Oven Baked Squash Gnocchi with Sun-dried Tomato, Fennel and Spinach Pesto
Veganz! Omnivores! Traffic Wardens! Rock Stars! Mamas! Papas! Botanists! Kayakers!……..You’re all going to like this one.
January is here and most of us feel quite droopy. Over fed and watered, back to work but filled with good intentions for the new year. Over 15,000 people world wide are trying out a vegan lifestyle in January thanks to the awesome Veganuary (see below). This year we’re all going to be healthy superheroes! Environmental angels! Animal lovers extraordinaire! Just by changing our eating and consuming habits. Its such a shining, peaceful, positive way to get 2016 off to a flying start.
Here’s a healthy recipe straight out of Peace & Parsnips. Loads of people have been in touch and said that this has been one of their favourites. A colourful twist on your traditional gnocchi. This is a light dish packed with texture, a rich pesto, bucket loads of nutrition and plenty of big flavours.
Colourful food always gets us happy and hungry and this is a proper rainbow plate; orange, red, green, red……YUM! It’s an ideal dish for a special dinner, a Saturday night feast or mid-week indulgence. If you are cooking for people who think vegan/ healthy/ vegetables/(fill in the blank….) is boring and bland, here’s something to dispel such misguided waffle.
I’m sure this recipe will help all those going fully vegan for this Veganuary. It’s not all veggie burger, tofu and falafels after all. One friend said to me recently, a little apprehensively; “But is being vegan any fun?”, I replied “How much fun is Halloumi???!?” (We were talking about giving up Halloumi at the time). How much fun is cheese? There is no connection between happiness and dairy products. Trust me.
Go vegan for January (what’s left of it;)
Veganuary is a global campaign that gets people into a vegan lifestyle in January. Being a vegan is big news in 2016 and there has been plenty of interest in the press. There are thousands of people giving veganism a try; my Mum and sister are giving it a go and Jane is giving up her Kefir and occasional Cappuccino for the month. I also have a load of friends who are getting into the plant-based party. Its amazing! Jack Monroe is posting vegan recipes over on ‘Cooking on a Bootstrap’ and other celebrities like Vivienne Westwood, Sarah Pascoe and Romesh Ranganathan are taking part. In 2015, 49% of the folk who tried out Veganuary stayed vegan full-time. The Veganuary site is packed with information, advice, recipes and inspiration. In fact, you’ll find a load of recipes from Peace & Parsnips over there. Of course, you could also have a wee look at our back catalogue for a massive slice of vegan treats.
Being vegan is becoming ever more accessible, there are an infinite number of ways to eat simply delicious, plant-based food. Many more restaurants, supermarkets and suppliers are realising that being vegan is far from a fad. Interest in veganism has grown hugely worldwide in 2015 and will continue to do so in 2016.
Let’s cook plants! Here’s what I said in the book:
Making gnocchi with coloured vegetables makes brilliant sense. Any quite starchy root works well: parsnip, sweet potato, purple potatoes, cassava, pumpkin . . . But the vivid orange of squash really electrifies the plate (and the palate). With its vibrant oranges, reds and greens, this dish is a feast for the eyes as well as the belly!
1 large squash, about 1.5kg (the more starchy varieties of summer squash are best, such as butternut) peeled and cut into rough chunks olive oil, for roasting
a little sea salt
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced lengthways
240g firm tofu, well drained
300g unbleached white flour, sifted
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
1½ teaspoons dried sage
2 big handfuls of sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
For the topping
2 tablespoons roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
100g spinach or watercress leaves
2 big handfuls fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
Large pinch of sea salt
2 large pinches of black pepper
75ml extra virgin olive oil
Do It – For 4-6
First make the spinach pistou (even better if you can make it the day before). Pistou is a Provencal version of Pesto – much lighter, without the cheese and pine nuts.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.
Place the squash on an oiled baking tray. Rub a little oil and salt over it and bake for 30 minutes, turning the pieces gently over once. You’re not looking for loads of colour here, just lovely soft, golden squash.
Toss the fennel in olive oil, place on a separate baking tray and scatter with a pinch of sea salt. Bake for 30 minutes, turning once, until it’s nicely golden and sweet. When the squash is ready, put it into a processor with the tofu and blend until smooth. Now, place in a large bowl and stir in the flour, salt, pepper and sage until a soft dough forms. Leave to cool down and firm up – it will be a lot easier to handle.
Using two teaspoons, make gnocchi shapes (lovely little flat oval dumplings) with the mixture and place on an oiled baking sheet, leaving about 5cm of space for each gnocchi to grow. Brush the gnocchi with a little more oil and bake for 20–25 minutes, until crisp and slightly golden.
For the Spinach Pistou – Place the hazelnuts in a small skillet and warm on medium heat. Keep them moving for 5-7 minutes – they will become roasted and smell so very sweet! Put them into a food processor and blitz for 30 seconds. The nuts should begin to break down into lumps and chunks, which is what we want. Add the rest of the pistou ingredients (except the oil) and blitz, drizzling the oil in gradually until you get a nice runny texture, like a think sauce. You will need to scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times. Add more oil if the pistou needs thinning. Check your seasoning and set aside.
Warm, on nice big plates, drizzled liberally with the pistou. Scatter the crispy fennel and sun-dried tomatoes on top with a little more pistou, and finish with some chopped roasted hazelnuts.
Winter squashes like pumpkin and butternut squash are directly related to summer squashes like courgette and even watermelon (they’re known as the gourd family). You can use most winter squashes in this recipe, as long as they are not too watery; acorn or hokkaido will be delicious.
Butternut squash is almost 30% protein and contains outrageous levels of vitamin A which makes our skin shine. They’re also high in vitamin C and boast a good range of minerals like iron and calcium.
All of the parts of a squash plant are edible; fruit, flowers, leaves and seeds.