In praise of potato

In praise of veg: Mash-up Gnocchi with Cheat’s Sugo

Thing 2 of my 21 for 2021 list is to choose a different vegetable every week from the book In Praise of Veg and make a recipe from the book using that vegetable.

This week’s vegetable was the humble potato, which is surely the best vegetable ever. You can make chips out of it. Say no more.

My recipe choice was the Mash-up Gnocchi with Cheat’s Sugo (page 300). This recipe had me at the word “cheat”. I had no idea what sugo was, but if I could cheat at it then all the better.

This dish required me to cook two recipes.

I know.

The gnocchi is made out of leftover mash (who EVER has that?), which comes from the previous recipe called Mash, Crackle and Pop (page 298). This is a smooth, silky, plenty creamy mash that Alice says to make lots of so that you can re-use it in other recipes, one of which is the gnocchi.

The name of the mash recipe comes from the crispy potato skins that you fry up (and preferably don’t melt your spatula while you’re doing it) and serve with the mash. I think the idea is that you’d have the mash already cold from the day before when you line it up to make the gnocchi, not have to make it immediately before you start to cook.

Barb holding a black and red spatula that melted during cooking

Did anyone say “blast chiller”?

Okay, we aren’t on Masterchef and I think I left the mash a little late.

When I put Deb (aka dehydrated potato) on the shopping list, I also had to write “I’m not joking” just in case my shopper thought I was. The recipe actually calls for this.

I didn’t even know they still made it. But they do and here’s the proof.

A packet of Deb dehydrated potato on top of the gnocci recipe
Deb. It’s a thing.

I love that in the ingredient list, Alice had to say that you find this in a packet in the tinned vegetable aisle, probably because no one else thought they still made it either, and no one would know where to look for it. If they even knew what it was. For those of us who grew up in the 80s, it was a staple camping food and I think that, in true Stockholm Syndrome style, I actually loved the stuff. That creamy, fake, tastes-nothing-like-potato taste is so good. Right up there with packet gravy.

I had never made gnocchi before (and technically I’m not even sure what it is, let alone how to make it). I just know I like it. This recipe seemed simple enough. Mix up the ingredients, roll out the dough, cut it into little gnocchis and leave it to set.

Rolls of gnocchi dough on a pink baking sheet
Gnocchi dough
Gnocchi dough cut into pieces resting on a pink baking sheet
Little gnocchis

Then you chuck it into boiling water and when it rises to the top, it’s done.

It was all good up to that point. Putting the gnocchi in took the water off the boil. I wasn’t sure what that meant. Was it no longer hot enough to cook the gnocchi? Does the water need to be boiling? What happens if I leave them in a bit longer?

I tasted one that had risen to the top and it didn’t seem like a particularly gnocchi-like gnocchi. It kind of disintegrated. So I left them in a bit longer. By the time I took them out and stirred them into the sugo (aka tomato sauce) they fell apart completely and it become more like a tomatoey potato mash than gnocchi in tomato sauce.

Back to the drawing board on that one.

Mash-up Gnocchi with Cheat’s Sugo from In Praise of Veg
The end result – crispy potato skins included

I managed to rescue the last ones so it wasn’t a complete disaster and everyone went back for seconds, which either meant they liked it or they were so hungry they didn’t care what it tasted like. I’ll choose the former, I think, and conduct some more research into gnocchi cooking techniques

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