25 February 2014

Bacon & Pesto Gnocchi - suspending disbelief

I've been going through a bit of a purple patch with my cooking lately again, in that I had lost my way a bit - well, a lot in fact.  It happens that way sometimes.  Eating is something that we HAVE to do, to keep operating and to stay as well as possible - but sometimes it can be just the most dull, time consuming and tedious thing imaginable.  Add to that it being more than a little bit painful to complete and you have all the ingredients for a purple patch.

However, I hadn't lost my interest in all things culinary or my curiosity for new ingredients - so I knew I'd be back to it, if I just wound things back a bit and swung with the tide for a while.  So here I am, quietly getting back into the swing of things.  I didn't stop cooking, either - we just went through a few weeks of some fairly dull meals, incredibly unhealthy meals and some stellar and spectacularly gorgeous Sunday roasts.  Well, it had to come out in some way or another - and I saved it all for Sundays.  LOL

I will do a couple of posts detailing some of the Sunday meals we've had - as they deserve to spend some time in the spotlight.

Now don't go thinking that I'm back with dishes of Lark's tongue in aspic, or a new take on Lobster thermidor, far from it.  For this week's menu plan (yes, I'm still doing those!) I've tried to come out of my default "meat and two veg" and venture into things - like today's Gnocchi - that I haven't cooked for ages because of lack of inspiration and enthusiasm.

So, all that aside, this evening's meal of Bacon & Pesto Gnocchi was a great start.  We all love gnocchi and I had simply forgotten about it.  After all, there are so many different ingredients out there, it is impossible to remember them all.  Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.  Like a hot gnocchi to an aluminium pan.  *wink*

I can't claim this recipe as all my own work, the inspiration and basic idea came from a recipe on the U.K. & Ireland All Recipes site - which you can see here if you fancy having a look.  I simply added a couple of extra ingredients - mushrooms and onion - to the recipe, to pad it out a little further and to increase the veggie quota.

I'm currently trying to eat mushrooms whenever I can, having read that folk who eat mushrooms and drink green tea (not necessarily together at the same time, but whatever floats your boat) stand considerably less chance of contracting cancer - of all sorts of types.  Now it's not hard work to eat mushrooms and fairly easy to add a cup of green tea to my day, so that's what I've been doing.

This recipe really is simplicity itself.  Now I approve of that, because not every recipe needs to take an aeon, involve every pan you possess and take you an hour to get over cooking.  Far from it.  It sounded easy - it's one of those "put stuff in the pan in order and cook on various heats, boil other stuff, combine the two" recipes.  They get a big thumbs up from me.

The peppers do need chargrilling earlier in the day, but if you don't have the time or inclination to do this (it is well worth it though, as the flavour is so much better), you can use them ready done, out of a jar.

There are two odd things about the recipe, however.  One is that it involves Philadelphia cream cheese - which isn't odd on its own, it's just that it uses Sweet Chilli Philadelphia.  In a dish which is ostensibly Italian.  ~scratches head~  Demands the suspension of disbelief to do it, but it's worth it!  If it is any consolation, the Sweet Chilli version is one of the low fat types of Philadelphia, so it could be worse!

The second odd thing is the end colour - which, thanks to the green Pesto, is eccentric at best.  Don't panic when you see it all combined in the pan before you add it to the gnocchi - the addition of the gnocchi helps to lighten the colour and if served with a green salad alongside, it kind of makes sense.

My menfolk liked it a lot - well, cheese and bacon?  It'd have to go a long way to shake off a man's love for bacon.  I was a little bit concerned that there wouldn't be enough for everyone, whereas the reality was that it was absolutely perfect.  No leftovers and everyone was satisfied.  Works for me!

So, having said all that, let's get on and make it shall we?

BACON & PESTO GNOCCHI   (serves 3)

Ingredients :

1 red and 1 green pepper
1 onion, chopped finely
1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
300g smoked back bacon, chunkily chopped
4-5 chestnut mushrooms, sliced
500g potato gnocchi
3 heaped tsp green pesto (to taste)
3 dessertspoonfuls sweet chilli Philadelphia
1 generous handful of grated cheddar cheese.

Method :

1.  If you are using your own home chargrilled peppers, some hours before you begin to make the dish, heat your grill to high and place the whole peppers under the grill.  Leave them there for their skins to turn black and blister, turning them until they are completely charred.  Cool for a moment, then pop into a freezer bag and seal the top.  Condensation will form, which will enable their skins to be removed really easily - and they have such a gorgeous smokey taste.

2.  So, place a large pan of salted water on to boil for the gnocchi.

3.  While the water is heating, add the oil and the onion to a frying pan and cook gently until softened and just beginning to caramelise.

4.  Add the bacon, which will cool the pan - so increase the temperature to cook the bacon until all the water has dispersed, then add the mushrooms and cook on until they have softened.

5.  Add the peppers and heat them through - by which time the water should have boiled for the gnocchi, so in they go for their three minutes, or whatever the pack demands.

6.  Add the pesto, Philadelphia and grated cheese to the frying pan and stir through until the cheddar has melted and the whole lot has combined.  This is where you'll start getting a little bit worried about the colour.  Do not despair!

7.  As the gnocchi cook, lift them out with a slotted spoon, directly into the bacon mixture.  Once they are all done, fold them through until everything is combined, check for seasoning and adjust if necessary - and serve.

I thoroughly recommend serving the gnocchi with a green side salad, which provides a lovely freshness to counteract the richness of the pesto and cheese.  Perfect!

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