Sunday, March 14, 2010

Focaccia de Patata (aka Baked Gnocchi)

Many years ago, my eldest sister returned to Australia after spending a few months with a family in Lecce (Southern Italy) with a new take on Italian cooking. Cream based pasta sauces ? Dried figs with bitter almonds and mandarin peel, and this, one of my most favourite recipes.

Focaccia de Patata is an alternative to traditional boiled gnocchi, much easier to make, and better tasting. This is also one of those great recipes for remote living. Almost all the essential ingredients are long lasting or available in most remote communities. (Although you will need to tap into that store of frozen parmesan in your freezer.)

Just a word about potatoes. Old potatoes are good, and those best suited for mashing. (Do not use waxy potatoes. Apparently desiree and Toolangi delight are good, and I also like binji).

Another word about the dough - don't overwork it, and whatever you don't use a machine to make the dough. It just won't work.

4 -5 potatoes, peeled and sliced (around 500 - 600 gms)
2 eggs
50 gms plain flour
50 gms SR flour
(or any combination of cornflour, gluten free - around 100 gms in total)
200 gm Ricotta (optional)
Parmesan Cheese (Italian or Australian, not prepackaged or pre-grated)

1 medium onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic
Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)
Tin tomatoes
Tomato puree
(Replace the above with fresh tomatoes if available.)
Piece of green capsicum
salt and pepper

Assembly ingredients
Olive Oil
Black olives, seeds removed and sliced in half; or
Diced eggpplant that has been salted and baked in the oven.
Parmesan Cheese

One lasagne baking dish, or pyrex baking dish

  1. Peel potatoes and slice.
  2. Place potatoes in salted water in a medium-large saucepan and cook on a medium-to-high heat until falling apart.
  3. Strain well and allow to cool.
  4. Place the cooked potatoes in large bowl and mash with fork or potato masher. (Do not use a food processor or stab blender.)
  5. Add eggs, ricotta and flour. The amount of flour may depend on the dense-ness of the potatoes.
  6. Pull mixture together. (Do not over knead). Set aside.

  1. Heat oil, add garlic pieces and cook for around 2 minutes.
  2. Add chopped onions and piece of green capsicum and cook until onions are well cooked.
  3. Add tomatoes and cook down.
  4. Add salt and remove green capsicum. (A pinch of sugar should be added if tomatoes are too acid.)

  1. Dip a table spoon of dough mixture in olive oil, remove and place on base of tray. Continue until the tray is completed covered and resembles a focaccia. (You should have about a third of the mixture left.)
  2. Pour tomato sauce over dough mixture.
  3. Next place olives (or eggplant) evenly over mixture, followed by fresh basil.
  4. Dip smaller spoonfuls of mixture into olive oil and dot/drop on top of dough.
  5. When finished, sprinkle over with grated parmesan.
  6. Bake in medium to hot oven for between 30 and 40 minutes. Place alfoil or baking paper over top if burning occurs.
  7. When finished, let the focaccia sit for around 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with fresh green salad.