Well that Christmas feeling has finally kicked in. All it took was a frosty mid morning walk down Regent Street awashed with black friday shoppers and I felt it.
That overwhelming sense of simultaneous nostalgia and festive joyfulness, intermingled with a niggling annoyance (that any city dweller knows well when they try to part the crowds, like the red sea to get to their tube station.) Christmas evokes such a conflicting array of emotions within me. The elation of unwrapping presents, endless days of eating and merry drinking, counteracted by the stress of a brutally abused bank account, miserable grey skies and hoards of stampeding shoppers. There is certainly no other time of year I feel quite like it.
Anyways this year we are having a little change from the festive norm… My mother, (the saint that she is) had the genius idea that we shelve a British Christmas, for once and take a trip abroad. So in less than two weeks, I am relinquishing my cold paws and red nose for 16 days of sun, sea and pina coladas. We are going to BALI. Hurrah
However, before I go I thought it only necessary that I make and eat as much festive food as I possibly can. It will be a coconut, cocktails and fresh fish diet for the next few weeks so I might as well stock up now.
This is one of the recipes that I am going to be serving next week, at my pop up event at the Garrison in Bermondsey. (There are still a couple of tickets for sale here.) Soft and delicious little ricotta and squash pillows with sage and pureed chestnut. Served with crispy sage leaves, sweet and salty roasted pecans and panfried in garlic with deep green cavolo nero, butter and garlic. My tastebuds are watering as I write this…. I have a feeling this might be a recipe for my next cookbook. Whadda ya think?
Squash and Chestnut Dumplings with Candied Pecans and Sage Chips Recipe
- 700g butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into 3inch disks
- 300g chestnuts
- 300g ricotta
- 1 egg
- 275g flour
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped sage
- 2 tsp salt and a good grating of freshly ground black pepper
- semolina, to roll the dumplings in.
- 2 handfuls chopped cavolo nero or curly kale, stalks removed and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, bashed
- juice of 1/2 lemon, to taste
- extra virgin olive oil, for panfrying and drizzling
- 30 sage leaves
- a large handful of chopped caramel pecans
To make the Dumplings
Preheat the oven to 180°C/ gas mark 4
Place the squash on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat the place the squash in the oven to roast until cooked through, approximately 45 minutes
Add the squash flesh to a food processor with the chestnut puree and the ricotta. Belnd until fully combined, then add the egg into the mixture and whizz briefly a final time. Be careful not to over beat the egg.
Add the squash mixture to a large bowl with the chopped sage, nutmegs and salt and pepper, then sift the flour over. Use a wooden spoon or your hands to mix in well. Mix together to form a dough. Add more flour if the dough looks too sticky
Roll out the dough into long sausages, approximately 1cm thick. With a sharp knife cut into 2.5cm wide dumplings. Roll each lightly in the semolina. If you are making the dumplings in advance, it is at this point that you can pop them in the fridge, in a tupperware box, until you need them.
Otherwise, bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Drop in the dumplings and cook for 2 minutes, or until they rise to the surface. Then drain the water away using a colander or a slotted spoon.
Before you finish of the dumplings in the frying pan, it is best to make the garnishes first.
For the Crispy Sage Leaves
Simply add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to the frying pan. Place over a medium heat and add the sage leaves in batches. I would advise about 6-8 crispy ones per portion. Cook each on one side for about 1-2 minutes, or until it starts turning golden, then flip over and cook on the other side until crisp. Drain any excess oil by placing them on kitchen paper towel
For the Caramel Pecans
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- a pinch of cayenne (optional)
- 400g mixed unroasted pecans
- 2 tbsp honey
Heat oven to 140C/gas 1. Mix the oil with the spices, then stir in the nuts and drizzle over half the honey. Spread over a baking sheet and cook for 10 mins.
Remove from the oven and drizzle over the remaining honey, then return to the oven and cook for a further 10 mins.
Allow to cool completely before eating.
To Pan fry the Dumplings
Make sure the dumplings are dry before you finish them off in the pan, so they can get nice and golden. You may have to do this in batches, so pop the oven on to warm at 100 degrees and place in your serving platter.
Place a large frying pan over a high heat, add 3 tbs of olive oil and 2 crushed garlic cloves and add 1/3 or 1/2 the dumplings to the pan, depending on what you can fit. The trick is not to overcrowd them.
Keep them in the pan cooking until they begin to develop a beautiful golden crust, then add the cavolo nero for the final minute to soften. Add the golden crusted dumplings and cavolo nero to the warmed baking dish in the oven with the garlicy oil, whilst you finish of pan frying the rest. If you are lacking in sauce at the end of cooking time, simply bash a couple more garlic cloves and place them in a pan with a little more olive oil to make more delicious infused oil. I often finish with a knob of organic butter too for added richness, but this is optional.
Once all the gnocchi is cooked, serve in bowls, topped with the crispy sage and toasted pecans and a final drizzle of infused oil. Parmesan too, if you fancy it.