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James Street South Cookery School: Home-made gnocchi and a classic tomato sauce

Home-made gnocchi is a great dish for getting the kids involved in making

WE ALL complain about having no time for feeding ourselves or our loved ones, so one trick I have adopted is to cook in bulk and then it can be frozen for future use.

In our house the kids love freshly made pasta sauce and this recipe goes particularly well with the gnocchi, which can be made as a group effort, with the kids standing round the table making the individual balls, providing a great introduction to making food for children.

The tomato sauce is great at any time, whether fresh or just out of the freezer. We have introduced new classes to the Cookery School schedule this year and one includes an introduction to the kitchen. You will leave this class being able to cook a couple of great dishes and really start knowing your way round the kitchen. See the James Street South Cookery School website cookinbelfast.co.uk for full details.

CLASSIC ARRABIATA TOMATO SAUCE

500g ripe plum tomatoes

4 tblsp olive oil plus extra

2 cloves garlic, skin on and crushed

2 tblsp red wine

1 chilli, cut lengthways and deseeded

1 fresh bay leaf

½ tblsp dried oregano

sea salt and pepper

Start by skinning the tomatoes by placing them in a bowl of boiling water. Leave for a few seconds and cross at the eye at the top and peel the skin off. Repeat for all, remove the seeds but keep the flesh and pulp.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and fry off the crushed garlic. Add the wine after a few seconds and let bubble for a minute. Add the tomatoes, chilli and herbs and leave on the hob to reduce and simmer with the lid on for 40-45 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking give it the occasional stir and taste. If you don't like the sauce too hot you can remove the chilli. If it is becoming too dry add a splash of water.

You can use now, so tear up some fresh basil leaves and sprinkle over the pasta with grated parmesan cheese. If you are wanting to freeze, leave until cold and place in a plastic container and put in the freezer. Working in the restaurant we always portion our meals so it is good to do the same at home. If you have made enough for two dinners, portion into two separate containers.

GNOCCHI

(Serves 4)

2 large floury potatoes

50g ricotta

sea salt

fresh white pepper

90g plain flour

1 egg, beaten

1 thyme sprig, picked from stem

grated Parmesan to serve

For the sauce:

olive oil for frying

fresh ground black pepper

150g peas

butter

1 thyme sprig, picked from stalk

1 lemon, zested

Preheat the oven to 200C. It is always good to use old potatoes, eg if you have leftovers from the day before. If not, bake the potatoes in their skins until soft and tender, scoop out the potato and mash in a bowl until smooth; add the ricotta and season with salt and pepper and mix in the flour.

At this stage, this is when the kids can have a bit of fun. Make a well in the centre of the mix and add in the beaten egg. You can use a spoon or your hands. Work in the herbs until you have formed a dough.

Cut the dough into two and mould each half into a long cigar shape and cut at every inch. With floured hands, press down on each with your thumb as this is the bit which will hold any oil or sauce when cooked.

In a large pan add water and boil. Add the gnocchi and cook for no more than two minutes, once they float they are cooked. Drain and dry off for a minute.

In another clean pan heat a little olive oil, adding a pinch of salt and pepper. Place the gnocchi into the pan and sauté on each side until browned. Add the peas (frozen are the only ones available at this time of year) and toss through. Add a squeeze of lemon and as much Parmesan as you want.

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