Anyone who has a small, under-the-counter, larder fridge will recognise the problem: there comes a point when you just have to eat what’s in it so that you can defrost it. The negative side of such a small fridge is that this usually needs to happen every three months, unlike larger fridges and fridge-freezers which always seem, like a Tardis, to keep on swallowing more and more food and ice without creaking. However, the advantage of the small version is that it is much harder to lose, and therefore waste, food since there just isn’t room to store over a few days’ worth of stuff.
This week I need to clean out my tiny two-shelf with an ice-box number, so I thought I’d find recipes that use up its contents. Right now it contains the following: two frozen chicken legs, some frozen red chillis, a head of romaine lettuce, 2/3rds of a packet of potato gnocchi, half a jar of salted anchovies, two small punnets of cherry tomatoes, two bunches of asparagus, a nub of Parmesan, some eggs, half a ready-roasted chicken, some stale homemade bread that I was planning to turn into breadcrumbs, a zested lemon, some fresh basil and flat-leaf parsley, a packet of halloumi, two packets of feta, half a jar of black pitted olives and 2/3rds of a jar of capers.
Since it’s Monday, and Monday is not a day when I really want to be thinking much about what I’m eating, I’m making potato gnocchi all’ oglio. Gnocchi is my pasta-replacement, which I use with all pasta-suitable sauces. A couple of years ago I became allergic or intolerant, not sure which, to wheat, probably because my diet, like the diet of many urban, working Brits, was heavily based on bread or wheat products (e.g. toast for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, pasta for supper). I stopped eating wheat for about six months, then slowly weaned myself back onto it. But for some reason, although I can eat all kinds of bread without wincing, pasta remains out of bounds. So now, when I want pasta, or something equally comforting or quick, I make potato gnocchi. It’s even faster than pasta and just as filling and delicious. This sauce is a classic with spaghetti and perfect for after work, after a night out or when you have practically nothing left in the house.
Gnocchi all’aglio e olio
150g or so potato gnocchi (most supermarkets sell it in 500g packets)
1 fresh red chilli, stalk cut off and chopped (if you use kitchen scissors to chop it you won’t get the oil on your hands, then in your eyes…)
25g freshly grated Parmesan (optional; purists would say it shouldn’t be served with cheese but who wants to be pure?)
1. About five minutes before you want to eat, heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the garlic and chilli and cook them until golden brown but not burnt.
2. About three minutes before you want to eat, fill a saucepan with boiling water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil again. Once the water is boiling, add the gnocchi and lower the temperature slightly. The gnocchi are done when they float on the surface (this takes about two minutes). As soon as they are all floating, take them off the heat and drain.
3. Toss the gnocchi in the hot olive oil sauce, sprinkle with the Parmesan if using, season and serve.