In the first of a series of regular autumn recipe postings, our executive chef Gerwin Brand draws inspiration from the season for an earthy dish of wild mushroom gnocchi. Look out for Gerwin's recipes every two weeks as he, and the team here at Bramble Ski, gear up to provide another season of the finest ski holidays in the Alps ...
Potato Gnocchi with Sautéed Wild Mushrooms, Viande Séchée and Roquette
This is a simple dish made entirely from local ingredients. We are entering the autumn slowly but surely here in the Valais and mushrooms are shooting up from the soil left, right and centre. I decided to go foraging in the mountains last Saturday to see what I could find to make a meal with. With a picnic in my back-pack and a beautiful soft autumn sun in the sky, I headed up the hill. Six hours later I returned home with about a kilo-and-a-half of mushrooms consisting mainly of Slippery Jack (the yellow version) and a selection Cêpes, Saffron milk cap and Cantharelles to top the hunt off.
When I started thinking about what I wanted to cook with these beautiful mushrooms I knew one thing for sure: It had to be a dish made up of ingredients that were all available in the region of the Valais.
Potatoes are grown abundantly here and the earthy flavour of the mushrooms combines well with them. Viande séchée is a local cured beef speciality and I had some roquette growing in my little plant pot on my balcony. From these simple ingredients a new dish is born.
I am giving the recipe for the dish below to inspire you to get cooking with autumn flavours. Even though the cured beef is a local speciality that might be hard to get where you are based, the meal can easily be replaced with, for example Parma ham or even a local cured meat from your area, either beef or pork. In case you are not a meat eater you could just as easily leave it off altogether.
So here goes, potato gnocchi tossed in a wild mushroom sauce, served on wilted garlic spinach, topped with a few slices of Viande séchée, roquette leaves and a crouton.
Ingredients (for 4 people):
600g potato gnocchi (see directions below)
250g mushroom sauce (see directions below)
250g fresh spinach
150g Viande séchée or another cured ham, sliced very thinly.
4 croutons (see directions below)
300g wild mushrooms
Start by making the mushroom sauce (Ingredients for 4 people):
25g shallots, finely chopped
5g garlic, finely chopped
150g mixed wild mushrooms like Cêpes, Slippery Jack or Chanterelles. You can buy Cêpes and Chatarelles from most good suppliers at this time of year.
20g dried mushrooms (Cêpes or Winter Chanterelles)
25ml dry sherry (preferably Amontillado)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Soak the dried mushrooms in the 200ml of water for an hour.
In the meantime clean the wild mushrooms. Remove any dirt with a small pastry brush and if they are very dirty maybe even give them a quick gentle wash.
Larger mushrooms like Cêpes and Slippery Jack can be washed under a running tap to avoid too much contact with water.
Then pick the best specimens and set them apart for the garnish. For 4 people you will need about 300g.
Chop the 150g mushrooms for the sauce in small pieces, about 1 square inch.
Sweat the shallots in some butter in a small frying pan, ensure they stay transluscent and do not colour.
Sauté the chopped mushrooms in a separate frying pan in some butter over a medium to high heat. You want to get some colour on the mushrooms but do not burn them.
Once the mushrooms have some colour, add the chopped garlic and a pinch of salt and the sweated shallot from the other pan.
Deglaze the pan with the sherry and leave this to evaporate.
Add the cream and then the dried mushrooms to the liquid. Bring the contents of the pan to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.
Pour contents in to a blender and purée. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve into a clean pan. It should have the consistency to coat the back of a spoon. Check the seasoning of the sauce and add more salt and a pinch of cayenne if needed, along with a few drops of lemon juice. Now set the sauce to the side.
Onto the potato gnocchi (Ingredients for 4 people):
1kg starchy potatoes like Bintje, King Edwards or Maris Piper
200g plain white flour
Peel the potatoes and if they are large cut them in half. Put them in a large pan and cover them with water. Add some salt and bring the potatoes to the boil.
Cook the potatoes until they are done, then drain the water off and steam them dry.
Now pass the potatoes through a passe-vite (a blender will do if you don't have) into a clean bowl.
Weigh the amount of puréed potatoes. Now you can work out the amount of flour needed. Per 500g of puréed potatoes you need to incorporate 100g of flour. And per 1kg of puréed potatoes you need to add 1 whole egg. If you do not have a rounded amount of 1kg puree then just simply crack the egg in a bowl, whisk it to break it up and pour roughly the amount of egg needed into the purée.
Bring the purée with the egg and flour together into a dough. Be careful not to overwork it as it will go elastic. You need to get a nice fluffy dough.
Take a small part of the dough and roll it into a small log of about 1.5cm thick on a floured work surface. Cut this into 1 inch lengths and roll the pieces of
dough between your floured hands to coat them completely with flour on all sides.
Store the gnocchi on a piece of greaseproof paper on a tray.
Now test a few of the gnocchi before finishing the entire batch. Bring a small pan of water to the boil, drop a few of the gnocchi in and wait until they come
floating to the surface. Once the gnocchi are at the surface they are done. Take them out of the water with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt
and taste them and check for firmness. If the gnocchi are not firm enough, simply add a little more flour.
Continue to finish all the gnocchi as in step 6. Lay them out on greaseproof paper on trays and store them in the fridge staright away. Do not make the gnocchi more than 2-3 hours in advance. Over time they will go soft and they will start sticking to the paper, making it difficult to get them off without damaging them. Alternatively you can freeze them straight away. Frozen gnocchi however will need to be used from frozen and they need to be cooked in a large pan of boiling salted water in small quantities over high heat. Only drop a few gnocchi at a time so as to not lose the boil too much otherwise the gnocchi will go soft and disintegrate.
In the meantime make some persilade. You will need:
Persillade is commonly used in French and Greek cuisines.
10g shallot, finely chopped
5g garlic, finely chopped
20g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2g chervil, finely chopped
1g tarragon, finely chopped
Peel and chop the shallot and garlic very finely and mix them together.
Pick the leaves of the herbs, then chop all finely and mix with the shallot and garlic.
Store in the fridge until needed.
For the croutons slice a small baguette diagonally across to get an angle to it. Continue to thinly slice the baguette in this way. Lay the slices flat on a baking tray and sprinkle with a little bit of olive oil, some crushed garlic and a small pinch of salt. Bake the croutons until golden brown in a medium hot oven at 170°C for about 12-15 minutes. Take the tray with croutons from the oven when they are ready and leave them to cool.
Ensure the roquette is washed and spun dry.
Wash and spin the spinach as well and set aside. Chop 5g of garlic and set aside.
Finishing the dish:
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
Cut the mushrooms you set aside in half or quarters and sauté them in some butter in the frying pan until golden brown all over. Add a spoonful of the persilade towards the end along with a pinch of salt and pepper and toss the mushrooms around in it. Finish with a drop of lemon juice and leave the mushrooms in the pan.
In the meantime gently heat the mushroom sauce.
Now drop the gnocchi in the boiling salted water. Give the pan a few taps with a heavy spoon and wait until all the gnocchi are floating at the top of the water.
In the meantime put a few ladles of the sauce in a shallow frying pan and add the gnocchi to it with a slotted spoon when they are done. Toss the gnocchi in the sauce and set aside for a minute.
Now quickly wilt the spinach in a hot pan with a bit of butter and the finely chopped garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Then drain the water off that came from the spinach and divide it over 4 large pasta bowls.
Spoon the gnocchi over it, reheat the mushrooms very briefly on a high heat and spoon them over the gnocchi.
Now spoon a few more ladles of sauce over each plate.
Finally, put a few slices of Viande séchée on top of the mushrooms and finish the dish with a small handful of roquette leaves and a crouton.
Serve immediately accompanied with crispy bread and butter.
This dish is perfect for an autumn lunch or, when made in a smaller portion size, it serves well as a starter in a dinner menu.
Barry joined Bramble Ski in its first formal year of operations in Verbier to run the company's second chalet. He has been with Bramble Ski since then and is now a co-owner, heading up the sales and marketing department.
After studying a post-graduate degree in photojournalism at Rhodes University in South Africa, Barry followed a journalism career in Dublin and London. He took a career break from this to do a winter season and travel the globe, but did not quite anticipate how infectious his new life in the mountains would be.
Nine years on, he is married with three children and lives in Le Châble, Switzerland.
What are you passionate about?: Wild space.
What bugs you?: Arrogance.
Ski/snowboard? Why?: Skiing. Two planks are better than one.