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

Hostels

Tips and Reviews on Hostels in Amsterdam, Brussels & Paris – Travel on a shoestring.

My trek across Europe was on a shoestring. I didn’t have much money at the time, (not that much has changed!) but I bit the bullet and went for it and the friends and memories I made changed my life. The cliches around travel are true. It definitely changes you, for the better, forcing you out of your comfort zone to explore new things. On my interrail I got to meet so many people and it’s an experience I don’t think I’ll be able to relive again. Travel with an open and positive mind and you’ll be surprised where life will take you. Be safe and have your wits about you but be talkative, friendly and put yourself out there. You’re only young once and the memories you will make, even those spent sleeping on a train floor for 7hrs – will stay with you forever!

This scrap will give eager backpackers some tips on travelling on the cheap. Giving pointers on three of the cities which have been posted on this blog already. In one of my first posts I mentioned staying in Paris in a hostel close to Bastille, a gorgeous part of Paris – fit for Vogue or an emotive movie scene under moonlight. In Brussels I stayed in the Meininger and in Amsterdam I was guest in StayOkay.

Blue Planet Hostel

Blue Planet Hostel – ParisBlue Planet Hostel

Don’t expect much from this hostel. I stayed there for 2 nights. The bed  was clean and there were warmish showers. I paid 12euros per night which included ‘breakfast’, meaning tokens for a vending machine (stocked with pain du chocolat, cartons of orange juice) and a coffee machine in the common room downstairs by reception. The reviews on TripAdvisor are not kind and for good reason. There is only one key per room, meaning I had to share a key with two others. The person who checks-in first is given the key meaning the other guests in the room must knock, waking those sleeping who had forgotten to leave the key behind at reception.

Another huge annoyance was the lack of plugs (or outlets), One plug was expected to be shared by three guests, which as you can expect was a nuisance between charging phones and cameras. It also meant we had to climb on-top of someone’s bed as the plug was mounted high up on the wall with a small shelf under it. It was ridiculous and meant someone’s bed for the night got trampled on.

There is no free wi-fi, but pubs close by have open networks which can be used. Some reviews spoke of bedbugs but my stay was comfortable and the hostel itself was not unhygienic. This hostel was extremely basic but its location was amazing as it was close to Bastille and only a 2 minute walk from Gare de Lyon metro station. For its location the Hostel was great value but the building could do with a refurbishment. I wouldn’t recommend this hostel for a long stay but if only expecting a bed for the night, the hostel was brilliantly connected to tourist sights and locations.

24hr reception. With staff that were neither rude nor friendly.

No frills & cheap – expect what you pay for in Paris.   2/5 

Address: 5 Rue Hector Malot, 75012 Paris, France

Meininger Brussels

Meininger Hostel – Brussels

You’ll see a lot of these around Europe as they are a popular hostel chain. Like the hostel in Paris, it’s located in the heart of city. With a 6 minute walk from the metro and a 20 minute walk from the central train station, the hostel is easy to find, looking out over the Canal Bruxelles-Charleroi. It’s a huge towering brick building, with its own history as the hostel itself was a former brewery.

I can’t fault it. The rooms were modern and clean. The decor resembles Ikea (which is a good thing!), the showers and bathrooms were hot, clean and functioning and private to those only sharing the room. The hostel was also very secure. Rooms were locked by individual room cards and the room cards also locked and unlocked individual lockers within the rooms. The common room and bar was fantastic (and is what attracted me as a guest in the first place). The beer garden was also a plus and the bar itself was busy at night with pool tables, TV and free and open wifi was available everywhere within the hostel.

Canal Brussells

It cost about 15euros (for a mixed dorm shared with 9 others) per night but breakfast was not included. Breakfast however could be bought in the restaurant on the ground floor at 8 euros but for its price, it was a little limited. It is best, as I did, to eat out as the hostel is situated in downtown Brussels where plenty of restaurants or cafes can be found. Laundry facilities were available but not a kitchen to prepare your own food.

24hr reception. With friendly staff and tours.

Great atmosphere, dorms and location. Brilliant value – 5/5 

Address: Quai du Hainaut 33, 1080 Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, Belgium

Canal Amsterdam

StayOkay – Amsterdam

I spent 3 nights in Amsterdam and I would return to this very hostel again. It was great value for money, costing just 14 euros per night for a mixed 10 person dorm. It was located right in the heart of the city along the scenic canals and was just a 20 minute walk from the central station. It’s an original Dutch townhouse but because the house is old there are no lifts and many stairs. Inside however the decor is modern and extremely clean. Bathrooms and toilets are shared with all guests along one floor of the hostel which are segregated by sex. The showers were warm and clean and there is laundry facilities but no kitchen. The hostel itself is very secure with room cards which also function as a key to individual lockers.

The price included breakfast which was great as long as you like cold meats, breads and cereals. Coffee and juice was also served and it was a self-service buffet style between 7-10am. The hostel bar was nice but a little small. It didn’t have a great atmosphere either as it wasn’t busy but the staff were lovely.

They only downfall however was that the dorms were without plugs or outlets. Meaning you couldn’t charge your phone beside you while you slept. Instead you could charge your electronics in the common room or you could hand in your phone at reception and they would charge it free of charge as a service.

24hr reception. Tours and special tourism deals on offer too.

Great location, lovely stay – 4/5

Address: Kloveniersburgwal 97, 1011 KB, Amsterdam, Netherlands