Gnocchi

Some snaps from Rome & the addict’s recipe …

Rome was exactly what I had expected. Full of life and sunshine, it is a city of hustle and bustle, of espresso shots and scooters and of incredible ancient ruins scattered across the entire city. Rome is a city for exploration, of religious devotion and most importantly for food.

When backpacking  across Europe I was savvy with my money and often I bought food at shops and markets or binged on complimentary continental breakfasts supplied by the many hostels I visited – For Italy however my frugalness left me and I ate out all day everyday during my stay at this vibrant and gastronomic country!

Italian food is my absolute favorite. Where taste and comfort is at the heart of it, Italian food does away with any fuss or pretension and when made with love and fresh ingredients packed with flavour – Italian food is eccezionale!

Below are a few snaps from my trip to Rome and below that is this week’s scrap on an Italian favorite – Gnocchi. It’s surprisingly easy to make and the recipe below is fool proof, perfect for a lazy sunday afternoon whatever the weather. Admittedly I tried my first ever Gnocchi in Rome and let me tell ‘ya – I wasn’t disappointed!

I ate at a small restaurant that was a short walk away from my hostel. Tempio di Mecenate is a cosy spot where they serve good wholesome homey food. It’s good value too and is close to the enchanting Porta Magica – a magic portal in a garden which is a quiet and special find rarely surrounded by tourists.  Before traveling to another dimension, I recommend having lunch at the restaurant and although it will cost you extra, sit outside in the sun – it will be worth it.

Old school Roman dining beside a garden of magic – bellissima! (…yes I’m unashamedly throwing Italian words into my post)

House of Augustus
House of Augustus

House of Augustus Tower

Virgin Pillar

Pantheon, Rome.
Pantheon

Pantheon, Pillars

Pantheon,Pillars

Pantheon, Entrance

Gnocchi

Although in Rome, I had Gnocchi with a rich ragu sauce. The recipe below is perfect for beginners and although it does take some time, it is incredibly simple and can be made into larger batches and stored in the freezer for future use.

This recipe ensures the Gnocchi is the centre of attention. The sauce is very light which I think compliments this starchy and substantial pasta

Ingredients (Serves two) 

2 large potatoes

2 cups of flour

2 eggs

parmesan

garlic

onion

basil

pine nuts

butter

Lemon juice

salt and pepper

olive oil

  1. Peel the potatoes and boil them in a pot for about 20mins (or until tender). Do not overcook them. You want the potatoes to be tender and fluffy – not too soft and mushy.
  2. Drain the potatoes well. You want to get rid of all excess water and have the potatoes dry before mashing.
  3. Give your potatoes a good mashing (or push them through a potato ricer – if you’re more fortunate than I & have one)
  4. Place mashed potato on a clear work surface and top with the flour.
  5. Grate a generous amount of the cheese and add it to the potato and flour mixture.
  6. Sprinkle some salt on the mound and roughly give it a mix with your hands.
  7. Create a well in the centre of the mound and add the beaten eggs.
  8. Mix the flour, potato, cheese and egg together until it forms a dough.
  9. Knead it only until it becomes well formed. It should be a little sticky but not too much. NOTE: If a little flour is needed add some but be careful – too much flour will make the pasta hard.
  10. Shape the dough into one large rectangular shape making sure it is even in height, about 2cm thick.
  11. Cut dough into rectangular strips about 10cm long.
  12. Roll each strip into a sausage shape making sure it is even.
  13. Cut the sausage shape into 2cm pieces and use a fork to indent the gnocchi pieces with ridges.
  14. FOR THE SAUCE: As the fresh gnocchi takes only 4mins to cook. Leave the pasta aside and dice an onion and some garlic.
  15. In a hot pan saute the onion and garlic with some butter and in a separate pan toast the pine nuts until golden.
  16. In a pot of boiling salted water add the gnocchi and cook for 4mins ( you will know when the pasta is done as the gnocchi will float to the top)
  17. Drain the gnocchi and toss it into the pan. Mix the gnocchi in the buttery sauce gently and tear some basil leaves adding the herb & a little more butter to the pan. Add the toasted pine nuts to the pan with the squeezed juice of about half a lemon also. Stir gently. Season with salt if needed (bare in mind the cheese & butter is salty) & a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
  18. Serve in warm bowls with grated Parmesan on top, a sprig of basil & a final sprinkling of nuts. A drizzle of olive oil wouldn’t go amiss either!

Dig in!

NOTE: Gnocchi can be kept in the freezer for future use. Just pack the pieces in a zip bag with a little dusting of flour (to prevent them sticking) and defrost them the night before you need them

This is comfort food in a bowl and although it uses simple ingredients -it doesn’t skimp on flavour. It may take some time and attention but gnocchi isn’t as daunting  as you’d think – give it ago.

 

Expect more posts on my Italian adventures. I have tonnes of photos, tips and recipes I want to share. This was only a little taste of Rome, there’s plenty more to come – so look out for more on the scrapbook

Venice

A stroll with a camera …

I didn’t stay for very long but Venice was a spectacular city. It was crowded in August but this did nothing to diminish it’s beauty. I took a night train into the city and a night train out. It was a quick stop on my journey to Rome and wouldn’t have happened had it not been for a good friend of mine who took a position at the Peggy Guggenheim gallery. After a VIP tour of the gallery and a quick trek around the city. I vowed to return – hopefully with a lover in hand …

These are a few shots I took whilst making may way through the bridged maze. Venice is truly something.

venice-san-marco
San Marco

 

venice-canal

peggy-venice

venice-boats

peg-venice

venice-balcony

venice-canal-shot

venice-dragon-lantern

venice-dock

venice-tower

Prague

Don’t be lingering around windows now …

Prague has to be in my top three European cities. It has it all. A fantastic nightlife, restaurants and bars and the city itself appears completely untouched from time. Little has changed within the medieval city – You can still visualize horse and carriages making there way across cobbled lanes and the old square is spectacular. The city is a historian’s oasis with a tale to be found around every street corner. It is breathtakingly beautiful and extremely cheap too. I found the Czech’s welcoming and warm but funnily enough, the ‘tough Czech’ persona lives on, hardened & justified by Nazi and soviet oppression – and it’s something that is even celebrated. I spoke to a woman one night at some cave styled bar in the city, she was an Australian who married a Czech,  and she told us about how her mother-in-law, had lived in 4 different countries without ever leaving her home! I was told she is an old tough Czech too!

The city is rich with history and the story behind how the people of Prague defended the city from the Nazis is something to marvel at. Civilians fortified the city using tables and chairs hindering the German invasion whilst the Czech’s fought – waiting desperately for the Americans to liberate them. The tale ends tragically however as efforts to push out one oppressor ended with another entering the city – the Russians soon took over Prague. The communist grip over Prague is not quite history yet but the Czechs found liberation in the end & they fully deserve it.

Old town Square Prague

The Powder Tower - Prague

The old square is a place you cannot miss when in  Prague. Surrounded by renaissance buildings and restaurants, is the famous astrology clock. 700 years old and still operational. The grim reaper pulls the bells – harking a new hour closer to death. Very ominous but incredibly beautiful & ornate. Above is a snap of powder tower. Although most of the medieval city walls are intact, the tower stands alone today and gets its name for it use, as hundreds of years ago – the tower stored barrels of gunpowder! Thankfully no such explosives are stored within today!

Astrology clock - Prague
Death – seen on the top right hand-side with a cloak and bell. The Golden clock below indicates the seasons and depicts farmers at work.

When I was in Prague I went on one of the free Sandeman  city tours. It was extremely hot, August last year and our tour guide sat us down in the shade as she told tales of knights and feuding families. Many of the aristocratic homes are still seen today and can be identified by the artwork which adorns the many renaissance buildings within the city -Called Sgraffito – it is the beginning of what is known today as graffiti. One of the most memorable stories was the countless cases of ‘defenestration’ – whereby people/rivals were kicked or pushed out of windows. The term itself was coined after incidents happening in Prague castle in the 1600s. As a result, I suppose, I didn’t linger too long around windows!

Another interesting observation is Adam and Eve tower, sat atop the stone church in the old square. Most likely an architectural mishap – the tower on the left is smaller than its twin on the right. The towers were named, romantically symbolising  Adam’s love for Eve and as the larger tower – he stands to protect her.

Prague Square
Adam (right) & Eve tower in Old time square.

Graffitti - Prague

Prague Graffitti

There is so much to do in Prague, this scrap could go on for pages and pages but one suggestion is to visit Prague castle and the neighboring monastery which has been brewing beer for centuries. The views from the Castle are spectacular and although entry is free – I really recommend taking a tour as the place has so much history and folklore attached to it. I paid for the combined tour with Sandeman, as I loved the tour guide from the free tour the day before, I waited to book during her shift and for 12 euro, she brought a group of us through Prague castle, it grounds and later to St Norbert monastery to taste some medieval beer!

St Norbert Monastery

St Norbert Monastery brew

Prague Castle View.jpg

Prague Castle

Prague Cathedral

The view from atop Prague Castle is worth the trip alone but at least take a historic guide book with you, so you don’t miss out on all the cultural superstitions which are attached to almost every statue within Prague. Prague Cathedral is also a towering beauty you’d be mad to miss.

This scarp has been a little rambling, almost borderline stream of consciousness but Prague truly is a city that you can escape in and as I said before it is breathtakingly beautiful. I would be devastated if any sky scraper or modern monstrosity was to appear in it! The city is also an amazing party town - with an epic ice bar and enough absinthe bars to make an Irishman blush! I'm sure I'll post about beer crawling in Prague soon enough but for now this scrap is about beauty - which Prague surely is !