To the uninitiated it would be a big surprise to find an up to the minute dairy popping out little balls of buffalo mozzarella in the depths of the Macroom countryside. Maybe even more surprising would be the herd of woolly buffalo who are contentedly chomping grass. We sell and use Toonsbridge mozzarella and ricotta in our shop and when were invited to to check out the dairy and how the cheese was made we jumped at the opportunity.
We set off with our raincoats and wellies this morning, programmed the sat nav and headed north. We arrived in plenty of time and after a welcome cup of coffee, by which time the invited group had assembled, we all donned protective hats, shoes and coats and traipsed into the dairy which had been in action since six o’clock this morning. By this time there was a stack of raw cheese ready to go.
This was put through some kind of shredder then transferred to a vat where it was paddled together with very hot water -95c
which changed the cheese to smooth elastic pieces which in turn were posted into what could only be described as an open plan washing machine type drum which plopped the then formed balls of mozzarella into a receiving tank. This is a very un-technical description of the magic practiced in the dairy, if you would like to know more check out http://www.therealoliveco.com/toonsbridge/.
Gnocchi are Italian dumplings and the most common are made with potatoes and flour but this version is made with spinach, ricotta and semolina which makes them much lighter. It also makes the shape less uniform hence the name malfatti which means badly made. I make them with the Toonsbridge fresh buffalo ricotta and the spinach from our garden which has galloped into production with the longer days. The trick is to use enough semolina to hold the gnocchi together without making them stodgy. They are very fast to make and eaten with a little tomato basil sauce make a simple dinner dish that looks quite impressive.
The secret to success in cooking these gnocchi is the temperature of the water in which the dumplings are cooked. A rolling boil will disintegrate these delicate little dumplings so bring a pot of water to the boil then turn to the lowest simmer before slipping them in.
Malfatti – Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi
2-3 tbs semolina
100g grated Parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper
Put a large pot of water on to boil. Wash the spinach and take out any extra thick stems. When the water is boiling add some salt and the spinach. Make sure the spinach is completely immersed. When the water returns to the boil cook the spinach for one minute then drain and plunge into a bowl of cold water. This will stop the spinach from cooking further. Drain the spinach and squeeze it in your hands to remove the excess water .Chop finely.
Put the ricotta into a bowl and beat together with the eggs until creamy
Stir in the spinach , grated parmesan cheese and the semolina, then season with a little grated nutmeg and some salt and pepper.
The mix should hold together. If it is still wet add a little more semolina.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, then turn down to the lowest simmer
Wet your hands and form small balls with the gnocchi mixture and gently slip them into the water. When the gnocchi rise back to the surface they are cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and put onto a warm serving dish..
Dress with tomato and basil sauce or olive oil and fresh herbs and serve immediately.
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