It is always very enjoyable for us to have guests stay, whether it is in Amsterdam, Sydney or Brisbane. I love showing them around the beautiful sights and hidden spots, our favourite restaurants and bars, and more generally, our way of life. It took me a long while to settle into Sydney, but after almost three years, I’m proud to call it home. Especially in the past year, I have spent many hours exploring the city and its beautiful coastlines, beaches, harbour and national parks, not to mention the restaurants, cafes and bars. I finally feel like I know the city and its nearby surroundings well.
So we were delighted to spend the past five weeks showing Barth’s parents around Sydney, and some of our other favourite places in Australia. We had a wonderful week in Tasmania, exploring the natural beauty of its “wild west” and national parks, a relaxing weekend away in the Jervis Bay and Kangaroo Valley area showing them the delights of the eastern coastline, and a fun, action packed week in Sydney and its surrounds. In between all of that, they drove in a camper van from Melbourne to Brisbane, and spent a couple of days with my family in Brisbane. It was an amazing adventure for them, especially for their first trip outside of Europe, and its gratifying to hear that they enjoyed their adventure here as much as we did. I was also very happy to see them pushing the boundaries of their comfort zone, doing things such as hiking up steep mountains and enjoying cocktails from 300m above ground (they also suffer from acrophobia), to canoeing and driving on the other side of the road. Its also interesting to hear what they considered the highlights of their trip and their perspective on Australia and our way of life here.
Their adventure came to an end last Sunday, and they sadly flew back to the Netherlands. However, my dismal grasp of the Dutch language was not let off the hook as we shortly welcomed some new Dutch visitors – our friends Felix and Pauline, who are visiting Australia for Caroline’s wedding. I’m getting good at playing tour guide, and its great to finally see them on the other side of the world.
This ricotta gnocchi was a “welcome to Australia” meal for Pauline, who arrived late on Monday night. It was inspired by a recent meal at Table for 20 for Ashley’s birthday lunch, where we had the most delicious ricotta gnocchi with truffles and mushrooms. During that lunch, I scored the premium spot on the long table, where I managed to only have to share the “share platters” (note: platters not plate) with one other person. I greedily wolfed down as many of the pillowy, truffled, creamy gnocchi as I could – one of the best meals I’ve eaten out in a long time (although if you want to try them out at the restaurant, you will have to get in quick, as they are being forced to relocate). I have been impatiently waiting for an opportunity to make them ever since.
Gnocchi, when made with ricotta, is much lighter and delicate than the potato version. It is also very simple to make: there is less room for kitchen disasters, as it will not turn chewy and heavy as some potato gnocchi can do. As always with gnocchi, keep the mixing to a minimum (no kneading like pasta), stir it quickly and lightly, and use the flour sparingly. Use good quality, fresh ricotta. It is served up here with a burst of springtime to complement its delicateness – a vibrant sauce, which is green from a blend of peas and mint. Whole peas and almonds add back some texture and crunch, and the mint and lemon bring out the spring flavours. This meal serves 4-5 hungry Dutch people, with a large green salad.
- 500 grams fresh full-fat ricotta
- 2 free range eggs, lightly whisked
- 1/4 cup of finely grated parmesan
- Zest of one large lemon
- 3/4 to 1 cup of plain flour, plus more for rolling
Pea and mint dressing
- 1 leek, washed and finely diced
- 450g peas (fresh or frozen – I used frozen)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 90 grams almonds, dry roasted for 5-10 minutes in a frypan until crunchy
- 1/4 cup of finely grated parmesan, plus more for serving
- 45 g fresh mint (roughly half of a large bunch), plus more for garnish
- Juice of one large lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for cooking
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Drain the ricotta over a bowl (either in a sieve and/or lined with muslin cloth or a clean chux) for 30-60 minutes in the fridge. This step is optional, but will mean you have less moisture in the gnocchi, so it will need less flour and will be lighter in texture.
- Mix the ricotta, eggs, 1/4 cup parmesan, lemon zest and a pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl and whisk together with a fork so the ricotta is fluffy. Gradually add 3/4 of a cup of the flour and lightly fold it in until it is just blended. You do not want to mix or knead the gnocchi dough as it will become heavy. The gnocchi mixture should be workable and a little bit sticky. The mixture should not be wet, so add the remaining flour if so, little by little (I ended up needing all the flour for mine).
- Sprinkle the bench top and your hands with flour. Break off a quarter of the dough and gently roll into a sausage shape. Using a sharp knife, cut the gnocchi roll in 2cm pieces to form the gnocchi, and press each piece lightly with the back of a fork to make some grooves (this is the vessel for the sauce :)). Put gnocchi pieces on a floured tray and cover with a clean tea towel. Once all gnocchi are formed, refrigerate the gnocchi for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
- While the gnocchi are resting, put the leeks in a large, heavy based saucepan over low-medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and saute for 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add 350g of the peas. Stir for another minute or two until the peas are just cooked through and then remove from heat.
- In a food processor or blender, add the remaining 100g of peas, garlic cloves, 60g of almonds, 1/4 cup of parmesan, the mint, lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Blend on high speed for a minute or so until the sauce is smooth. Taste – you may need more salt, pepper or lemon. Set aside.
- Fill a large saucepan with water, sprinkle in some salt and bring to boil over high heat. Add a third of the gnocchi to the saucepan. They will sink to the bottom, and then after 2-3 minutes will rise to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the water and add to the leek and peas in the pan. Cook the remaining gnocchi in two batches in the same manner (don’t add it all at once as it will overcrowd the pan).
- Once all the gnocchi is cooked, put the saucepan with the gnocchi, leek and peas back over medium heat and stir until warmed through. Add a couple of ladles of the pea and mint dressing to the pan and warm for a minute or two. You will probably not need all of the pea and mint sauce – it tastes great on toast or over pasta the next day. Remove from heat and separate onto the plates. Crush the remaining almonds, and sprinkle over the gnocchi with some mint and parmesan.