Chestnut Gnocchi with caramelized Brussels Sprouts and Onion

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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

ps. I’ve been published in The Guardian almost every week this month. Check out here, here, and here, for my recipes. I was so stoked, naturally.

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

To finish,

25g butter

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.

Fennel, goat’s cheese, and grape tart

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Hi everyone. I just realized it’s been a week since I posted anything. I have been cooking everyday, developing a couple of recipes as well. Unfortunately these recipes were made either in a hurry, eaten out of extreme hunger, or I had guests coming, so I forgot take photos. Oops. Next time. I have a thai flavored recipe coming up soon!

In meanwhile, here’s a quick tart topped with thinly sliced fennel, shallots, goat’s cheese, and red grapes, and sprinkled with a whisper of fresh rosemary leaves. I think it yells out, Autumn! don’t you think? 😉

I was cleaning out my freezer the other day and found not just one, but four packets of puff pastry. I couldn’t remember the last time I cooked with them, so clearly I had to use them up ASAP. Puff pastry is a perfect standby for a quick lunch or dinner. You can think of any number of toppings to go on top (savory or sweet), bake for 20 minutes, and voila! Who says cooking is annoying and time consuming?

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Fennel, goat’s cheese, and red grapes tart

Serves: 2 as main, 4 as appetizer

1/2 packet of puff pastry (or 4 squares, like the ones I had), thawed for 5 minutes

1 small fennel bulb or 1/2 of a large bulb

2 small shallots

1/2 tsp lemon juice

100g soft goat’s cheese, with or without rind

a handful of red grapes

1 sprig rosemary

Olive oil

salt&pepper to taste

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2. Slice the fennel bulb very thinly. A mandolin slicer works best for this job, but if you don’t have one, use a sharp knife or potato peeler to shave off slices.

3. Thinly slice shallots. In a medium bowl, mix shallots and fennel slices with a good drizzle olive oil and lemon juice. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

4. Evenly distribute the fennel-shallot mixture on the puff pastry, leaving 1-2cm of the edges unfilled.

5. Top with slices of goats cheese, grapes, snippets of rosemary. Drizzle with some more olive oil.

6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the puff pastry is golden. Check the bottom of the pastry and make sure it’s fully cooked.

7. Serve warm. Be careful when biting into grapes. They are very hot! I burnt my mouth eating these tarts straight out of the oven.

Linguine with roasted pumpkin and spinach

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After a very hot summer this year, the season ended abruptly in Germany at the beginning of last month. When the summer is gone for good, it can get quite depressing, as the weather won’t get warmer or very sunny again until around April/May the next year. I have a thing in my kitchen, where I wait as long as I can until I cook with the first pumpkin of the season. Pumpkin to me, and I’m sure to everyone else, means autumn, and in turn accepting the fact that summer is completely GONE. I’m sure this odd thing of mine isn’t so comprehensible for most people who haven’t experienced the cold and dark winters of Germany. But I can assure you, it’s no fun at all.  Waking up in the dark even if you wake up around 8am-ish, grey skies, sunset (if there’s sun that is) at 4:30pm-ish, and the freezing temperature almost everyday can be extremely gloomy at times.

I’m sorry I’m whinging. There are though, plus sides to the long dark winters. Christmas is around the corner (=over-indulgence in food and wine!), sipping piping hot Glühwein (Mulled wine) in freezing weather at the Christmas market with friends, standing tightly huddled around a small table, and a lot of use of the oven in the kitchen to keep the apartment warmer. Two of my favourite produce come in season as well. Pumpkin as I have mentioned, and kale are in abundance at the farmer’s market. I bought a medium sized, yellow-fleshed pumpkin at the market last week. I can’t remember what sort it was unfortunately. And although kale doesn’t come in season until November in Germany, I found fresh local spinach at the Demeter stand, and hence this pasta was born last weekend.

This pasta dish is super easy to make. The most time consuming part is cutting the pumpkin into cubes, but otherwise there isn’t much chopping involved. The timing can be kind of essential though, as is with most pasta dishes. I recommend butternut squash or other creamy variety. I do not recommend Hokkaido pumpkin, as I find it quite tasteless and the texture is somewhat mealy compared to the Butternut. I still don’t understand why the supermarkets here stock so many of these, and not Acorn, Delicata, or Kabocha.

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Anyways, back to the recipe. The cubed pumpkin is tossed in olive oil and roasted with garlic, thyme, and rosemary, which will make your kitchen smell divine. In meanwhile, wash the spinach and chop roughly (or just use the kitchen scissors while the spinach is still in the drainer like I did). The pasta should go in the boiling water right after the pumpkin is out of the oven. While the pasta is cooking, heat up the oil in a pan and toss around the roasted garlic for 30 seconds or so, then add the spinach, and then the pumpkin and plump sultanas to mingle the flavour. By then, your pasta should be cooked, and all you need to do is carefully toss the pasta with a bit of the pasta water as not to squash the pumpkin cubes into a pulp. Voilà! Dinner is ready! Happy cooking everyone!

Linguine with roasted pumpkin and spinach 

Serves 2, generously.

2 tbsp olive oil (or more to taste)

1/2 of a small pumpkin (ie Butternut), peeled and cubed

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (mine were short, but if you have a long sprig, use less, as rosemary can be very overpowering)

4 fat cloves of garlic, un-peeled

1 tsp chili flakes (optional)

1 tbsp sultanas/raisins.

200-230g Linguine, depending on how hungry you are.

3 big handfuls of roughly chopped spinach

Pumpkin seed oil (optional)

Parmagiano reggiano

salt&pepper

1. Turn the oven on to 200 degrees Celcius. Trim the pumpkin and cut into bite-sized cubes. Lay the pumpkin cubes, garlic, and the herbs on a baking paper and baking tin, and coat with a tablespoon of olive oil,. Season with salt and pepper. Depending on the size of your cubed pumpkin, it will take around 20-30 minutes. Mine took 20. Stir half way through.

2. Soak the sultanas in boiling water to plump up.

3. Depending on how fast your stove is, bring the pasta water to boil just before the pumpkin comes out of the oven. Set aside with the lid on.

4. When the pumpkin is cooked until tender but not mushy, take it out of the oven. Turn the pasta water back on immediately and cook the linguine according to the direction on the package. Make sure your pasta water is well salted. (very important!)

5. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan in a medium-high heat. Squeeze the garlic flesh out of the skin and add to the pan. Stir around for 30 seconds. Add the chopped spinach and cook until wilted.

6. Add the pumpkin and the drained sultanas. Toss around the pan to mingle the flavour. Sprinkle with chili flakes if you like.

7. At this point, your pasta should be cooked to al dante. Save half a cup of cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta immediately into the frying pan and toss around with a tongs gently, adding the pasta water as necessary, if the dish seems dry.

8. Serve with a small drizzle of pumpkin seed oil or olive oil on top. Sprinkle with Parmagiano reggiano.