I know that this may sound like a bit of a strange flavour combo, but as long as you don’t go overboard with the vanilla, it works a treat. The earthiness of the morels and striking aroma of the vanilla bean go surprisingly well together. If you don’t believe me, just leave the vanilla out – it will still be a beautiful dish.
500 g rock salt
500 g floury potatoes (ask your local greengrocer for the best variety available at the time; I like to use russets when I can get them)
2 free-range egg yolks
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
150 g plain flour, plus extra, if needed
Morels and vanilla
200 g butter, chopped
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthways
1 golden shallot, finely chopped
100 g morels
a splash of white wine
small basil leaves, to serve
1 Preheat the oven to 220°C (450°F). Scatter the rock salt over the base of a large roasting pan, then place the potatoes on top and bake for about 40–60 minutes or until cooked all the way through. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
2 Peel the potatoes with a small knife, then mash until completely smooth and lump-free.
Transfer to a large bowl, then add the egg yolks, a little freshly grated nutmeg, the parmesan and a pinch of salt and bring them together with your hands, adding a little of the flour at a time just until the mixture comes together to form a dough.
3 Place the dough on a clean, floured bench and divide into 2 equal fist-sized pieces. Roll 1 piece into a log 20 cm long × 2 cm wide. Use a sharp knife to cut into 2 cm pieces. Repeat with the remaining dough.
4 Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Melt the butter over low heat in a frying pan large enough to contain all the gnocchi in one layer. Add the vanilla bean and shallot to the pan and cook for 1 minute or until the shallot is soft and translucent, then add the morels.
5 Increase the heat to medium and splash in a little white wine and a couple of tablespoons of the boiling water to form a sauce. Remove from the heat.
6 Plunge the gnocchi in the boiling water for about 30 seconds or until they float, then carefully remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the pan with the morel mixture. Heat the gnocchi in the frying pan over low heat, gently shaking the pan so the gnocchi are covered with sauce but aren’t yet sticking to the base of the pan.
7 Serve immediately, scattered with the basil and extra freshly grated parmesan.
Variations for wellbeing
Dairy intolerance – use dairy-free margarine instead of butter; use hard goat’s cheese or pecorino instead of parmesan.
Gluten intolerance – use 75 g maize cornflour and 75 g fine rice flour instead of plain flour.
IBS – omit golden shallot; use half the quantity of butter; use 75 g maize cornflour and 75 g fine rice flour instead of plain flour.
Read an interview with Tobie Puttock here.