Flavours from Afar
FROM CINQUE TERRE, ITALY: HOMEMADE GNOCCHI WITH BURNT BUTTER SAUCE
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