Vegan comfort food from Tom Hunt: the latest recipe in a series themed around whole foods
Gnocchi is one of the most delicious comfort foods, it’s so filling and perfect for winter. In this recipe, finely grated walnuts take the place of cheese and add further flavour.
Pumpkin and squash are plentiful at this time of year and very affordable. They come in many varieties that all have their own flavours and characteristics—most varieties will work well with this recipe, so feel free to experiment with what you have. I used a crown prince.
For the gnocchi:
700g pumpkin or squash, seeds removed and kept
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
160g wholemeal rye, spelt, wheat or gluten free flour, plus more for dusting
50ml extra virgin olive oil
For the sauce and topping:
A glug of extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot or ½ onion, finely chopped
1 sprig of sage, stalks finely chopped, leaves whole
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
100g butter beans or white beans, cooked and blended to a puree
2 walnut halves
Preheat the oven to 170C.
To make the seed dust, put the pumpkin seeds into the oven on a baking tray and bake for about 40 mins, until they are brown and dry. Grind in a pestle and mortar or blend with a good pinch of salt until they are a fine powder.
To make the gnocchi, cut the squash into 1cm pieces and roast dry in the oven alongside the pumpkin seeds for about 30-40 mins or until soft. Either chop until smooth with a knife, finely mash with a fork, or pulse in a blender—put 100g aside for the sauce. Season the rest with salt and pepper to taste. Add the bicarbonate of soda and flour, mix and knead into a ball. The mixture will remain quite sticky.
Split the dough into 2 balls. One at a time, dust each piece and the table with plenty of flour and roll into a long sausage about 1-2cm thick. Cut into 3cm-long pieces, and place on a dusted board. Before you cook them, prepare the toppings below. When you are ready to cook the gnocchi, drop into simmering water for 3 mins. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon or drain through a sieve.
To make the sauce, heat a frying pan to a medium heat with a glug of oil. Add the chopped onion and sage stalks and slowly cook for about 15 mins, until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a few mins. Add 100ml water and bring up to the boil. Add the reserved pureed pumpkin and the white bean puree, then stir until smooth and combined. Keep warm.
Warm a little olive oil in a small saucepan. When hot, fry the sage leaves until crispy. Remove from the oil and put to one side. When the gnocchi are cooked, stir them gently into the sauce. Serve with a sprinkle of pumpkin seed dust, finely grated walnuts and crispy fried sage leaves.
Recipe: Tom Hunt