Dinner with a neighbour

 

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My life in London has seen many (I do mean many) different addresses. Back when I was living in a flat at the top of the building I was very lucky to share it with very good neighbours. One such neighbour is Josy, a lovely Dutch lady whom I still refer to as “my Dutch neighbour” even though we have long ceased sharing the same address.

Once I had to make a dish for a competition and I asked her if she would mind being my guinea pig. She did not one bit.

 

Goat’s cheese filled gnocchi and roasted cherry tomatoes and mushroom ragoût (©Gabriela R.)

 

For the roasted cherry tomatoes and mushroom ragoût

 

500g cherry tomatoes

5 garlic cloves

300g mushrooms (use the ones you like best, I used button mushrooms)

50g dry oregano

Olive oil

1 tbsp caster sugar

Salt and pepper, to taste

200g smoked bacon

250g bocconcini

Fresh basil leaves

 

Place the cherry tomatoes on a baking tray, sprinkle them with chopped garlic, sugar and oregano. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake in a very hot oven until they burst.

 

Add some olive oil to a frying pan, add the chopped bacon and fry until crispy. Add the chopped mushrooms. (I am fastidiously fussy so “I” fry them in a separate pan because they have a lot of water, I drain them a bit and then I add them to the pan with the bacon). Add 1 whole smashed garlic clove. Add the cherry tomatoes which you’ve cooked in the oven. Leave to cook at low heat.

Add the fresh basil leaves (just tear them with your hands) and the bocconcini.

 

For the gnocchi

 

2 medium potatoes

2 egg yolks

Plain flour, as needed (equal volume to that obtained by mashing the potatoes)

Pinch of salt

50g butter

Goat’s cheese, to taste (use any cheese you like)

Grated Parmesan cheese, to sprinkle on top

 

Boil the potatoes with the skin until they are tender (or bake them in the oven or microwave them). Peel them while still hot, warm at best but never cold as it will make your life much harder (the skin is almost impossible to peel once the potatoes are cold). Mash them and place them on the worktop (or use a plastic board). Next to the pile of mashed potatoes make a pile of flour of equal volume. Make a well in the centre of the mash and add the egg yolks, butter and pinch of salt. Mix quickly with your hands while you try to integrate all these ingredients.

Add the flour and mix quickly. Leave to one side until needed.

 

Cut the cheese in small cubes.

 

To make the gnocchi:

 

Take a small portion of dough (almond-sized, not bigger than that) and shape it in your hands like a small, thin round. Add a cube of cheese and roll the gnocco (yep! That’s the name) in your hands to shape it like a ball, enclosing the cheese (it’s actually harder to write this than to make it). Place on a floured tray and boil them in abundant salted boiling water until they float to the surface (they will initially sink). Once they float, they’re ready. Fish them out, drain them and serve with the sauce.

 Note: If you omit the bacon it can be a wonderful vegetarian dish.

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