Sage Recipes

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage Butter

These gnocchi are a traditional speciality of the Veneto and southern Lombardy.  A mixture of butternut squash and sweet potato comes close to the spicy sweetness and moist texture of a northern Italian pumpkin.  The first dressing is the one classically served in the Veneto, whilst the second one – Sage Butter from Lombardy, is the one that is most often used elsewhere.

Serves 10-12

1.25 kg/2½ lb butternut squash

1.25 kg/2½ lb orange-fleshed sweet potatoes

500g/18 oz OO grade flour

5 tsp baking powder

salt

6 large eggs

140g/5 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese

generous grating of nutmeg

Dressing 1:

175g/6 oz unsalted butter

65g/2½ oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2½ tbsp sugar

2½ tsp cinnamon

Dressing 2:

175g/6 oz unsalted butter

15 sage leaves, snipped

140g/5 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.  Line baking trays with foil and then brush the foil with oil.  Cut the squash in half, scoop out and discard the fibres, and place them cut side down on the foil.  Pierce the sweet potatoes and put them on the foil with the squash.  Bake for about an hour until both vegetables can be easily pierced with a fork.  Remove the flesh from the skins and purée both vegetables.

Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt and then break in the eggs.  Mix to ensure they are thoroughly incorporated before adding the Parmesan and seasoning to taste with salt and nutmeg.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.  You can then either shape small balls of gnocchi with your floured hands or use a piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle. If using a piping bag it is easy to pipe directly over the boiling water, cutting of lengths about 2cm/¾” long.  Don’t cook too many gnocchi at once, they will take only a minute or two to rise to the surface, when they should be lifted out with a slotted spoon and placed in a large shallow ovenproof dish kept in a low oven.

For the first dressing just melt the butter and pour it over the gnocchi and then sprinkle with Parmesan sugar and cinnamon.

For the second heat the butter with the sage until it begins to foam, pour over the gnocchi and sprinkle with Parmesan.

I have previously given a recipe using pumpkin as a ravioli filling served with the same sage butter here:

Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage

Calves Liver with Olive Oil Mash and Fried Sage

Calves or Venison Livers are my favourite of all livers.  Don’t say that you don’t like liver until you have tried one of these!  Calves Liver should be sliced thinly and fried quickly until it is just cooked – it does not need long cooking to make it tender.  Olive Oil mash scattered with fried sage is a simple accompaniment.  If you fancy something more adventurous you could make the Potato Gnocchi recipe given by Silvija Davidson here.

OLIVE OIL MASH

1 lb  potatoes

18 fl oz water

2 fl oz olive oil

salt

milk

Peel the potatoes and cut into slices about ¾” thick.  Choose a large pan so that the potatoes will fit in a single layer.  Cover with the water and olive oil and season with salt.  Turn the heat up high and boil rapidly until all of the water has evaporated leaving the potatoes in the olive oil.  Push the potatoes through a potato ricer or coarse meshed sieve.  Mix with the olive oil and a little warm milk until you have the consistency you like.  Keep warm whilst you fry the liver and sage.

FRIED CALVES LIVER AND SAGE LEAVES

Heat a little oil in a frying pan until quite hot.  Add the thinly sliced calves’ liver and fry for no more than 3 minutes a side.   Be careful not to overcrowd the pan as this would reduce the heat.  Better to fry in small batches and keep warm in the oven. Once all of the liver has been cooked deglaze the pan.  There are several things you can use for this.  I like the dry version of Marsala, but it is much harder to find than the sweet version.  Margaret Costa famously used Dubonnet with liver and that does work well if you happen to have some.  Vermouth or dry sherry are other options.  When your chosen deglazing liquor is boiling, return the liver to the pan for just 5 seconds per side to coat it with the juices.

In a separate frying pan heat more olive oil and fry sage leaves until they are crisp.  Scatter over the mashed potato just before serving.

SAGE AND APPLE STUFFING

This is good with Pork or Goose.

1 large dessert apple

4 tbsp rum

1 onion

½ oz butter

8 slices of bread

1 tbsp chopped fresh sage

salt and pepper

Chop the apple into quite fine chunks and soak them in rum for a couple of hours.

Peel and chop the onion and cook it until softened in the butter. Process the bread to make breadcrumbs and add these to the pan of onions with the apple and sage.  Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 45 minutes.

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