As for me, I’ll take any excuse to make an Occasion of things. I do like an Occasion. When it is an Occasion you get to open a bottle of nice wine on a school night, and do silly things like shape your beetroot gnocchi into hearts.
This dish feels like a special occasion indulgence but when I referred to my notes after making it, I realised that I had accidentally come up with a very pure, completely vegan dish. Nothing says “I love you” like a plate full of vegetables that really do taste good.
Happy Valentine’s to you all!
- 400g of peeled beetroot
- 500g potatoes
- 1-2 cups plain white flour
- 1 bunch of watercress (about half a bag, maybe 50-60g)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ½ cup walnuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- Wrap the peeled beetroots in foil and place in the oven. Bake them at 200C/400F for about 45 minutes.
- Boil your potatoes until soft (about 20 mins). When they are ready, mash or rice them and leave them in a bowl to cool down.
- Make your pesto by whizzing up all the ingredients in a food processor. Scoop the prepared pesto into a bowl (you will need the food processor again in a few minutes) and set aside.
- By now your beetroot will be nearly ready. You are aiming for it to be soft throughout, but not caramelised and melty. Don’t worry too much though, because any undercooked or overcooked hard bits will just end up as nice chunks in the mixture and that’s not a bad thing.
- When its ready, leave the beetroot to cool for a bit before putting it in the food processor and pureeing it. Be careful- if lots of steam is escaping, open the lid to let it out and leave to cool for a little while longer. Your mixture shouldn’t be completely liquid- it should be gritty, with lots of small chunks to add texture.
- Add the beetroot to the mashed potato and use a wooden spoon to combine. Now is the time to start adding flour. Add a handful at a time, mixing with your hands to form a dough.
- The amount of flour you ultimately need will depend how much moisture there is in your mixture which can be influenced by many things- what type of potatoes you used and your technique for mashing them, how much your beetroot liquidised, how much moisture there is in the air, how long they were left to cool down. So I can’t tell you exactly how much to use but the guideline is this- you only want as much as is required to make a workable dough. As soon as you are able to roll the dough without it sticking everywhere, stop adding the flour. No sooner, no later.
- Now, its time to shape the dough. But you are unlikely to want as many hearts as this recipe requires so you should probably portion off half of it to make normal gnocchi for another night. Roll this dough into sausages, slice into little bites, and place in a tupperware- line the gnocchi into rows, stacked with parchment paper dividing them. They will last a while in the freezer, and when you want to eat them you can just throw the frozen gnocchi straight in to boil.
- Roll out the dough on a chopping board, keeping it fairly thick. If you have heart cookie cutters, your job is going to be easier than mine- use them! I just traced heart shapes into the dough with a knife, and pulled them out carefully.
- Place the hearts in boiling water. After a couple of minutes they will float- leave them for another minute, and then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Your last step is to pan fry the gnocchi. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, and toss it into the pan. Cook for a minute, flip over, and leave for another minute (max! it does cook really fast) just to get a slightly crispy outside.
- Now serve to your loved one, who misses you, because this took a little bit longer than you estimated didn’t it? (Gnocchi always does)
For a fun presentation, try placing gnocchi hearts atop a smearing of pesto, or arranging on a plate with little mounds of pesto dotted alongside the hearts. Getting creative is what Occasions are for!