I can’t remember how or when I originally came across most of the blogs that I read regularly. Some I probably just gravitated towards because “everyone” reads them, others I imagine I found via twitter or pinterest or links on other sites or they may have found me first. I can, however, distinctly remember the first post I read on Erin’s blog, Naturally Ella.
Sarah tweeted a link to Erin’s post on diet, self-efficacy and honesty back in May 2012. I don’t think I’d read Erin’s blog before that point but, in that one post, she had me hooked. I’ve gone back and read that post many times in the subsequent years and I am always impressed and inspired by Erin’s openness and the way that she’s changed what she eats and the way that she approaches food.
I’m sure Erin’s blog needs no introduction to most of you. Her site is full of easy and approachable vegetarian recipes, making full use of seasonal ingredients and her beloved bulk bins. I’m a fairly committed carnivore but Erin has made me think about vegetarian cooking in a whole new light and her gorgeous photographs really capture the vibrance of her food.
In addition to her blog, I’m also continually astounded by the sheer amount that Erin has achieved in the last few years, including setting up her wildly successful web design business with Melissa, getting married, moving across the country and, now, publishing her first cookbook (and she’s just handed in the manuscript for her second!).
The Homemade Flour Cookbook is book unlike any I’ve ever seen before. In it, Erin teaches you how to make flour out of almost anything in your kitchen from the obvious (wheat, oats, nuts) to the surprising (black beans, split peas and flaxseeds). A lot of the flours can be made in a blender or a food processor and each flour is highlighted with a couple of sweet and/or savoury recipes. So far, I’ve made a batch of perfectly chewy oat, cranberry and pecan cookies, some rich and squidy walnut cocoa brownies (Erin posted a hazelnut version earlier this week) and, last night, I raced home from work so that I could make the sweet potato and red lentil gnocchi. Who knew that you could make flour at home from red lentils?!
I’ve tried every now and then to make gluten free gnocchi but I’ve always been disappointed with the end result. It’s so often dense and rubbery and the combination of flours I’ve used have always given an unpleasant aftertaste. This gnocchi, however, is something totally different. Yes, it feels heartier than regular gnocchi but not in a heavy way – sort of like the difference between white pasta and wholewheat pasta. The lentils pack of punch of protein as well as a myriad of other health benefits, particularly when combined with the goodness of sweet potato. More than anything though, they are absolutely delicious.
A number of other bloggers have been sharing recipes from/inspired by Erin’s book over the last couple of weeks. If these gnocchi haven’t convinced you of how clever The Homemade Flour Cookbook is, hopefully one of these will!
Chocolate Espresso Doughnuts // Berry Cobbler with Oat Dumplings // Grilled Polenta and Zucchini Salsa // Amaranth Pancakes // Tomato Basil Socca Pizza // Socca Pizza with Summer Squash and Feta // Nut Flour Crepes with Roasted Fruit // Rhubarb Blueberry Apple Pie // Vanilla Bean Millet Porridge
To make red lentil flour, you really need a grain mill or a high-powered blender although Erin notes that it can be ground in a coffee grinder. I don't recommend trying to grind it in a food processor - it's a lot of effort for not much end product. It's a little like icing sugar in its texture so it does have a tendency to go everywhere! As with all gnocchi, it's best to handle the dough as little as possible to get light little pockets of deliciousness.
- 1 medium (230g) sweet potato
- 1/2 cup (20g) packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1 tablespoon (9g) pine nuts, toasted
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) olive oil
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup (8g) grated parmesan, plus more for serving
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2/3 cup (160ml) heavy cream
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups (210g to 280g) red lentil flour, divided
- Preheat the oven to 425F (220C, or gas mark 7).
- Pierce the sweet potato with a fork and bake for 30 minutes, or until soft
- To make the sauce: In a food processor, combine the basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, Parmesan, and salt. Process until well combined. It's okay if the pesto is thick. Transfer the pesto to a large skillet, add the cream, and set aside.
- To make the gnocchi: When cool enough to handle, remove the sweet potato from the skin mash and measure 1/2 cup (112g). Reserve the rest for another use. Combine the sweet potato, egg yolk, salt and pepper and 1/2 cup (70g) of the red lentil flour. Continue to stir and add flour until the mixture forms a soft dough that is still slightly sticky. Place on a surface covered in red lentil flour. Divide the dough into 4 balls and roll each out into 1-inch (2.5-cm)-thick ropes. With a bench scraper or knife, cut each rope into 1/2-inch (1/2-cm) segments. Mark the gnocchi with the tines of a fork.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and carefully add the gnocchi. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the gnocchi rise to the top. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl.
- Over a medium-low heat, heat the pesto mixture. Cook until it starts to thicken, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the gnocchi and continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and serve with parmesan.
Recipe reprinted with permission from The Homemade Flour Cookbook by Erin Alderson, published by Fair Winds Press; Erin very kindly sent me a review copy. I followed the recipe pretty exactly (and so I've shared it as written) but I cut down on the timings a little by microwaving the sweet potato rather than roasting it - mainly because I'm on a very tight World Cup schedule in the evenings. You could also use a store bought pesto, thinned out with a little cream, if you wanted although nothing really beats fresh pesto.