It's hard not to get caught up in Olympic fever. Every time you turn on the TV or radio or internet, there it is - some captivating image of someone's jubilation in triumph or despair in defeat. Of course, most of us here in New Zealand are by now suffering severe sleep deprivation, as most of the events are taking place in the middle of the night for us. It's hard to go off to bed when you want to watch just one more race ... oh, hang on, just one more ... okay, this is definitely the last one - you understand the scenario.
Anyway, London seems to be doing a great job of hosting the games, and even if you are not a huge "sports nut", you can not help but find the skill and power, dedication and determination with which so many athletes participate uplifting and inspiring.
Of course, the games will always have its detractors, and as I understand it the location of the Olympic park in London's East End, and its impact on that community has not found favour with many. One of the great tragedy's has been the loss of the Manor Garden allotments. The gardens were established in 1900 by Major Arthur Villiers to provide plots of land for local families in a deprived area to grow vegetables. Divided into 80 plots, a tight-knit community tended their allotments for over a century. Although, many plot holders have been long-standing East End families, newer plot holders brought a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds to the community.
One couple to find themselves part of this community was Sam and Sam Clark, the couple behind London's Moro restaurant, and their book Moro East offers a collection of recipes that chronicles a year of life in this community garden. With the gardens having been demolished in 2007, this book is a real treasure documenting something which is gone forever. I have read that the gardens may be re-established after the games are over (does anyone know if that is true?), but in my mind some things can never be regained. Anyway, Moro East is a wonderful book - I've borrowed it from the library on a number of occasions, and have it on my wishlist for adding to my collection.
So why am I telling you all this. Well, apart from the fact that it's a story which I think is worth the telling, the recipe I'm sharing with you today is adapted from one which I came across in a recent issue of Cuisine magazine, and on reading the introduction to the recipe I noted that it was adapted from a recipe in Moro East. And that is the end of the story.
Now, on to the food!! This dish could not be simpler to make. It is a one-pan-wonder which is totally my favourite kind of dish, both to cook and to eat. I used gnocchi instead of the potatoes called for in the original recipe, making this a dish that can be knocked out in about 10 minutes flat instead of half an hour. I was thinking to add in some chillies for a bit of extra heat, but then I noticed that my sausages were already seasoned with red pepper flakes, so instead I added in some red peppers, making this somewhat reminiscent of another of my favourite recipes from Lidia's Italy by Lidia Bastianich. This needs nothing more than a fresh green salad on the side and a good glass of wine, to make a quick and easy dinner that is sure to become a real family favourite.
Italian Sausage with Gnocchi & Red Peppers Recipe
Adapted from this recipe in Cuisine Magazine
Serves 3-4 normal people or 2 gluttons
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
300-350g Italian pork and fennel sausages
1x red pepper, cored, deseeded & cut into strips
olive oil (approx 3 tablespoons)
flaky sea salt
500g gnocchi (I used De Cecco brand)
1x bay leaf
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 preserved lemon
1 tablespoon capers
generous handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Remove the sausages from their casings. This is easily done by just running a sharp knife down the full length of the sausage, then peeling the casing away. Then break the sausage meat into bite-sized pieces.
Set a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, and add a tablespoon of olive oil. As soon as the oil is heated, add the sausages pieces. Move them around in the pan from time to time, and when they look as though they are half-cooked, add the red pepper strips. Sprinkle with a small pinch of flaky sea salt (be restrained, as there will be saltiness from the sausages, chicken stock and preserved lemon), and continue cooking until the sausages are brown and crispy and the peppers softened. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add another couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, and then add the gnocchi. Stir them around to coat them all in the oil, and then fry for a few minutes to brown a little. You will get bits that stick to the bottom of the pan, but those little stuck bits soon become little crispy bits, and they will all lift when you add the chicken stock and help to make the sauce.
As soon as the gnocchi have browned a bit, add the sausages and peppers back into the pan, stir to combine, add the bay leaf, and then pour in 1 cup of the chicken stock. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen all those stuck bits, and keep stirring as the liquid thickens. If needed add the remaining 1/2 cup of stock.
Remove from the heat. Discard the flesh from the preserved lemon, retaining just the peel. Thinly slice the peel and stir into the pan along with capers. Sprinkle parsley over the top and serve immediately.
This dish ticks all the classic comfort food boxes, while the spicy heat of the sausages coupled with the little hits of preserved lemon and capers elevate it to something less ordinary than just sausage and potatoes. I hope you'll give it a try.
Moro East, and other Moro cookbooks are available from Amazon in the US, Amazon UK, or Fishpond in New Zealand.
This week I'm sharing this post with at Gallery of Favourites hosted by April at The 21st Century Housewife and at See Ya in The Gumbo hosted by Michelle at Ms. enPlace.