Chard Gnocchi With Beetroot 'Pesto'
These soft-as-a-pillow dumplings, a clear nod to the strong Italian influence on Australian cuisine, come neatly shaped and pan-fried in smart restaurants, and rustic and gently boiled at cafes and bistros - and often form the vegetarian dish of the day. This is my homely version of a dish I ate at a cellar-door feast in the Adelaide Hills. The gnocchi, which can be assembled a day in advance, can also be made with spinach, although you won't have any stems.
For the gnocchi:
800g-1kg chard, well washed, to give 450g green leaves
500g ricotta, drained in a sieve for 20 minutes
120g Parmesan, grated
2 medium eggs
Good pinch of sea salt, plus extra for cooking
2-6 tablespoons plain flour, plus extra for shaping
For the pesto:
4 medium beetroot (about 400g), scrubbed
30g flat-leaf parsley
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
45g walnut kernels, finely chopped and toasted
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan
Peppery baby-leaf salad
Strip the green leaves from the white stems of the chard, then chop the stems into 3cm pieces. Cook the leaves in a covered saucepan with a splash of water over a medium heat until completely wilted. Remove with tongs to a sieve, then add the stalks to the liquid in the saucepan, cover and cook for 5 minutes until tender. Drain and reserve.
Squeeze out the water from the leaves so that you end up with about 180g leaves. Chop finely, then use a wooden spoon to beat together with the ricotta, parmesan, eggs, a generous pinch of salt and enough flour - start with 2 tablespoons - to form a very soft, slightly sticky mixture.
Dust a tray lightly with flour, then take teaspoonfuls of the mix and, with floured hands, shape very roughly into walnut-size rounds and drop on to the tray (the mix is very soft and won't shape perfectly). Chill until ready to cook.
For the pesto, heat the oven to 180°C/ fan oven 160°C/mark 4, wrap the beetroot individually in foil and roast for 1½ hours until tender. Leave to cool, then peel and roughly chop. Transfer to a food processor with the parsley and olive oil, and blend to a coarse texture. Season and stir in the walnuts. Set aside at room temperature.
To serve, reheat the chard stems in a pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Boil 1 or 2 large saucepans of water with 1½ tablespoon salt per saucepan and add the gnocchi, in batches if necessary. Once they float, cook for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon onto serving plates. Spoon the pesto alongside, scatter around the chard stems, drizzle the gnocchi with olive oil, add Parmesan and serve.
Feature Image: Helen Cathcart; food preparation & styling by Bridget Sargeson; wine recommendations by Joanna Simon; table styling by Alexander Breeze