Thursday, January 25, 2007

Gnocchi with braised oxtail

For some reason, gnocchi has always filled me with fear. I could never see why the little potato cylinders didn't just disintegrate into the cooking water and had a vision that if I made them, that might well happen. Yesterday evening, then, I was psyching myself up for disaster. I was also in a good mood because I bought a new cookbook - I know, I know, I need some sort of therapy - this time Jo Pratt's book, In the Mood for Food. It is gloriously and unashamedly girly, with a pink cover and enticing sections like 'lazy food' and 'extravagant food' and 'romantic food', as well as hangover breakfasts and the most seductive ice cream and chocolate sections. I came home, put potatoes into the oven to bake to make gnocchi, and read my new book. In my defence, I had already made the oxtail stew that the gnocchi accompanies in this particular recipe and thus half of the work was already out of the way. Nonetheless there remained the nagging worry that I might mess the gnocchi up, exacerbated because I felt that Jamie's book could give more details of amounts and method and therefore turned to Giorgio Locatelli, who warns that small amounts of gnocchi dough are notoriously difficult to work with, which in turn scared me further.

Fear aside, the gnocchi turned out fine. I scooped the potato flesh out of the baked potatoes and Simon mashed them; we added nutmeg powder and egg yolk and then pasta flour, until the mixture felt like dough. Then we tore a piece off and tested it; miraculously it didn't fall apart. I teased the dough into 2 sausage shapes, cut each one at 2.5 cm intervals as instructed, and transferred to a floured baking tray to set in the fridge for 10-20 minutes. Finally I boiled the gnocchi for a few minutes and served over the oxtail stew.

To make the stew, I seared an oxtail until brown all over, adding celery, leek, onion, and carrot and cooking until golden brown. I then added white wine, crushed fennel seeds and juniper berries, a crushed dried red chilli, tomato puree and tinned plum tomatoes. I removed from the oven and lifted the meat out of the stew, shredding the meat off the bone, and replacing it in the pot. I added oregano and simmered for 15 minutes.

Everything came out as it should, I think. The gnocchi were delicious - light and tasty. The stew was a real winter warmer, with all the flavour you'd expect from oxtail. I feel as though I have jumped another hurdle in food terms, although admittedly one successful batch of gnocchi doesn't actually mean that I am the gnocchi expert. Still, I am making progress, and that was part of what my project was all about. I suppose I might have to tackle meringues soon, and they really scare me, not least because I don't like them that much so I've never particularly wanted to try. I will, though - what I've learnt recently is to suspend prejudice and try things, and see how they turn out.


Freya said...

Is this Kathryn or Jamie writing because it reads like Kathryn?
If I used emoticons, I'd use this one ;)
P.S. That's the last time you'll ever see me using an emoticon!

Lisa said...

Wow -- making gnocchi is no small feat -- I commend you!!
They look like little pillows of deliciousness. Well done, once again.

Helen said...

I want to try this gnocchi recipe too but I've been shying off... I might try it this week, you have inspired me.

Isn't it quite frustrating the way that Jamie says: "Thow in a handful of this and a glug of that!" I feel like shouting at him: "Jamie, your hands are bound to be bigger than mine!" I know he wants to make recipes seem simpler but I need specifics!

I'll keep a lookout for the Jo Pratt book. I especially like the sound of "lazy food"!!

Kathryn said...

Thanks for the nice comments! They were delicious. Paul - Jamie and I are unlikely ever to sound similar; I lack his boyish, puppyish enthusiasm and my hair is too straight.

Jamie's handfuls are massive, Helen, as I know from seeing him on television. My handfuls are embarrassingly small; I tend to use two of mine for one of his. The Stovie recipe was the most annoying because it just said 'butter' and 'olive oil', not even knob or glug. I was left wondering whether that meant a Kathryn amount (i.e. hardly any!) or a TV chef amount (they always seem to use loads!).

The Jo Pratt book is nice and pink (!) and the food is pretty simple. There are healthy sections too, lunchbox foods, afternoon tea, drinks parties, but they're all pretty simple, so I think I will cook from it!

Kathryn x

litlove said...

I've just bought this book and it's like greeting an old friend, having read my way along with your cooking! I did see this recipe and thought, goodness, Kathryn's going to have to tackle that! I won't tell you what I thought when I read the lobster section. But still, you make it sound very feasible and approachable, and the end result looks delicious!

charlotte said...

Yeah, you've inspired me too. I might try them this weekend. Seems the perfect thing to do on a cold weekend.

As for meringues, they are ridiculously easy. I've always used Nigella's meringue recipe, though I'm sure Jamie's is equally good. I know he likes them brown and gooey, which is of course, the only way to have a meringue.

Kathryn said...

A warning to anyone trying them - what Giorgio said (and Jamie doesnt...) is make sure the potato is still hot as you make the gnocchi or it won't work as a dough.

Other warning is make sure your potatoes are floury. I used Maris Pipers...

I was worried as I made them but they worked so easily, I won't worry again.

Ilana said...

Now that you've tackled your gnocchi hurdle, you should try Tessa's ricotta gnocchi. Oh so yum! It was my first (and only) time making gnocchi and it couldn't have been simpler. Make sure to have a pungent sauce to go with it!


Shaun said...

Kathryn - I've seen your comments over at Freya's and have been meaning to stop by your blog for the longest time. Now I'm here and am impressed especially by your gnocchi with braised oxtail. My partner Eric has been going on about making our own pasta...maybe we could start here. Not only do you convince me this is do-able, but the ingredients are interesting (I've never cooked or tasted, at least as far as I know, oxtail before). I'll stop by again soon.

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