rainbow Gnocchi

this amount makes enough for 4 small servings of the red (beetroot), yellow (saffron) and green (spinach) gnocchi. You can either multiply the amounts to make different colours/flavours (it freezes well and cooks easily from frozen, so making lots is a good idea) or divide your dough before adding the flavours/colours. Recipe for the orange (sweet potato) gnocchi is below.

150g ricotta
85g organic pasta flour
2 eggs
100g parmesan
for the flavours:
powdered beetroot
garlic paste
100g spinach (per 150 ricotta)
saffron
butter and parmesan to serve

for the sweet potato gnocchi (serves 4):
500g sweet potato - baked, skin on, in the oven until soft. Scrape out flesh and discard skins.
50g ricotta cheese
80g pasta flour
dash of cinnamon

For both the regular and sweet potato gnocchi, mix your ingredients together in a big bowl to make a dough. This is why gnocchi is so great for kids - it couldn't be much simpler. Bigger kids can flex their maths muscles and help with weighing out the ingredients, and smaller ones can add and mix and mash. Kids are great at breaking eggs (accurately, for the most part...kind of) and love to measure things. Once you have your dough vaguely mixed, split it into portions for adding flavour (set the sweet potato dough aside - it's done for now). We gave each child a bowl of dough, with the smallest two on a team, and a dough colour each. Pre-wilt the spinach by placing it in a colander and pouring over boiling water, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible and chop - or have a small person chop. Add to one portion of dough with a little squeezy garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well and form into a ball. For the beetroot powder we added approx a tablespoon (kids in charge!) and for the saffron we dissolved a pinch in a little warm water and mixed it in. 

The dough should be not too sticky, and lovely to squash. Add more flour a bit at a time until it feels right. You need a liberal dusting of flour (and tolerance for some fairly epic mess) before asking the kids to roll their balls of dough into long dough snakes. Then dole out some lovely sharp knives for them to cut thumb-sized dough nuggets. With supervision and appropriate sizes, knife wielding children needn't be an issue, and they love being given the responsibility. 

Actual real life ragamuffins

Actual real life ragamuffins

Place your gnocchi nuggets on a plate and keep them in the fridge until ready to cook. I found it helpful to dust them in a little polenta flour to help prevent sticking, as there were so many! With kids in charge they do look a bit bonkers and are not uniform, but this only adds to their charm. Probably. When you are ready to cook, boil a big pot of salted water and pop the gnocchi in ten-ish at a time - don't overcrowd. They are ready when they float to the top, and must be removed with a slotted spoon and placed on a muslin/paper towel for the liquid to drain off. They only take about 2 minutes to cook so you do have to stay close by. As mentioned they cook well straight from the freezer too. To serve melt some butter in a frying pan - for extra yum add some sage leaves or torn pieces of cavolo nero (or both) and fry them briefly. Then add the gnocchi, shake it all about and place in bowls. Top with grated parmesan or pecorino. This was a hit with all our ages, with the absolute top fave flavour being...SPINACH! It is still discussed for its deliciousness. 

During the ensuing dinner party we asked the kids what they would like to call their new little cooking club. Although there was huge support for "Wee Wee Bum Bum Poo Poo" they settled on the Dough Nuts, probably hoping that this meant they would get to eat some. And maybe they will... We will be back hopefully fairly regularly with more yummy kid-cook friendly recipes they will actually want to eat, and you will want them to eat. Now I'm off to try and scrape dried gnocchi dough from my table...

Purple hail

purplegnocchi

The days seem suddenly longer and lighter, and we had already taken for granted that after school would once more mean lolling in the park, skateboarding down hills and demanding ice creams that we would never EVER finish (ahem...), working on our chasing and catching skills, and casually topping up our suntans. But today there was hail. HAIL. In late April. So we had a little family cooking & music session... 

In light of Prince sadly popping up to the stars on Friday/because it was a rad excuse to dig out my Purple Rain vinyl & inflict it on the kids/because our Abel & Cole veggie box delivered us a big bag of them that urgently needed eating, we settled on using our purple potatoes. My kids are strange, in that they will happily devour mountains of raw greens or pull apart big scary prawns, but aren't very happy about eating potatoes in any form other than deep fried. Blue chips seemed like a cop out, so we thought we would experiment with a purple gnocchi supper. 

Gluten Free Purple Gnocchi

700g purple potatoes
1/3 cup flour (we used Doves Farm plain gluten free flour blend)
1 small egg

In an ideal world, your first step would be to bake your purple potatoes for 45ish mins, then scoop out the flesh into a bowl. This retains maximum purpleness and keeps everything nice and dry. We were nowhere near as organised, and only had 30 mins before tummies were going to start demanding to be filled, so we peeled, boiled and drained ours extremely well. Both kids are very into peeling veg at the moment, because they are mad, so loved labouring over each potato whilst I silently panicked over how long it was taking them. Once your potato is skin free, cooked and in a bowl, whatever the method, mash well and add 1/3 cup of flour - we went gluten free with Doves Farm's plain gf blend, but I reckon rice flour would work well or you can use regular plain flour if you're not fussed about gluten content. Also add one small egg - cracking the eggs is easy and fun for kids so I always let them do this bit and they rarely get egg everywhere or any shell in the bowl. Add a couple of pinches of salt (& pepper if you like). 

Indy peeling spuds... 

Indy peeling spuds... 

The mashing of the ingredients is another bit the kids can totally take over on. Basically with this meal they are doing the lot, so you can sit back and relax (unless you are too busy taking pictures, like me....) The mixture quickly comes together into a lovely satisfying dough which Indy very accurately compared to play doh. Separate into 4 separate pieces and roll each one out into a long snake - another job for the kids - then cut each snake into bite size nuggets. The texture makes this a really easy job for the kids to practice using a proper knife, and much was their glee at being trusted with something sharp and grown-up. 

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Once the nuggets are chopped, roll a fork over them to make them look lovely and authentic and gnocchiesque. Or, if you are doing this with kids, give up on that and accept that they will all be totally different shapes and sizes and degrees of squashedness, but will nevertheless taste the same. 

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Add your beautiful misshapen purple nuggets to boiling salted water and wait for them to float to the surface and tell you they're done, which takes approximately a minute, so don't wander off. Drain immediately and serve with something buttery, or we made a quick pesto from fresh basil, toasted pine nuts, olive oil & some goat's cheese. Devoured. Prince would totally not approve, because he was a vegan, but I'm sure there's an easy vegan version of this... 

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The nuggets make nuggets

We have settled into the school holidays now, but for a while there I was going a tiny bit bananas trying to come up with *things to do*. Possibly because there was a rainy week or so, which is always a killer, but beyond plodding from park to picnic to garden London isn't heaving with FUN! for me + two smallies and a wallet on the thinner side. So to the kitchen... we made gnocchi! It was extremely messy but simple, fun, and great for kids to get involved in. Even Indiana got stuck in. Literally.

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Sweet Potato Spelt Gnocchi

600g sweet potatoes
200g white spelt flour + more for dusting
1 egg
 

Chop the potatoes in half and then boil in their skins for 20 mins. Drain and leave to cool, then peel the skins off and mash. This was Pablo's mashing outfit...  

he insisted on slippers, in the middle of summer... but god forbid he wear trousers

he insisted on slippers, in the middle of summer... but god forbid he wear trousers

Mix the mashed potato with the egg and flour. Ours was incredibly sticky, and we just kept adding a little more flour until it became doughy. Make sure your work surface is very floury, split the dough into three and roll out into sausage shapes.  Cut into pieces approximately 3cm long and roll them in your hand to make a little gnocchi nugget. Pablo was in charge of all this so ours were....varied in shape and size a bit. He especially enjoyed squishing them with a fork, which is supposed to make them look even more gnocchi-esque, but in our case made them look completely bonkers.

Drop the gnocchi into boiling, salted water in batches and boil until they float to the surface - a few minutes. Drain and then dust flour (we went for a flour/semolina mix for that bit). We then pan fried the gnocchi in a little oil until it was golden, and served it with some pan fried cabbage, cream, lemon and a bit of white wine. It was scrumdiddliumptious. Worth having to clean up gnocchi-dough monster hands for an afternoon....