Human beings don’t have reset buttons.
It’s a problem because every now and again you’ll wind up in a conversation with someone that feels like they’re taking a dump on your head and trying to tell you it’s a massage. And that’s when you just want to reset the fuck out of them.
Other times, it’s me who feels like I need a good reset – mostly because for whatever reason I start to feel like a walking error message and all I can muster no matter the situation is a long rambling mumble about domesticated ferns.
But it’s okay – because this is what beaches are for. And cheese. And drinks with little paper umbrellas in them. And the ‘off’ button on your phone. Of course some people are better at this than others. I am extraordinarily bad at it. I’ve gotten better over the years, but still, that’s a little bit like saying that these days Vinnie Jones has slightly more range as an actor than he did when he started.
Luckily I have a job that sometimes takes me to nice places in the world where I get to occasionally take five minutes off to eat the cheese and ask for a paper umbrella in my artisanal beer.
And so, because with pictures supposedly being worth a thousand of something or other (and I owe this little corner of the internet a lot of something or others), here’s an insanely smug gallery of things that have been keeping me away for the last two weeks or so.
Butternut gnocchi with porcini and cured pork belly
What I love about this recipe is that all the liquid required to make this creamy and filled with incredible satiny textures comes from the ingredients themselves. I never have to use oil, added liquid or extra water – which I think is fairly excellent.
Ingredients (for 4)
1 small pack of dried porcini mushrooms
1 250g length of cured pork belly, diced
1 handful of sliced plum tomatoes
1 handful of chopped basil
1 handful of grated pecorino cheese
2 cups of flour
half a teaspoon of baking powder
What to do
Boil a kettle of water, and pour about 2 cupfuls of it over the dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl. Set this aside to soak for about half an hour.
Peel and de-seed the butternut, then chop it up into largish chunks. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and add the butternut – let it simmer away until soft and tender – probably about 25 minutes or so.
Once it’s done, drain the water and mash it up with a healthy pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Slowly add all the baking powder and then flour bit by bit – mixing it in as you go. Stop adding flour when you have a stiffish dough that’s not too dry. Remove from the pot onto a clean surface that’s been dusted with flour, and continue to work it with your hands. When it’s taken on a smooth, silky texture – pull off a sausage-sized piece and (again dusted with flour) work it into a long thin sausage about 2 cm thick. With a knife, cut it into sections about an inch long. Keep on going until you’ve made enough gnocchi – then wrap the remaining dough – it’ll keep if stored in the fridge for a day or or two.
In a hot pan, add the diced pork belly and fry until starting to crisp up, then add the tomatoes and rehydrated porcini mushrooms. Keep the liquid (which should be a lovely rich brown), because you’re going to use it. Once everything in the pan has started to sizzle and brown – turn, the heat down a bit and add a ladle of the mushroom liquid. When it’s look like it’s getting dry again, keep adding liquid.
Get another batch of salted water on the boil in a large pot. Once it’s on the go, carefully lower in the gnocchi one by one until they’re all in there. You’ll immediately see them swell up in the hot water. Let this boil for about 10-15 minutes – until cooked through (lift one out and taste – if it’s wet and stodgy in the middle still – let it go for another couple of minutes or so).
Once they’re done – use a slotted spoon to lift them from the water and into the pan of mushrooms and pork belly. Get the gnocchi good and coated with sauce, and keep stirring. Once they’re all in (or as much as your pan can hold) – add a ladle of the gnocchi’s cooking water and the pecorino cheese. It’ll combine to give it all a lovely silky finish.
Sprinkle with the chopped herbs and either spoon onto plates or just take the whole pan to the table.