Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Grana Padano Italian Cooking Maestro blogger challenge

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Grana Padano is a cheese I'm familiar with, and so very happily welcomed the cooking challenge judged by none other than the renowned Italian Chef Francesco Mazzei. I was supposed to create a starter and a main or a main and dessert using the cheese as the star ingredient. Broke my head about if for a few days and then the surprise fresh produce and grocery arrived at the door, courtesy Grana Padano, and i knew i had to make use of the beautiful butternut squash, if not for the autumn transition period we are in.

I decided to do a starter of posh chips with truffle oil and Grana Padano, and a main course of butternut squash gnocchi with sage and burnt butter. Although I've tied making pasta at food events and in cookery schools I never thought I'd attempt making something similar at home. I've had gnocchi at restaurants and knew it was not one of those easy to make things. Of course the food blogger in me wanted to try it at least once, and this just happened to be the best time to experiment.

PS: I think my favourite kitchen equipment as of now is the microplane grater. OMG its the best and i have been putting it to good use. Thank you Grana Padano for opening my eyes to the world of micro grating :)

Truffle chips with Grana Padano (Serves 2 as a starter)
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The truffle chips turned out so so good. I first tried it at the gorgeous bar at the Renaissance Hotel in St Pancras and have been meaning to try it at home ever since. They were a breeze to make and was delicious, not to mention all posh with the truffle oil and cheese. Very happy with how it turned out and the cheese was most certainly the star of this dish. 

Potato- 300 gms, peeled and sliced into thin strips
Olive oil- 2 tbsp
Salt- to taste
Truffle oil- 2 tbsp
Parsley- 1/2 tsp (fresh or dried)
Grana Padano shavings- 1/4 cup
Coarse sea salt- to season
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Preheat oven to 200C and line a baking tray with silver foil.
Toss together the potato, olive oil and salt in a mixing bowl and arrange them on the baking tray. Make sure they don't overlap.
Bake for about 30 minutes, flipping the potato strips after about 15 minutes and spraying/ brushing on some more oil if required.
The potatoes are done when a fork goes through easily, and are crisp, but not burnt.
Toss the potatoes with the truffle oil (generously rather) and parsley and transfer to a serving plate.
Top with the Grana Padano shavings and garnish with sea salt and serve warm.

Notes: For a spicy kick, toss the potatoes with some red chilli flakes. Another flavour would be garlic which would work really well with the cheese and truffle flavour
You can also jazz up your frozen fries like this.

Butternut squash gnocchi with brown butter and sage (recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine Oct 2010 issue)
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The gnocchi proved to be quite a bit of work but I'm glad i tried it. The sage and butter combo is a unique one and not everyone's cup of tea (the husband hated it) so if you are sceptical, add in a dash of cream, season with salt and pepper and let the grated Grana Padano flavours do all the work.

Butternut squash- 500 to 600 gms
Olive oil- 1 tbsp
Garlic powder- 1 tsp
Thyme- 1/4 tsp (dried or fresh)
Potato- 500 gms
Grated Grana padano cheese- 3/4th cup
Egg- 1
Nutmeg powder- 1 1/2 tsp
Salt- 1 tsp
Plain flour- 1 3/4 cup + more for dusting

Butter- 3 tbsp
Fresh sage leaves- 5 to 6
Grated Grana Padano cheese- to garnish
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Preheat oven to 220C and line a baking tray with silver foil.
Slice the butternut squash in half and discard the seeds.
Mix together the olive oil, garlic powder and thyme.
Place, cut side up, on the baking tray and pour over or brush on the olive oil mix.
Roast until tender, for around 1 hr. (Check by inserting a knife inserted into the middle of the squash, and it should go through easily)
Keep aside to cool and then scoop out the flesh and transfer to a sauce pan and puree either using an immersion blender or alternatively you can do so in a food processor.
Cook the puree over medium heat for about 10 to 15 minutes or till all the moisture has evaporated.
Transfer 1 cup of the puree into a large mixing bowl.

While the squash is cooking, get started on the potatoes.
Peel and slice the potato into big chunks and place in a microwave safe bowl.
Cover and cook on high in the microwave for about 6 to 7 minutes or in boiling water until very tender.
Drain and pass the potato through and potato rice or use a grater and grate the potato finely. Measure 2 cups and transfer to the mixing bowl with the squash puree.
Once cool, add the remaining ingredients- cheese, egg, nutmeg and salt and flour and mix together using a wooden spoon till they all come together. Add more flour if its too sticky.
Lightly flour a surface and knead the dough till just smooth. Don't over work it.
Place it back in the bowl and refrigerate to make it easier to work with it.
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Line a large baking tray with baking paper and lightly flour it. Also flour the work surface.
Divide the dough into 8 and working with one piece at a time roll the dough out into a 1/2 inch thick rope.
Cut the rope into 3/4th inch pieces and working with one piece at a time, roll it on the back of a fork to have the ridges in tact. This takes a bit of time, but worth it.
Transfer them to the baking sheets and once you done with all of the dough, cover loosely with a cling film and refrigerate till ready to cook.

Boil water in a large pot, season with salt.
Cook the gnocchi in batches until tender, around 15 minutes.
Use a slotted spoon and transfer them on to a kitchen towel. Cool and use as needed.
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Melt the butter in a frying pan until golden brown, stirring continuously.
Add the sage and stir for a minute after which you add the gnocchi and cook for about 10 minutes or so, making sure they are coated with the butter.
Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl.
Generously sprinkle some more Grana Padano and serve hot.

Notes: I didn't use up the entire batch, maybe 2 cups of gnocchi for both of us. I froze the remaining.
There was about a cup of squash left and i used it up in a cake.

With thanks to Grana Padano for the ingredients, welcome kit and grocery voucher sent over to undertake this challenge.

1 comments:

gastronomicgorman said...

Love the gnocchi recipe! As a fellow competitor I'm really impressed with the calibre of your dishes especially compared to some of the others.

You can check out my dishes at www.gastronomicgorman.com if you'd like to :)

Best of luck and hopefully I'll meet you next round!
Chloe x