Equipment fails and things break but life doesn’t stop. There are still dental appointments and piles of stinky laundry and a sink full of dirty dishes. Amidst the chaos and frustration we still have to eat.
The easy way out in times like these would be to have a hot shower and treat ourselves to a meal ashore. But, like everywhere else in the world, eating out every night becomes an expensive way to swallow your troubles.
Last week, while Steve was covered in diesel reinstalling the lift pump on the engine, back from the repair shop for the third time I might add, I waded though the disarray and cleared a little counter space in the galley. There was no way I could help with the engine, and according to the events of the previous day chances are if I tried I would only make things worse. So I figured that getting a jump on dinner, making sure that at the end of the day, when we are both hot and sweaty and too exhausted to think that a healthy, substantial meal would be quick and easy.
You might call me crazy but I whipped up a batch of gnocchi.
Gnocchi is a lovely Italian dish, a cousin to pasta that is sort of close relative to a dumpling. It is simple to make and takes very few ingredients. Traditionally made with potatoes I have adapted the standard recipe to use breadfruit, a large starchy fruit/vegetable that grows on trees throughout the South Pacific.
A breadfruit tree can grow up to 25M tall and produce fruit with little or no attention. Their large, glossy leaves are not only pretty but provide great shade and are often included in native designs and art work. Annually a tree can produce 50-200 of these strange green, edible soccer balls. They grow wild, often lining streets where we find the breadfruit literally rotting on the ground.
Although they are sold in local markets people don’t mind if you forage one from the side of the road or ask if you can pick one from a tree on their property. Much like the zucchini, there is always more than can be eaten by one household.
One small breadfruit, about 6-8 inches round, will make a batch of gnocchi that will feed four people as a main meal. When you consider that the only other ingredients are flour, egg, salt, pepper a dash of nutmeg and good Parmesan if you have it, then not only is it healthy but very economical indeed.
Gnocchi is one of the those dishes that looks a lot more difficult to make than it really is.
Basically it is mashed potatoes, or breadfruit in this case, bound with an egg yolk and some flour. The dough is then rolled into snakes and cut into bite sized pieces.
At this point you can refrigerate the gnocchi until you are ready to cook it later that day or place it on a sheet pan in the freezer until hard then bag it up and keep it for a couple weeks. When ready to eat it is boiled like pasta, either fresh or straight from the freezer. It only takes a few minutes for the gnocchi to float to the top, then you know it is cooked and ready to drain.
I prefer to serve it with a light sauce, letting the gnocchi be the star of the show. The most recent concoction is sauteed bacon lardons, onion, garlic, sun dried tomatoes and capers, with a little of the cooking water spooned in to de-glaze the pan and loosen the sauce. Sorry no pictures of that one, it was just so delicious I forgot to grab the camera!
Making the time to cook, even during the most hectic and uninspiring times is not only worth every penny, it saves a little of my sanity too.