This is a lovely recipe for the cooler weather, with a bit of a sense of occasion about it. It’s such a great combination of flavours: the nuttiness of the cauliflower purée partners brilliantly with the gnocchi, and the spiced reduction really heightens the whole winter warmer effect. I was inspired by some incredible gilt-head bream that came in courtesy of Saul Astrinsky over at the Wild Harbour Fish Company in Hayle, but you could use sea bass or even cod (as in the picture) – any firm, well-flavoured white fish that gives you good chunky fillets.
Start by making the gnocchi. In a bowl, thoroughly mix together the mashed potato, beaten egg, hazelnut oil and chopped hazelnuts. Gradually add the pasta flour, a few tablespoonfuls at a time, mixing well after each addition so that the flour is fully incorporated into the mixture. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Using your hands, bring the mixture together to form a dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, knead briefly, and roll out to a 2cm thickness.
Cut the gnocchi into 1cm pieces, then squash each piece lightly with a fork, making an indentation in the top. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Carefully lower the gnocchi into the water in batches and return the water to the boil. Once the gnocchi have risen to the surface of the water, cook for 2-3 minutes, then drain well and refresh in cold water. Set aside.
To make the syrup, place all the ingredients in a pan and reduce until syrupy. For the cauliflower purée, cook the cauliflower florets in boiling water for 4-5 minutes, or until just tender, and drain. Blend with the butter and cream in a food processer to a purée. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside in a warm place.
Place the fish skin side down in a cold pan – that way it can heat up gently and your fillet will stay nice and flat. Season the fish, and add a dash of oil to the pan. Turn the heat to medium, and cook until you can see the skin starting to turn golden at the edges. Flip the fish over briefly, then add a knob of butter, remove the pan from the hob and leave the fish to finish cooking in the residual heat.
To finish, heat a little butter and oil in a pan. Gently brown the gnocchi and the reserved cauliflower florets – they should stay a bit crunchy, to add texture to the dish. While you’re putting the rest of the dish together, quickly wilt the chard or spinach in the buttery pan with a splash of water.
Take four warmed plates. I like to start with the puree, then a mix of the gnocchi, pan roasted florets and reserved hazelnuts – almost like a warm salad. Top each plate with a fillet, skin side up, and pour the reduction around the outside. Serve the wilted greens alongside.
By Ben Prior