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Although it is still cold in Melbourne, the days are getting longer and it feels like there is light at the end of the wintery tunnel – spring is not really that far away. This weekend has been a busy one, planning for the gnocchi classes I am running over the next two weekends (which are booked out) and putting together the menu for (early) spring lunch in Chewton on Sunday 13 September 2015. It is shaping up to be a good one! Artichokes will definitely be on the menu, pastry will make an appearance – either in sweet or savoury form – and since I am on a gnocchi roll, we will also be making gnocchi. Maybe even these gnocchi, which I made the other week using Tasmanian black garlic.

Black garlic – a new discovery for me – is garlic that has been prepared in a fermenting oven at controlled heat and humidity for about a month. After that time, the skin of the bulb becomes golden and flakey and the garlic cloves turn black. They become softer and sticky and have a surprising savoury/sweet taste – it has been described as a cross between reduced balsamic vinegar and tamarind – with no garlic after-taste or smell. Quite frankly amazing! I tried to find recipes for what to make with it but Stef at Wild Things Food who had given me the garlic, said that her colleague had put it in gnocchi. That sounded right up my alley and is exactly what I did with four of the cloves.

I cooked up the potatoes just like for regular gnocchi and once they were cooked through, I put them through the potato ricer together with peeled cloves of black garlic. The potato mash was flecked with black so I mixed it with my hands to distribute the garlic evenly and then went about making gnocchi as I usually do. The cooked gnocchi had a delicate, earthy and slightly sweet taste that danced with the simple burnt butter that I served them with. I scattered on lots of salty parmesan cheese. Really really good. 

So if you feel like a day in the country, rolling gnocchi, stuffing artichokes and making pastry, do come along to Chewton on Sunday 13 September. Bring a friend, an apron and an appetite – it will be a terrific day.  Or make a weekend of it – there is lots of great accommodation near Castlemaine. Click here for more details.

gnocchi all'aglio nero (gnocchi with black garlic)

Serves 4
600g Blue Moon, King Edward or Desiree potatoes, washed
black fermented garlic, 4 cloves, peeled
1 extra small egg, lightly beaten
150g flour
good pinch salt
freshly cracked black pepper
75-100g unsalted butter, chopped into cubes
parmigiano cheese, grated, to serve
freshly ground black pepper

Place the potatoes in a large pot of water, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a steady simmer and cook about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Quickly peel them and put them through a potato ricer (or hand mash them finely), adding the garlic cloves as you go. Use your hands to distrubute the black cloves – it is fine to leave some larger pieces of garlic as well.

Whilst the potatoes are still warm, lightly flour a work surface, make a well in the centre and add the egg (or half a large egg if you don’t have small ones). incorporate this into the surrounding potato and then scatter on half of the flour and a good pinch of salt. Bring everything together, kneading a bit if needed and adding a bit more flour, but only enough to make a cohesive dough. Don’t work the gnocchi dough too much and form a log.

Use a bit more of the remaining flour to scatter on a clean work surface. Cut off a portion of dough and make it into a rope. Cut the rope into pieces that are about 3cm long, scatter a bit more flour and using your thumb, roll the portions onto the back of a fork. (Gnocchi that are rolled this way will catch more sauce although this step is not essential). Lay the prepared gnocchi to one side, scattering on a bit more flour and cover with a clean teatowel (to prevent them from drying out). Repeat until all gnocchi are made.

Place the butter in a large frypan on medium heat and cook until it starts turning brown.

Boil a pot of salted water. Cook no more than a third of the gnocchi at a time, adding them to the boiling water and cooking for a few minutes until they rise to the surface. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon, making sure excess water drains off and drop them in the pan with the brown butter. Toss and serve on warmed plates. Scatter on plenty of Parmesan  cheese and freshly ground black pepper.


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