The potato of the tropics, or amadumbe as it is locally known, was a passport for ardent food traveller and chef Nompumelelo Mqwebu. The cookbook author has gained international acclaim for her efforts to champion the use of indigenous ingredients in fine dining.
Her special amadumbe gnocchi recipe is easy to make, with a local spin to the Italian classic. Gnocchi is traditionally made with the generic white potato, but this chef adds the nutty flavour of amadumbe to give the dish an edgy flair. Make this hearty dish with a rich ostrich fillet for dinner.
For the sauce:
- 50g butter
- 1 clove garlic (chop and paste)
- 50g flour
- 750ml milk
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 20g gorgonzola cheese
For the gnocchi
- 800g amadumbe
- Salted water, to cover amadumbe
- 300g flour and extra to dust
- 1 egg
For the meat:
- 250–300g of ostrich fillet per person
- Basil leaves
For the sauce (roux):
- In a medium-sized, thick-base saucepan, melt the butter on a low heat.
- Add garlic, then slowly whisk in the flour until the roux has a cookie smell.
- Slowly whisk in the milk while cooking.
- Season the sauce with nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir.
- Add gorgonzola cheese and cook for 5 minutes.
For the gnocchi:
- In a large pot, add water and boil amadumbe with skin on until soft, for about 15–20 minutes.
- Drain, peel and mash while still warm, using a potato ricer or a fork, and then squeeze them through a sieve.
- On a floured countertop, mix amadumbe, seasoning and flour, forming a mound.
- Make a well in the centre and crack the egg into it. First, use a fork to combine everything, then use your fingertips to bring it all together to form a dough.
- Avoid too much flour and over-kneading. Shape into a wide, but long, rectangle.
- Cut the dough lengthwise into 10 pieces. Roll each piece with spread fingers into an even rope of 25 cm.
- Cut each piece into 2.5cm sections using a sharp knife or pastry cutter. Keep in a cool dry area, preferably overnight.
- Gently shake away excess flour before cooking.
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the gnocchi for 2–4 minutes.
- They will float to the top when cooked.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and toss in the sauce in a large saucepan for 2 minutes.
For the ostrich fillet:
- Preheat oven to 200°C.
- Lightly smear the fillet with oil and sear on a hot grill.
- Move off the heat and season with pepper.
- Add a small knob of salted butter and place in the oven, letting the fillet cook to your preferred state of readiness.
- Serve on a plate with gnocchi and garnish with basil leaves.