I finally picked up my Ottolenghi cookbook. Many people have raved about it but when I first flicked through it, despite the pretty pictures, there was an overwhelming number of recipes for squashes and sweet potato - the arch nemeses of my food world. Still, this weekend I resolved I would try and get over this squash-a-phobia, but I was waylaid by an aubergine. The roots of evil would have to wait.
I was a bit dubious about the recipe in question. How would gnocchi, made with ricotta and Parmesan, not just melt into the water when it was simmering? But I trusted the cookbook and ploughed ahead with it. As I rolled the gnocchi out into fat sausage-like shapes, I then wondered how on earth they were going to fill two of us up. Little did I know, they were pretty rich and were just about sufficient.
Soaking aubergines in oil and grilling them makes them silky and soft. The gnocchi are dressed in sage butter making it a rich, decadent dish. The housemate could only finish two, but I scoffed four happily. One complaint I had about the cookbook was that many of the recipes don't say what to serve with that particular dish; I find it hard to believe that this dish is meant to be served as is, when it's a main course. Broccoli roasted with garlic, chilli and lemon suited it fine, but I imagine there are better alternatives.
Aubergine-Wrapped Ricotta Gnocchi
Adapted from Ottolenghi - Serves 2 as a main
1 small aubergine
30gr pine nuts, lightly toasted
250gr ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
35gr plain flour
50gr Parmesan, grated
1 tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley
1 tbsp chopped basil
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
20 sage leaves
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
In a large bowl, mix together 40gr Parmesan, the flour, egg yolks, salt and ricotta. Add the parsley and basil, mix thoroughly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, overnight if possible.
Trim off the top and the bottom of the aubergine and slice to the thickness of a pound coin lengthways. Brush liberally with olive oil and griddle until soft. Scoop a large tablespoon of the gnocchi mixture and using wet hands, shape into a barrel shape and set aside. I managed to make 6 out of this mixture. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and simmer them, 3 at a time. They are done when they float to the surface. Fish them out - it's quite a delicate business - and leave todry on kitchen towel. Once the dumplings are cool, wrap the aubergine around them carefully. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Place the aubergine-wrapped gnocchi in an oiled dish and bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan and simmer until light brown in colour. Turn off the heat, add the sage leaves and the lemon juice.
To serve, place the gnocchi on the plate and drizzle the butter over it.