There have been far too many weekends that have sailed by without me being able to get down to some proper cooking in my little Clapham kitchen.
I woke up famished on Friday and, after sticking my nose in the fridge and spotting a mango that was heading inexorably towards overripedom and a lump of 18-month aged Comté from a recent (and unutterably delicious press evening), I decided to roll my sleeves up and knock up a terribly healthy breakfast and a decadent, butter-rich, carb-loaded lunch.
Mango, almond milk quinoa porridge
I first encountered quinoa porridge when I subjected myself to a week of eating like Gwyneth Paltrow for a feature with Huffington Post. After a week of sugar/dairy/wheat/caffeine/alcohol/soy/fun-free eating I was ready to savage the next person who dared to wander past me holding a bar of chocolate or a cocktail, but I did get a taste for a couple of her breakfast ideas. NOT the squishy, kale-fuelled smoothies mind you, but her ingenious use for leftover quinoa.
There’s always left over quinoa.
Quinoa is one of the few plant foods that’s a natural protein, is naturally gluten-free and is packed with iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and fibre. When cooked, it lasts at least four days sealed in tupperware in the fridge or for a disturbingly long time when frozen.
This fruity, fibre-rich and crunchy alternative to oat porridge is doused in creamy almond milk and finished with a scattering of sliced strawberries, juicy mango and a splodge of runny honey.
All you need to do is cook the funny little grains beforehand until they explode into nutty spirals. I use about half a cup of uncooked grains per person fora single portion of porridge, but of course you can cook up lots and store it for the week ahead in the fridge.
for the quinoa
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
for the porridge
1 ripe mango sliced into thin slivers
5 ripe strawberries washed, hulled and sliced
3/4 – 1 cup of cooked quinoa (the 1/2 cup raw grain will expand into about this)
1/2 almond milk
a handful of almonds
1 tsp honey (you can leave this out if you like your food to be ultra healthy)
- Always start by rinsing your quinoa in a sieve as the husks have a strange, milky coating on them. Pop the quinoa into a saucepan with the water on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and let it simmer until the water is absorbed and the grains have opened up. This should take about 15 minutes.
- Fluff the grains up with a fork as you would cous cous and then add in the almond milk.
- Gently heat this through until it’s piping hot and transfer to your breakfast bowl before decorating with the fruit and nuts and dribbling on the honey.
Blueberries also work really well with this, as does banana and a spoonful of almond butter. You can also add a spoonful of chia seeds into the mix for an extra protein boost.
Comté and rosemary gnocchi with pine nut garlic butter
I’ve always loved gnocchi and can’t resist these fluffy potato pillows if I see them on a menu; although I must confess I’ve never attempted to make them before and was shocked at how simple they were.
The key to perfectly light gnocchi is using dry, fluffy potatoes. Always dry roast your potatoes in the oven and avoid boiling them to reduce their moisture content.
Plain gnocchi are simply delicious served with a dash of homemade tomato sauce or baked with a cheese topping, but they also absorb flavour very well, which is why I decided to include some grated, full-flavoured Comté and chopped rosemary in mine.
for the gnocchi
100g grated Comté (any hard, strong cheese would do just as well, like parmesan or gruyere, if that’s what you have in your fridge)
2 large baking potatoes (there’s a simple rule for measuring gnocchi portions that goes one potato per person per portion to about 75g flour)
150g plain flour
a few large sprigs of rosemary, chopped very finely
for the coating
1 bag of fresh rocket
30g pine nuts
1 large garlic clove, crushed
- Put the potatoes into a preheated oven at 200 degrees centigrade to bake until they’re completely soft. The best gnocchi are made with hot potatoes so you’ll have to test your pain threshold a bit with these!
- When the potatoes are cooked, peel off their skins and push them through a potato ricer; the smoother and fluffier they are, the lighter your gnocchi will be. The best gnocchi melt in the mouth.
- Gently mix in the cheese and chopped rosemary with a good pinch of salt and tip the flour out onto a flat surface. Pour the potato mix on to the flour and make a shallow well in the middle of your potato and flour mound.
- Pour in the egg and bring the mixture together with your hands, kneading it into a soft dough (you don’t have to use all the egg – just if it feels too dry and refuses to come together without flaking)
- Shape your mix – trying not to work it too hard as this makes the gnocchi tough – into a fat sausage and half it with a knife or pastry card.
- Roll each dough sausage out into a thin snake. Cut 1-inch pieces off the snake and pop onto a lightly floured tray. You can try to give them the distinctive gnocchi ridges by rolling them over the back of a fork…as you can see from my little monstrosities, I wasn’t very adept at this!
- Set a pan of water on to boil and put the crushed garlic, butter and pine nuts into a pan over a medium heat. Let the butter melt and caramelise the pine nuts but try not to burn it.
- Drop the gnocchi into the boiling pan of water. They cook in under a minute and you’ll know they’re done when they pop up to the surface and bob around.
- Remove them with a slatted spoon and drop them into the hot pan of garlic and pine nut butter, coating them in the sauce. Add in the rocket and let it wilt before serving straight away with a twist of black pepper and a few shavings of leftover cheese.