Flavours from Afar

mailife - - Contents - By PRIYA DARSNI Shar­ing recipes learned from lo­cals in far­away places, with a twist here and there!


I re­cently trav­elled through Ar­gentina — a vi­brant South Amer­i­can na­tion built pre­dom­i­nantly by Ital­ian im­mi­grants dur­ing the mass Euro­pean mi­gra­tion pe­riod of 1880-1920. There are many won­der­ful byprod­ucts of Ar­gentina’s immigration his­tory, and one of these is the food re­lated tra­di­tions car­ried over from Italy. It is cus­tom­ary in the cap­i­tal city, Buenos Aires to eat a pop­u­lar Ital­ian dish called ‘gnoc­chi’ ev­ery fort­night, on the day be­fore pay day. The tra­di­tion owes it­self to the early set­tlers who dwelt in the poor dock­worker com­mu­ni­ties of La Boca and found them­selves liv­ing from pay­day to pay­day. Gnoc­chi, a de­li­cious yet cheap to make dish, quickly be­came the go-to for those days be­fore work­ers got their pay, when most fam­i­lies were strug­gling to make ends meet. Till this day, restau­rants through­out the cap­i­tal will add gnoc­chi to menu ev­ery fort­night as pay day ap­proaches. Sit­ting in a colour­ful La Boca restau­rant eat­ing a four-cheese sauce gnoc­chi, my mind raced back to the quaint lit­tle vil­lage of Vernezza in Cinque Terre, Italy where I learned to make these soft flavour-packed pil­lows of good­ness. It was my birth­day week and I had rented a lit­tle cot­tage from AirBnB that came com­plete with the sound of waves crash­ing in the nearby ocean, a cob­ble­stone path­way lead­ing to Castello Do­ria and a feisty Ital­ian Nonna (grand­mother) liv­ing up­stairs. Ev­ery morn­ing I would walk out to the vil­lage shops, buy two cups of cap­puc­cino and bring it back to my cot­tage where

Nonna would join me in the gar­den. She was used to English­s­peak­ing visi­tors and we were able to con­verse in patchy English — shar­ing sto­ries, draw­ing par­al­lels be­tween life in Fiji and life in the fish­ing vil­lages of Italy, and most mem­o­rably, shar­ing recipes. I learned how to make beau­ti­ful, pil­low-soft gnoc­chi in Nonna’s kitchen and told her that when I re­turned home I would share her love for this food with my friends. So friends, here it is — with a lit­tle is­land twist of co­conut milk which I am sure even Nonna would ap­prove of if co­conut trees grew on the Ital­ian coast. I have used a sim­ple burnt but­ter sauce in this recipe, but gnoc­chi is es­sen­tially a sub­sti­tute for pasta so you can pair these won­der­ful morsels with your favourite pasta sauce too.

In­gre­di­ents (serves 8 peo­ple) Gnoc­chi

4 large pota­toes, un­peeled 2 eggs 3 ta­ble­spoons co­conut milk 200g plain white flour, sifted Salt, to taste Pep­per, to taste Olive oil, for fry­ing


100g but­ter Mixed herbs (Fresh or Dried) 1 lime zest, grated Parme­san cheese, to serve

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