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As late summer fades into Autumn, the days begin to grow darker and cooler and meal ideas begin turning to classic dishes that fill the belly and warm the soul. It’s also the time to forage for wild mushrooms so combining the two is a perfect way to celebrate the changing of the season. With potatoes still coming in from the allotment, and fresh spinach and chives growing at home, I thought that there was no better way to prepare wild mushrooms than by including them in a hearty dish of homemade gnocchi. I was so right!
One of the most coveted of all wild mushrooms is the Cep, also known as the Penny Bun, or Porcini. In my last post I shared how I was taken on a Cep hunting foray here on the Isle of Man and how I happily came home with not one but three gigantic and tasty mushrooms. Though some prepare their Ceps fresh, drying them is said to intensify the flavour and make them easier to store. A little goes a long way and even a pinch of dried Ceps adds a deep mushroomy flavour to any savoury dish.
If you’ve not had Gnocchi before, they are essentially bite-sized potato dumplings that are ordinarily made plain but they can also be seasoned with spices, dried herbs, and dried mushrooms. These tasty bites of ultimate comfort food are very filling and are often served with an accompanying sauce – be it tomato and/or cream based. They are fairly easy to make from scratch but time will be saved if you have a Mouli (food mill). If not, no problem, but you will need either a potato ricer or a metal sieve – check out the Amazon widget below for ideas.
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Recipe for Porcini Gnocchi with Creamy Mushroom and Garlic Sauce Makes 4 Servings
For the Gnocchi 1 kg (2.2 lb) Floury potatoes – King Edward or Desiree are good options but I’ve used Sarpo Mira, a blight resistant starchy potato I grew in my allotment this year. 3 Eggs 1/8 tsp fine Salt 300g (2-1/3 cup) sifted Flour 15g (1 tsp) Porcini Mushroom Powder
For the Sauce 60g Butter 4 Garlic Cloves 1/2 tsp Sea Salt 1/2 cup dried Porcini Mushrooms 100ml boiling water 400ml Cream 300g Button Mushrooms, sliced 20g (4 tsp) grated Parmesan 2 Tbsp chopped Chives Two handfuls of baby Spinach
Make the Gnocchi
1. Boil the potatoes with their skins on in well salted water – I used about 1 tsp salt in the water. Cook until you can just run a fork or knife through the potatoes then drain the water off. If you boil them for too long then excess water will seep into the potatoes.
2. Skin the potatoes while they’re still hot and pass them through the Mouli (food mill, potato ricer, sieve) until no lumps can be seen. I skinned the potatoes by scraping the skin away with a butter knife and made sure not to squish the potato ribbons coming out of my own sieve since you’re trying to get as much air as possible into the mash.
3. Beat the eggs and then pour them into a well you’ve made in the centre of your mash. Stir it in well and then gradually add the sifted flour, salt, and Porcini powder, mixing well. The end result should remind you of pastry dough.
4. Flour your work surface and roll the gnocchi dough out to a thickness of about 1/2cm (1/4″) and then slice the dough into 2.5 cm/ 1″ thick ribbons.
5. Roll each ribbon into a ‘sausage’ and then line them up side by side. Cut across the entire line of rolls so that you have pieces about 2.5cm / 1″ long. Press the back of a fork into the top of each and then form each Gnocchi into a regular shape. The gnocchi will initially be a golden doughy colour but will darken if you keep them overnight in the refrigerator.
6. Cook the Gnocchi: bring a pan of water to a boil and add your gnocchi one at a time and allow to boil until the little dumplings are all floating at the surface of the water. It will take about ten or fifteen minutes and if you allow them to boil while you’re making the sauce then both sauce and gnocchi should be ready at the same time.
Make the Sauce
7. Reconstitute your Porcini by adding them to the 100ml boiling water. They’ll need about ten minutes to soften up.
8. Melt the butter in a pan and then add the garlic. I passed my cloves through a garlic press but you can also mince them finely. Cook until soft and fragrant then add the salt, cream and Porcini mushrooms – water and all. Lastly, add the sliced mushrooms and allow to cook on medium-low until the mushrooms are soft.
9. Add the drained gnocchi to the sauce along with the Parmesan cheese. Stir well and then add the chives and baby spinach. Serve immediately and enjoy ~