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Fabulous fresh flavours and mouthwatering desserts make eating alfresco a delight for early summer guests

Potato gnocchi with asparagus, olives and tomatoes

Serves 6

Preparation 25 min

Cooking 50 – 55 min

For the gnocchi

·         150g (9oz) butternut squash

·         550g (1 ¼ lb) King Edward potatoes, peeled

·         Sea salt

·         175g (6oz) plain flour

·         2 – 3 tbsp semolina

For the sauce

·         Bunch of asparagus, cleaned and trimmed, woody ends snapped off

·         2 tbsp olive oil

·         1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced

·         24 small green olives, pitted and sliced

·         24 cherry tomatoes, halved

·         Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus squeeze of juice

·         2 tbsp mascarpone cheese

·         Sea salt and black pepper

·         Knob of butter

·         50g (2oz) parmesan, grated

·         50g (2oz) pecorino, grated

·         Few sprigs of savory, parsley or basil, chopped

1.    Preheat the oven to 2000C (1800C fan, gas mark 6). Cut the squash into crescent slices, scooping out the seeds with a spoon, then place on a lightly oiled baking tray. Roast for 30 min or until tender. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in salted water until tender.

Description: Cut the squash into crescent slices

Cut the squash into crescent slices

Scoop the cooked squash pulp from the rind and drain the potatoes well. Push the hot squash and potato through a potato ricer straight onto a floured surface, or mash together thoroughly in a bowl, then turn out. Immediately add most (but not all) of the flour and mix with your hands until you have a smooth, slightly sticky dough. If it seems too wet, add more flour.

With floured hands, roll the dough into a long cylinder, about 2.5cm in diameter. Cut into 2cm lengths and shape into little torpedo-like ovals. Dip into a little more flour to coat all over, shaking off the excess, then place on a large plate scattered with semolina. Put a well-buttered large gratin dish in the oven to warm.

For the sauce, cut the asparagus spears into short lengths. Warm the oil gently with the garlic in a large frying pan, then add the asparagus. Cook slowly, shaking the pan and turning the spears gently every so often for 7 – 8 min or until al dente.

Description: For the sauce, cut the asparagus spears into short lengths

For the sauce, cut the asparagus spears into short lengths

In the meantime bring a large pan of water to the boil. Cook the gnocchi in two batches: drop half to them into the boiling water with a spoon, spacing them apart, and keep the water at a gentle simmer. When the gnocchi starts rising to the surface, allow them another 3 min, then scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place in the gratin dish with a little of their water. Pop into the oven to keep warm while you cook the second batch.

Throw the sliced olives in with the asparagus and toss to heat through, then add the tomatoes and warm through only (so they hold their shape). Quickly add the lemon zest and mascarpone and stir in briefly. Season well and add a knob of butter and a spritz of lemon juice before tasting, adjusting and removing from the heat.

Tip the vegetables onto the cooked gnocchi and scatter over the grated cheeses and herbs.

Cook’s note

To save time or if you don’t have a potato ricer, use ready-made potato gnocchi, available at most good supermarkets.

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