Fresh finds at food fest – and a novel way to make gnocci

By Louise Liebenberg
PORT Elizabeth hosted a four-day food and wine festival at the DF Malherbe High School sports grounds last week. I  trawled the 150-odd stalls at the Nelson Mandela Bay Food Festival, put together by Jeffreys Bay-based organisers Eeden Projects, and came across several interesting suppliers. I found splendid Mediterranean black figs grown and produced in the Uniondale area and excellent grass-fed free-range beef from an Elandsriver farm… so exciting as previously I’d always bought imported figs and had had to search high and low for decent quality beef. I also came across Jeffreys Bay chef Brent Mills, of 3 Fat Fish, in the food demo tent, where he demonstrated several dishes, including the recipe for “poached” potato gnocci which we are running further down on the blog today. You can also scroll down for festival pics and other foodie finds.

Damian Schmidt led a tour of the spic-and-span Checkers tent, where we tasted wines, cheeses, aged beef and free-range lamb. Several cooking demonstrations were also held in the area over the four-day fest. Picture: Louise Liebenberg

Damian with a sample of Checkers's aged steak. Picture: Louise Liebenberg

Britain’s Broughton brothers Craig (left) and Andrew, of the popular 2 Fat Butchers store in Walmer. They make Scotch eggs as in the picture and excellent sausages like pork and apple, Moroccan with lovely spiced fruit and even the more traditional ones like Cumberland, as well as other British favourites like Leicestershire pork pies. I have never been able to bring myself to buy "shop" bacon again since tasting their beautiful dry-cured bacon when they first opened their store in Walmer just over a year ago. Picture: Louise Liebenberg

Lizelle Scheepers and her family farm in the Elandsriver area where they produce excellent quality beef products from free-range, grass-fed herds. I tried her boerewors and also bought some lean mince and burger patties which have proved excellent. I have really been hunting around for more places to buy good-quality beef as I am always severely put off by the idea of "feedlot" beef - and you don't always know what you're buying in some supermarkets. The 2 Fat Butchers in the picture above also sell good free-range beef. Lizelle is happy to travel to PE on a regular basis and will deliver to your door. Picture. Louise Liebenberg

Johan and Ella Jubelius are part of a family enterprise at Grootfontein farm in the Uniondale area where they and a handful of other producers grow magnificent figs that nowadays are being sold to the likes of Woolworths. The Jubelius clan also makes related produce such as their fantastic fig jam and also their dried figs. It was the first time I have tasted such good dried figs that are locally produced as previously I'd bought the imported ones at considerable cost. The Kammanassie is also becoming known as a supplier of quality pomegranates. Picture: Louise Liebenberg

Nico Basson and Jayne Liston at the Falksalt stand. I was first introduced to these lovely salts which are harvested in Cyprus in the Mediterranean by Angie Creaven, of Posh Pancakes in Richmond Hill, who also stocks them. Falksalt is a Scandinavian company but the brand is marketed and sold in South Africa by Cerebos. I especially love the rosemary salt for lamb dishes which their black salt is a fantastic dinner party conversation starter! Picture. Louise Liebenberg

Stuart Hudson-Lamb and Bronwen Hudson-Lamb at the Berry Nice Berry Co stand. This brand is a job creation project in Molteno and their raspberry and blueberry jams, which are preservative free, are downright excellent. The company is 65% BBBEE owned and all staff members are co-owners in the venture. Picture: Louise Liebenberg

Brent Mills (left) of 3 Fat Fish in Jeffreys Bay and his assistant presented a cooking demonstration on the Sunday at which audience members learnt how to make potato gnocci and fresh pasta. Brent and his wife Emmy-Lou are both chefs who met at one of my all-time favourite restaurants - Five Flies in Cape Town. The couple's business, 3 Fat Fish, includes a restaurant, catering service and cooking classes for all ages. Picture. Louise Liebenberg

Potato gnocci – the recipe

Brent’s recipe for potato gnocci – a delicious alternative to pasta – involves poaching and then pan frying the gnocci, unlike the more traditional  boiling method Salvelio and I have used in the past. The results were fantastic and I will definitely be trying this method in future as the pan frying gave the gnocci an almost nutty crust that was far richer in taste than the regular way. Brent also made a simple gorgonzola cream sauce which was fantastic with the gnocci – you simply heat 250ml of cream through to which you have added a 1/4 cup of crumbled gorgonzola (or else a variation like Simonzola). For the fresh pasta he demonstrated, including ravioli and tortellini stuffed with gorgonzola and others with duck, Brent made a simple sage butter which was a beautiful accompaniment. I’m sure it would have gone equally well with the gnocci.
1.6kg potatoes; 250g bread flour (Brent uses Eureka stone-ground flour); 250g finely grated parmesan or pecorino (not the pre-grated kind as it will lack flavour); 3 egg yolks and one whole egg; salt for seasoning; finely chopped fresh chives or oregano for flavouring; oil and butter for frying
Bake the potatoes in their skins an oven until cooked through. Brent believes it’s better to bake the potatoes than to steam or boil them as you don’t want them to have any unnecessary liquid. As soon as they are done, peel the potatoes and mash them while still hot.
Mix the potato mash first with the cheese and then the flour (you can use food processor but don’t overwork the mixture as it can “cook” from the blade action – I prefer to do it all by hand). Now beat the yolks and whole egg together and add  to the mixture along with some seasoning and the herbs.
Place the mix on a piece of cling film (or you can use several) and roll it in a tight cylinder shape. Brent’s was quite a bit thicker – about the diameter of the “old” R1 coin or maybe a sushi roll –  than I have made it in the past. Roll it up so thoroughly and tightly that no liquid will be able to penetrate the clingwrap – and there must be no airpockets inside. You may have to knot one end of the clingfilm and then “swing” the cylinder a bit to make sure it is properly compacted before knotting the other end.
Now poach the cylinder(s) in a water bath of boiled water for about 20 minutes. This is a method many international chefs use nowadays and they all tell us there is no risk of the plastic taste or particles going into the produce, but I confess I still have my reservations!
Anyway, remove the gnocci roll from the boiling water and immediately place it into a pot of ice cold water – yes, with ice cubes in it! – to cool down completely. Remove, dry it off a bit and remove the clingwrap. Place the gnocci roll on a floured surface and slice into discs of about 1/5cm thick; you may have to reshape the discs a bit. These you can then pan fry in a bit of oil and butter (no margarine please).
Once it gets a bit of a golden “crust” on the sides, it is ready to plate. Brent served up a trio of the discs at a time with a drizzling of the rich, creamy gorgonzola sauce – no need to have it swimming in the sauce.
You could either serve the gnocci as a main course or as a starter.
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