Gnocchi, on Heaven’s Door

Gnocchi with saffron and red peppers sauce

Yesterday was a strange kind of day. This time of year is Dawn Chorus month and for the last five or six years, my two compadre from “Birdwatch Ireland Meath” and myself lead a group of very brave people, on a nocturnal procession in various locations of our county to listen to a new Dominical Dawn, bird waking up, welcoming daylight by the banks of the Boyne river. This good natured affair is also an early one, as we start the walk at 4 am, meaning I have to be up at 2:30 am, and in my car by 3:15 am latest. I normally return to bed between 6 and 7 am, waking up again later, never feeling fully restored and having that uneasy feeling that I have already had a full Sunday… As you can see, I don’t do too well on sleep deprivation!

The Boyne River – Co. Meath
Peeping Song Thrush ( Turdus Philomelos) the John Coltrane of gardens…

On the other hand, the advantage of having two Sundays in one, is that you can pack a lot in it ( them)! After my ornithological walk, I woke up to a glorious Sunday, the sunshine had returned, and I wanted to do a gnocchi recipe for a long time, hammering in my head like an annoying Woodpecker, a recipe to reflect this beautiful May day while keeping it a bit Breton with nutty buckwheat flour, taking on this great Italian classic ( but not only) to a more personal level and touch… I put a c.d of “The Yardbirds” on the player and started cooking while wondering what could have possibly triggered that musical choice? Oh well!

For The Gnocchi Dough: You’ll Need!

  • 2 large organic potatoes ( 800g)
  • 2 small egg yolks ( from happy hens)
  • 80 g of organic Buckwheat flour
  • 80 g of organic wheat flour ( Triticum, Durum wheat semola)
  • 80 g of Coolea Cheese ( two years old Gouda style from Co. Cork)
  • a pinch of salt

But before you even think of making the dough, get the potatoes, wrap them individually in tin foil and bake them for 1h30 at 200 c…

Organic potatoes, skin on…

Since the potatoes take a bit of time to bake, you can start the red pepper sauce, a little gem with no cream I love making in the summer. It will be perfect for this dish.

Red Pepper Sauce: You’ll Need!

  • 2 organic red peppers
  • 1 organic red chilli
  • 1 organic shallot
  • 1 small organic red onion
  • 1 organic bulb of garlic ( whole and roasted separately)
  • a small bunch of bronze fennel
  • a small bunch of herb lavender ( or sage)
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 10 cl of white wine
Red Pepper sauce ingredients

Red Pepper Sauce: How To?

Chop all the ingredients together, apart from the bulb of garlic that you will add after. Fry  gently in olive oil with a bit of salt…

Frying in olive oil…

While you do this, cut the base of the bulb of garlic, cover with olive oil, and in the oven it goes, at 200 c for 15 to 20 minutes…

Roasting Garlic

Put the roasted cloves of garlic in the sauce, pour the wine and reduce a bit, before covering with water after 10 minutes of simmering, blend the lot and run through a sieve. With a spatula, squeeze all the juices out, put the pan on the stove, and reduce again gently until you obtain a deep red rich sauce. Set aside and let’s make some gnocchi!

Gnocchi Dough: How To?

The potatoes should be ready by now, get them out of the oven and scoop them out of their skins…

Baked potatoes

Place the potatoes in a bowl, and allow to cool. Add the two flours and the two egg yolks; my boss gave me some beautiful eggs from the hens he has, blue outside and a beautiful yolk! I wanted to use the last ones for something special… Perfect!

Yellow like a blue egg

I decided to add a bit of cheese to my gnocchi dough, to give them a bit more depth I guess; I selected Coolea, a Gouda style from West Cork made by the Willem family. Coolea is matured for nearly two years, rich and flavoursome but not strong, with a lovely sweet finish. I often use it instead of Parmesan even though I am a big fan of the auld “Parmigiano Reggiano”…

Coolea Cheese, West Cork

Mix all the ingredients together until smooth, roll the dough and start cutting the gnocchi in small pieces, but not too small… Have a pot of boiling salted water at the ready.

Cutting the gnocchi

… And don’t hesitate to use a good bit of flour or semolina in order to work with comfort!


I did the fork thingy, feeling all traditional, it is a bit time consuming for the sake of a design, but it is part of the fun. I found out that day that there is such a thing as a “gnocchi board”, making the operation a bit easier and faster… It sounds a bit cool though!

Fork design

Put the “dumplings” in the hot simmering salted water, and when they are ready they will pop one by one to the surface. With a sieved spoon collect the gnocchi and cool under a bit of cold water. To finish, I decided to “colour” the gnocchi with olive oil under the grill. You could also fry them in a pan, I find them a bit more attractive that way, with an extra texture that works well. I served the dish with my beautiful red pepper sauce, fresh leaves, bronze fennel, mint and herb lavender all from the garden; for the dressing, I used three tbsp of olive oil, one soy sauce and one Irish Cider Vinegar. I also added a slice of Wicklow Blue, a blue brie from Arklow, very gentle that was a beautiful addition to this dish… While taking pictures of the plate outside, the birds were still singing their – now soon to be dusk – concert… Heavens! What a day! Or days… I am still not too sure…

Evening chorus…
Close up with saffron
Gnocchi with saffron and red peppers sauce

Keep Well and eat Happy,

Slán Tamall


21 thoughts on “Gnocchi, on Heaven’s Door

  1. Heavenly! I adore every element on that plate and I love the addition of blé noir in the gnocchi. Nutty gnocchi in fact. I should SO be a food namer. Anyway, it looks gorgeous, I can almost taste it from here and I wish you sleep to recover from your disjointed two-part Sunday 😊

  2. Not really ethnically Italian because of the buckwheat flour, but I must say I’m now curious of the flavor outcome of your gnocchi, and might want to try that over the weekend! You really are passionate about birds to the point that you are willing to wake up at 2.30am on a Sunday?!?!!! Wow you force my admiration! I like learning that kind of things about you though, it is – in my opinion – part of your artistic side (coz Nature is pure Art, isn’t it?). By the way, I have to ask… have you ever taken food photography lessons? Your photographs are particularly incisive and beautiful, they always catch my attention, I’m really in love with the way you see food and landscapes through your camera lens… Nice post, great post even, as always Franck. Have a good week!

    1. Hi Sophie! Thank you very much for your kind words; the gnocchi were fluffy, lovely sweet flavours, I would recommend the boil and fry or boil and grill. Ornithology has been my first passion, since I was 11 or 12. I got to do a few studies, migrations, ethology, wildlife guide. I have kept it as an activity when I get a chance, and the odd time I bring groups on walks as a volunteer of course. But I like to do it on my own too, a good communion with nature and, if necessary, share my data with Birdwatch Ireland. To answer your question, I have never taken any lessons, mostly trial and errors for about three years now, I try to make more efforts with the blog. I’ve always had a camera with me though, but never went too deep about it; either an idea, I see something nice,or touching, and I have a go at it. I have learnt that light can be your friend as much as your enemy. Thanks again for your kind words, and taking the time to drop by! 😉 🙂

      1. Great! It’s nice to have a passion and be able to work in the field at some point in your life, or just be able to keep making time for it as a hobby. And about photography, tirals and errors, yeah sure, but you also got talent, trust me!

      2. You are a sweet heart! 🙂 I will! If you need any tips, don’t hesitate to pm me. When you see beauty with your heart, the eye follows; no net, honesty, take a deep breath and jump 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on Retired? No one told me! and commented:
    What a wonderful post I could smell and taste this beautiful dish although I will add I have NEVER eaten or made Gnocchi..Why? I know not! But I will as I have seen so many wonderful sounding recipes and not ventured into the world of Gnocchi making…I have also seen the failures on the plethora of cooking shows I watch and heard the horror stories…. BUT I will and it will be fully documented…Promise…

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