Everyone who loves to eat and cook, probably decides their next travel destination by food once in a while. I like nature, sure. I also like to visit great museums, landmarks, and historical sights. But a city or a country wouldn’t be on my priority, if it didn’t offer interesting and great food. One thing I love doing is going to markets and supermarkets whenever I visit a new city. I like to look at what locals are buying, and even ask a few questions, if I feel particularly curious. I was on an orchestra tour once many years ago in a small city in Hungary. I have to say, the food I had there was mediocre at best, but I loved the fact that they had chili pepper flakes and pastes on the tables in restaurants. There’s nothing that a bit of salt and chile pepper can’t fix, if the food is bland! 🙂 I went to a supermarket and there was a huge selection of chili pastes, that I was a bit overwhelmed with what to get. I asked a hungarian woman who was near by, who didn’t really speak any english, helped me gladly. I bought the pastes for my mum and other friends who like a bit of a spice in their food. Since then, I put on a huge smile, and ask the locals, and they will help with pleasure. Most of them are flattered that you are interested in their food.
My friend Paige, one of the best cooks I know, and I usually bring each other food as souvenir whenever we travel. I bought her some Korean chili paste, fermented bean paste, and dried fish for broth, whenever I went to my parents in Korea. This year, even though it wasn’t a lot, I brought her a nutmeg in its shell from an organic farm in Penang, Malaysia. She also brings me back all sorts of wonderful things. The recipe I made for you today, was possible by the chestnut flour she brought me from Corsica a year ago. I love roasted or boiled chestnuts, but the flour was foreign to me until she presented me with a bag. It’s so aromatic, that you immediately want to bury your head in it. I made a couple of recipes with the flour, but the taste is pretty strong, that you don’t need a large amount. A bag of chestnut flour from a health store or an organic store is not the cheapest flour you can find, but a little goes a long way.
Brussel sprouts and chestnut are a fantastic pairing. I avoided cooking with brussels sprouts for many years, because, let’s face it. A lot of people have traumas from overcooked, sulfurous smelling brussels. Since last year, I got my courage up, and cooked the them in a frying pan with lots of butter until they were beautifully caramelized. Guess what? My fear of brussels subsided. Everyone should cook them in this way. The slight sweetness and the chestnut aroma will balance out nicely with cruciferous brussels and caramelized onion. Making gnocchi is really easy once you read the direction properly. I find it easier than making fresh pasta. Give this a try, and you will be making gnocchi every week! xo-A
Chestnut Gnocchi with caramelized Brussels Sprouts and Onion
For the gnocchi,
500g large floury potatoes
120g all-purpose flour
45g chestnut flour, sifted
2 large eggs and 1 egg york, whisked
1/2 tsp salt
1 large red onion, finely sliced into half moon rings
300g brussel sprouts, trimmed
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp aged balsamic vinegar
a small handful hazelnuts, toasted, skin removed, and chopped
1. Turn the oven on to 220 degrees celsius. Prick the potatoes a couple of times, and bake for about 50 mins- 1 hour depending on their size.
2. Cut the potatoes in half, wait for a minute to cool down a little, and scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. (I know, it’s hot, but be brave)
3. In a large bowl, mash the potatoes. Add the flour, eggs, and salt. Mix with an wooden spoon and eventually, with your hand, until a smooth dough is formed. Add a bit more flour if the dough is too sticky, but make sure not to put too much flour, as the gnocchi will taste hard once they are cooked.
4.Divide the dough in half. Roll the dough into a long cigar shape and cut them into 1.5cm pieces. Roll them on a gnocchi board or on a fork.
5. Start a large pot of water onto a boil. Salt generously.
6. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions and fry until lightly caramelized. Turn down the heat accordingly. This will take anywhere between 10-20 minutes. The wait is worth it.
7. Boil the brussel sprouts for about a minute. Take them out with a slotted spoon. Keep the water on a rolling boil.
8. Cut the brussels in half. Add the brussels and thyme to the onion, and stir-fry until lightly browned. Try not to stir them around too much.
9. In the same water that brussel sprouts were cooked, add the gnocchi and cook for about 2 minutes or until they float to the surface.
10. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and add them to the brussel sprouts and onion. Add a couple of tablespoons of cooking water. Mix everything together over medium heat for about a minute. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and toss.