Monday, 4 July 2016

Gnudi with peas, shoots, mint and butter

Yet again there has somehow been a gap of a few weeks since my last recipe. Recently I’ve been running around like a headless chicken working on various projects, and I just haven’t been able to sneak over to the computer and jot down a few words. Thankfully, I’ve got a window of free time ahead, so my posting can hopefully get back to the usual frequency. There are some cracking recipes in the pipeline; brill, summer stews, baby beetroot and more. 

The best thing about this recipe is that it marks my annual love-in with peas. Any regular readers will know that I’m borderline obsessed with the little sweet green orbs of joy. Memory and food is an important connection, and peas take me right back to childhood dinners. Then they would be served to provide some nutrition alongside a breaded chicken escalope, or they would be jammed, hiding inside penne or pasta shells. As a supposedly responsible adult, I have tried on occasion to grow them. The idea of a plentiful and replenishing supply of peas at my fingertips is too good to resist. Alas, unfortunately I am constantly reminded that my gardening prowess leaves a lot to be desired. And any few miracle peas that made it were engulfed in seconds, without hope of even nearly making it into the kitchen.
So peas are wonderful, but very much in a safe kind of way. You know what you’re getting with peas. They’re Mr Reliable; sweet, with that satisfying pop. Yet at a recent dinner the excellent Pidgin, local to me in Hackney, my eyes were opened when whole pods of peas were served to me grilled. They proved a total revelation and made perfect sense, the charred exterior adding a wonderful smokiness. I just had to give that a go.
This dish is a celebration of the humble pea. But the soft and rich gnudi are certainly not the bridesmaids. These soft, hot, balls of melted cheese are total crowd pleasers, and something that I don’t nearly make often enough. The long preparation time is a bit of a commitment, but as is so often the way, when it’s actually time to cook they are ready in a flash.
Serves 2
For the gnudi:
250g ricotta 
25g parmesan, finely grated 
500g semolina, for rolling
For the pea puree:
250g frozen peas 
½ a lemon 
A small bunch of mint, leaves picked 
1 large knob of butter
For the grilled peas:
10 fresh peas in their pods
For the fresh peas and shoots:
2 handfuls of fresh peas 
1 handful of pea shoots
To finish:
1 large knob of butter 
A few mint leaves 
A few gratings of parmesan

Start by making the gnudi. Tip the ricotta into a bowl and combine with the grated parmesan and a good pinch of seasoning. Carefully form the mixture into small balls. Line a large plate or tray with the semolina and roll each gnudi in it until coated all over. Space the gnudi out on the tray in one layer, and scatter a little more of the semolina over the top. Cover the tray with cling film and refrigerate for 24 hours. 

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and salt the water well. Fill a large bowl with very cold water (iced ideally) and have it standing to the side ready. Blanche the shoots for 20 seconds before transferring to the cold water with a spotted spoon. Repeat with the two handfuls of fresh peas, blanching for 1 minute. Once cool, drain the water away and shell the peas, and set aside in a bowl with the shoots for finishing later.
Tip the frozen peas into the now empty pan of boiling water and cool for 2-3 minutes, until tender. Drain and shake dry, then pour into a food processor. Add the lemon juice, mint leaves and butter and blitz until a puree is formed. Pass through a sieve, then taste and adjust the seasoning and lemon content if necessary. Pour into a small saucepan and cover. Keep warm.
Set the grill to high. Rub the whole peas with a little oil and season well. Scatter onto an oven tray and slide under the grill for a couple of minutes on each side, until slightly charred. 

Take the gnudi out of the fridge. The semolina will have formed a crust around the cheese. Gently brush off any excess grains.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil and salt the water well. Place a large frying pan over a medium-low heat and melt the butter. When the water is hot, drop in the gnudi and boil for a couple of minutes; they are ready as soon as they float to the surface. Transfer them to the butter pan with a slotted spoon and carefully roll around. Add the blanched peas and shoots and cook for a minute to warm through.

To plate up, spoon a good dollop of the puree onto each plate. Top with the gnudi, peas, shoots and a spoonful of the hot butter from the pan. Arrange some of the grilled peas in the gaps. Finish with a generous grating of parmesan and a scattering of mint leaves.

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