Uforic Food Cafe Torquay

Sauces

Hainanese Chicken and Rice – slow food at its healthy best

Hainanese Chicken and Rice – slow food at its healthy best

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You know how sometimes you just feel like simple food? Well, this Asian dish is clean, beautiful, – and really rather healthy. But, I admit,  it’s not exactly the most straight forward dish.

It seems that in this day and age we are always looking to cook stuff which is quick and easy – but I really do think there is a lot of merit in slow food. It’s the kind of cooking you do when you have some time free on the weekend – or you just feel like being in the kitchen and chopping a bit of this and stirring a bit of that.

It’s not a stressful dish – in fact, there is a decent length of time when you can sit back, Kylie Kwong style, and just wait, and read and ponder the world. I was lucky enough to meet her a few years ago – the only celebrity chef I have ever seen in real life – and just chat to her. She also has the best mannerisms. If you haven’t seen Kylie in action before – pop over to YouTube and have a look. She’s great.

But, I digress.

This recipe isn’t a Kylie Kwong dish – it was actually inspired by Justine Schofield. I really like her food too and when I watch her show – I’m always inspired and ready to get into the kitchen!

So, this is my version of Justine’s Chinese Hainanese Chicken and Rice. She serves it in separate components, which was really lovely, but, when I had the left overs a few days later – I made it more into one dish – and enjoyed it immensely as that is how I like to eat my food. For all your work you get beautiful poached chicken, an amazing clean and delicious soup, as well as a fantastic dipping sauce you are sure to find many other uses for.

So, here goes …

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Gnocchi di Patate con Bolognese (potato gnocchi) Nanna’s way

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The golden rule when cooking gnocchi is to always use old potatoes. I’m talking about the ones you have forgotten about for a week or two that are starting-to-shoot-and-grow-more-eyes, kind of old.

My mum tells me about when she first cooked gnocchi for dad, after they were married, and how instead of serving him up the beautiful plate of pillowy, doughy morsels she had envisioned, she had to throw out a saucepan full of watery, potatoey and floury mush. She obviously didn’t listen to Nanna.

Well I sure did. Last Saturday I spent the day cooking deliciously sweet potato gnocchi with my amazing grandmother and I’m about to share her words of wisdom (and her recipe) with you now.

My nanna and I. Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Before I do though, let me tell you a little more about my Nanna Maria.

Firstly; she is amazing. If you continue to read my posts, you will only begin to appreciate how true this is. I know everyone has a special place in their heart for their Nanna but mine truly is a star. Let me explain.

When Nanna, her mother Giussepina and her older sister Palma made the trip to join my great-grandfather Antonio in Australia back in 1938, the globe was about to be caught in the grips of World War II. My great-grandfather had begun to make a life for them, working as a potato and onion picker.

My great grand mother Giussepina’s passport. She is with Nanna Maria.

Unable to speak a word of English, Nanna tells me that it was her mother’s food that endeared their family to the fearful and predominantly Australian community of Warrion – in South West Victoria. Giussepina would bake loaves of bread in the old stove, sending wafts of wheaty smells into the town air and like the music in the Pied Piper, these smells would draw all the children to the Luppino home. Being Italian, Giussepina was only too keen to share her food with the children and I guess this is how they overcame the cultural divide: with food. It’s a philosophy I continue to employ today when I share food to bring people together.

Nanna when she was just four years old – with her eldest sister Palma.

So in the spirit of my great-grandmother’s generosity, I will now share with you, Nanna’s Gnocchi di Patate con Bolognese recipe. I vividly remember Nanna making these most weekends and watching in awe (and some frustration) as she would artfully flick the gnocchi up the back of a fork to imprint them.

Using a fork to add ridges to the gnocchi – which helps them to hold on to the sauce. Picture: Matthew Furneaux

I never could get the hang of that until last week! You can use a gnocchi board to put ridges in too (this looks more professional) but Nanna insists on using the fork (the ‘old school’ way) and I must admit, it does seem more authentic.

Using a gnocchi board. Picture: Matthew Furneaux

Nanna also prefers steaming the potatoes rather than boiling because they don’t take in too much moisture. You can boil or bake them though if you prefer. I’ve also provided you with a version of Nanna’s secret bolognaise sauce and meatballs that she serves with the gnocchi. With a little parmesan on top, it’s absolutely too die for. So read on and enjoy!

Gnocchi di Patate con Bolognese

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Gnocchi (serves four)

  • 500g of old potatoes, peeled, chopped and steamed
  • 50 g butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 50g self raising flour
  • 250g plain flour

Method:

While the potatoes are still warm, add the butter and mash well. Pour in the egg and mix through.

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Sift the two flours together and mix through about three quarters of the combined flour. Mix through with your hands to form the dough. It should hold together and be soft and smooth so add more of the flour if it’s still too sticky.
Heavily flour your board or bench top and work the dough into a ball. Be careful not to overwork it though. Pull off a section at a time and roll it into a ‘snake’. Each snake should be about 1cm thick. Keep the length of your snake manageable (just cut off whatever you don’t need and redeposit into the ball).

Once you have your four or five manageable ‘snakes’, start cutting the individual gnocchis with a butter knife. They should be about 1.5 cm long. Place them on prepared trays laid with baking paper.

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

After cutting all the gnocchi, use a fork or gnocchi board to put indents into the dumplings. If using a fork, the easiest way is to push the fork into your bench/board with the back facing upwards. Then, place the gnocchi on the bottom of the fork and using your index finger, roll it upwards. (See the photo below)

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

This sounds tricky but really isn’t, just give it a go and see what works for you.

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Fill a large saucepan three quarters full with water and bring it to the boil. Add a good pinch of salt.

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Pour the gnocchi all in at once. At this stage, Nanna says that you should not stir but use Nonno’s trick of sticking the end of a wooden spoon into the middle and just tapping the bottom firmly to help separate the dumplings.

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Within minutes, the gnocchi will rise to the surface. Once they are all up, boil for only another two minutes or so, and then strain well.
Serve with Nanna’s bolognaise sauce and meatballs, or your favourite sauce, and enjoy!

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Now that you have the gnocchi, here are two sauce ideas you can serve it with – both can be made ahead of time, and freeze really well too.

 Nanna’s Sauce

  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Olive oil
  • 300g mince beef
  • 4 tbs red wine
  • 1 litre of tomato sugo (tinned tomatoes or supermarket ‘passata’ will do)
  • 3 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 handful of fresh basil
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 eggs, hard boiled and then shelled
  • Salt and pepper

Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the meat.

Mix and separate the meat until brown. Remove from pan.

Add some more oil, heat and add onions. Stir constantly for two minutes.

Once the onions are opaque, add garlic and continue to stir constantly for about two minutes or the garlic starts releasing its aroma.

Return the mince to pan, heat through and deglaze the pan with the red wine.

Add the rest of the ingredients, except the boiled eggs, and stir well. Simmer for up to two hours, stirring occasional. The longer you simmer, the richer the flavour but if you’re time pressed, half-an-hour of simmering is fine.

Add the eggs at the end, just to heat through.

 Nanna’s Meatballs

  • 500g mince beef
  • 2 cup of fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup of parmesan, finely grated
  • ½ cup parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Using your hands mix everything together in a bowl until well combined. Roll into balls.

Lightly fry in a pan of heated olive oil. At this stage, you only want to brown them, don’t cook through.

Drop into the sauce (above) once it begins to boil and cook through.

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

There it is; a little piece of my culinary history. You’ll find this is a meal that will both satisfy the hungriest tummy and impress the fussiest guest. It truly is an easy recipe to master and one that you can add your own flair to, depending on what sauce you decide to use and what ingredients you put in the gnocchi. This is a basic gnocchi recipe that you could add any flavours to – even sweet ones! Some ideas include chocolate, pumpkin (instead of potato), herbs and more. Have fun with it and let me know how you go!

So what’s your favourite family recipe? How have you used it to bring people together?

Next Monday I will share another family recipe that I love. Mum’s Italian Vegetable and Lentil Soup.

 Recent articles from the Uforic Food table:

Tender lamb with a sauce that’s just a little bit fancy (but easy!)

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How often do we go to nice restaurants and they have some kind of meat served with a “jus”. Sounds like something you’re only going to get at a pretty good restaurant – I mean a French sauce must take ages to make – right? Well, not exactly.

If you’re familiar with Uforic Food, you know that I love home cooking – flavourful casseroles, pastas and comfort food. Dishes that taste awesome, but that don’t have long, complicated processes or recipe lists. Well, that’s what I have tried to share because I love to share the kind of food I want to eat.

But, I do get cravings for meat and two veg, albeit it rather rarely. But, when I do embark on this kind of dish – I believe it needs to be served with a sauce. I hate dry food – it must be the partially French blood I have coursing through my veins.

Lamb with red wine jus

The Lamb

  • 300gm piece of lamb backstrap (this is enough to servce two)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp of rosemary, finely chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

The sauce

  • Half a red onion, sliced
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • 1/2 a cup of beef stock
  • 1 tsp of red current jelly

Method:

Place the lamb in a freezer bag and add the rest of the ingredients. Seal the bag and roll it around until the garlic and herbs coat the lamb.

Heat a heavy-based frypan over a high heat and add some olive oil. Once the pan is hot, add them lamb and cook for three minutes, before turning and cooking for a further three minutes, At this point add the chopped onions. Once the lamb is cooked (you might want to give it another minute on each side if you want your lamb medium to well done).

Place the cooked lamb on some foil, seal and set aside.

Meanwhile, add the wine to the pan and allow it to deglaze, scraping them brown bits left behind by the lamb. Add the remaining ingredients and turn the heat down – and cook until the sauce reduces to a syrup.

Once the sauce is reduced, take the lamb out of the foil and cut into largish pieces. Share between two plates and add the sauce on top.

I served this with creamy mashed potato (get my awesome recipe here) and some carrots, which I flavoured with some butter, honey and sesame seeds. It was a great meal and on the table in less than half an hour. Perfect.

As for a song – I have a soft spot for John Mayer – this is his track, City Love. I love acoustic guitar!

So, dear reader, in the comments section below, share with us what your favourite sauce is and why?

Meatballs – the kids will love ’em!

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I’ve been making meatballs for years now – but have never been completely happy with the results – until now.

I have tried lots of different recipes – but it was advice from my beautiful Italian friend Laura which was the clincher.

She told me her secret to awesome meatballs is to use half beef and half pork mince (which is what I quite often do when making bolognese) and she doesn’t brown her meatballs, she simply pops them in the sauce and lets them cook gently.

Laura is an awesome cook and so I was really looking forward to trying to make truly Italian meatballs.

The verdict? Well, they were delicious! Tender, soft, but stayed in tact – just beautiful – if I do say so myself. We even had our niece and nephew over for dinner (and their wonderful parents, of course) … and they were both pretty keen on them too. Go me!

Our gorgeous niece Charli eyeing off the meatballs. She’s adorable and we love her to bits!

The meatballs

  • 500gm of lean pork mince
  • 500gm of lean beef mince
  • 1 medium brown onion, finely chopped (you can use a food processor, if that makes it easier)
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

The sauce

  • 2 800gm can of tomatoes
  • 1 tbs of basil pesto
  • 1 tbs of sugar
  • salt and pepper

Method:

Combine all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl, and using clean hands, mix everything really well until it’s combined. You can use a spoon, if you want, but your hands really do the best and quickest job of this process.

Combine the ground beef and ground pork in a large bowl. Add the dry bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, garlic, egg, salt and pepper. Combine the ingredients with your hands until everything is mixed through.

Form meatballs about the size of a golf ball in your hands. Transfer these prepared meatballs to a plate and set aside.

Meanwhile, get a large, heavy based pan over a high heat on the stove to heat up. Blitz the tomatoes in your food processor and add them to the pan – add the remaining ingredients and bring the sauce to the boil. This sauce doesn’t need to be complicated because the meatballs will impart their flavour into the sauce.

Once the sauce is hot, gently place the meatballs into the sauce. Give the pan a gently shake so that the sauce covers the meatballs as much as possible.

Bring to the boil, then reduce the flame to low. Cover and cook for half an hours. Check, stir and then simmer for another 15 minutes with the lid off.

During the last 15 minutes, boil some water in a large pot and add your choice of pasta. I had half a packet of fettuccine and half of spaghetti – so I poured both in. Waste not, want not!

I admit – I’m nervous about cooking for kids. Being childless, I’ve never really had to do it. But, I was pretty chuffed that they ate. Well, our nephew was pretty keen just to play with the placemat. He’s such a funny little guy.

Kobe with his super cool placemat which he thought was a whole lot of fun. Cute much! 🙂

Ok, I’ll stop gushing over the cuteness of Charli and Kobe and move on to the groovy tune for this meal. I think this was a great dish to whip up for kids – so I’m going with a song by the same name, by MGMT.

Enjoy~