This is probably my favourite dish in this feature: it’s full- flavoured with plenty of spices and textures, so it ticks all my boxes. Even better, all of it can be done ahead ready to bake a day or three later. The dish will freeze well, or freeze the tomato sauce separately if you've made extra.
Recipe Category: Issue 200
I never get tired of the combination of sweet and silky leeks with the earthiness of mushrooms. I like to use a mix of mushrooms, including some dried for texture and a deeper flavour (porcini are wonderful, shiitake or other dried mushrooms are also suitable). Here I’ve served it with polenta, but it is also delicious tossed through pappardelle, on toast or over mashed potato or kūmara. Sometimes, too, this combination will find its way into a soup with a vegetarian broth and some sturdy ingredients such lentils, buckwheat or barley for a dose of life-affirming goodness.
I like polenta softer and wetter than most directions allow for. The usual suggestion is for a ratio of 1:4 polenta to liquid, but I tend to aim for a 1:5 or 1:6 ratio. Usually I’d add butter to finish, but sometimes if I have a little cream or other dairy that needs using up then it will end up in here. Herbs are always good to add, too, right at the end so that they keep their vibrant colour.
Yes, you could do this with chicken pieces, but usually I prefer to buy a whole bird, mostly because I prefer the skin on the chicken, but also so I can make a stock with the backbone. I’ve kept this mild flavoured but feel free to add chilli to the mix or to serve alongside at the end. Ring seasonal changes by changing the vegetables; in place of the capsicums try adding silverbeet or spinach near the end of cooking, or kūmara or pumpkin (you might need to add extra chicken stock). This curry can be frozen.
I get why people don’t want to make gnocchi: it does take a long time to make, and the vagueness of many recipes puts people off. But like most things, the more you make it the easier it gets and you get a feel for how the dough should co-operate. However, if it does discourage you, make this instead with bought gnocchi, as it really is a lovely combination of flavours.
Good gnocchi relies on the dryness of the potato which can be variable depending on the time of the season and where they were grown. I tend to use Agria here, but Ilam Hardy, Fianna or Red Rascal should work well. I bake the potatoes rather than steam, microwave or boil as it helps to reduce the amount of moisture. The egg yolk is optional – it does make the mixture more stable to work, but the resulting gnocchi can be a little sturdier than those made without it. It’s important, too, not to overwork the dough. I usually start off with the minimum of flour then add more as necessary. I make a large batch that’s more than what you will need for one meal, but I free-flow freeze the rest for a meal at a later point.
These corn cakes are best eaten warm, so use a couple of frying pans or make on a hot plate of a barbecue.