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Chocolate-filled Plantain Gnocchi, with chillies for Dessert Recipe
by Oz Sokoh

My personal challenge this year, is to recreate foods of my country, Nigeria. As I’m learning, this is a whole sea of opportunity. So when I saw Kerstin of Cake, Batter & Bowl’s dessert gnocchi with chocolate centres,…I was seriously impressed!

The first time I made them, they tasted just ok. In my hurry, I’d neglected to add the flour to the gnocchi dough in small portions. Anyhow, I proceeded to the end and when I presented them before taste tester number one, he loved them. He was completely taken in by the ‘daring’ and the ‘doing’ something new.

If I had to list hubby’s pet peeves, number one on his list would be ‘unadventorous’ dare I say, Nigerian cooks. He complains that in Nigeria, we don’t experiment with food; people stick to tried and tested and I must confess…..he’s not at all off the mark.

So after my less than impressive first try (at least according to me), I was determined to get it super right for Penny’s Gnocchi-Umami party. And I can confirm that second time around, the results were great:

Sweet plantains, ‘tempered’ with diced red chillies, gently kneaded to form a soft dough.

Rolled out, cut up and stuffed with dark chocolate (Thank you again, Kate). Set in a sea of strawberry sauce with Matcha cream. And just for the record, some baby kiwis .

And if you’re seeking which of this dishes provides the highly sought after 5th taste – umami, then look no further.

Its the cream. Yes, the Matcha cream.

The word ‘Umami’ is of Japanese origin. In Japan and all over the world it is called ‘the fifth taste’, after sweet, salty, sour and bitter. It literally translates as “pleasant taste”.

This pleasant savoury ‘umami’ taste is imparted by glutamate, a type of amino acid, and ribonucleotides, including inosinate and guanylate, which occur naturally in many foods including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products. As the taste of umami itself is subtle and blends well with other tastes to expand and round out flavours, most people don’t recognise umami when they encounter it, but it plays an important role making food taste delicious!

Japan is one of the oldest tea growing regions in the world along with China. It is the only tea growing country in the world, which solely produces green tea, of which Matcha is a variety.

I was surprised to find out that Matcha, with its fresh, intense, green colour was a powder. I had always assumed it was leaves…… Last February, I got 2 packs at G.Detou in Paris: one for cooking and the other for drinking. I opened the cooking one first and expected that to be powder so no surprises there but then later I opened the drinking pack and was shocked to see it too was powder. So now I know that Matcha is green tea powder.

With Matcha and Japanese Teas, the higher the quality, the richer the amino acid content and therefore increased umami. Which is why I chose to pair the gnocchi with umami cream. There you have it!

And for some recipes now:

Plantain gnocchi with chocolate centres, adapted from Cake, Batter and Bowl

Tips

Boil the plantains in their own skins to prevent them from absorbing too much water, which detracts from their taste and makes them super mushy.

When adding the flour, sprinkle it in small portions, incorporating a little at a time so your dough remains light

Also, this time around, I used Tipo 00 which is lower in gluten than (American) all-purpose flour. Think, less gluten, less chance of toughening the dough through over-kneading. http://www.inpraiseofsardines.com/blogs/2006/02/secrets_to_maki.html

Make them and cook them immediately or deep freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet/baking tray and transfer them to Ziplocs when frozen. Cook from frozen.

Ingredients, makes 40 – 50 gnocchi

2 black-brown plantains, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups Tipo ‘00’/ all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

Chocolate chunks (I used dark chocolate chunks)

Chilli pepper, chopped (optional)

How to:

To make the dough, wash the plantains, and leave them in their skins. Gently run a knife down one side, from top to bottom, splitting the skin but not taking it off.

Cut each plantain into 3-4 pieces and put in a pan with water to boil.

Boil for 10 minutes or until tender. Remove from the pan, draining off water and mash thoroughly in a medium bowl.

I used a ricer and while it didn’t create the perfect texture for the dough, the gnocchi were fine, if a bit ugly. However, on a good note, I discovered plantain noodles! I love, love, love them….as did husband and kids.

Moving on, let the mashed plantains cool for 10 minutes. Add the chopped chilli peppers if using. I like the contrast of sweet, chilli, chocolatey and umami….all in one!

Make a ring with a hollow centre and pour in lightly beaten egg.

Gently mix in, using a fork.

When that is done, start adding the flour, by sprinkling over the top of the dough a little at a time.

The aim is to have a soft dough, which isn’t too sticky.

Once the dough comes together, let it rest for a couple of minutes.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a large workable square or rectangle. Cut strips of at least 3-4 cm width.

Place a chocolate chunk in the middle of each piece of dough and seal by pressing the ends together.

Now unlike traditional gnocchi, you don’t really need to ‘mark’ your gnocchi but I tried anyway.

I decided I would make both chocolate-filled ones and plain.

Once the plain ones were done, they went in to the freezer.

To cook, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add some salt to it and when it has come to the boil, give a good stir and then put some gnocchi in. working in batches.

At first, the gnocchi will sink to the bottom but as they cook, they’ll rise to the surface, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove them using a slotted spoon/sieve spoon and let them drain.

Serve them with your favourite fruit sauce and cream.

Enjoy.

How to:

Put the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, water and balsamic vinegar in a large saucepan and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes.

Cool slightly and then transfer to a blender or food processor and process to a smooth puree.

Let it cool completely and then use as desired.

Matcha cream

Ingredients

1/8 teaspoon Matcha

1 teaspoon hot water (not boiling. Ideally, Matcha should be made with water which is at about 50 degrees centigrade)

1 – 2 tablespoons crème fraiche

Icing sugar, optional

How to:

Mix Matcha powder with hot (but not boiling) water.

Stir well till combined.

Mix the Matcha liquid with the cream fraiche and sweeten with icing sugar, if necessary.

Enjoy the cool taste of Matcha…on your lips!

The verdict: I really enjoyed them this time. The strawberry sauce was sweet perfection to the gnocchi and while the gnocchi didn’t look so pretty, they tasted pretty good! I liked the slight bitterness and richness of the ‘umami’ cream. It balanced and evened out the sweetness of the sauce and the chocolatiness of the gnocchi.I also thought the red chillies in the gnocchi were perfect, giving a delicate but present heat! Boy, I ♥ chilli in my desserts!

I am looking forward to serving these up to some Nigerians pretty soon. I’ll tell you what they think, ok?

Please check out what the other guests brought to the party:

I also want to send this on to the Culinary Olympics, hosted by the BloggerAid Team, as a contribution from Nigeria, where plantains are a staple and where our athletic prowess is respected the world over!

They are also responsible for putting together the fantastic Blogger Aid cookbook. I don’t have a copy yet but that will be righted in the coming week or two.

Take care and enjoy the rest of the weekend!