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The Importance of Glue Sticks

Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce

Do any of you keep a journal?

I have a journal that bangs around in my purse. My intension is to sit down every morning, in the calm after the storm, and write down my to-do list for the day. Sometimes the list flows into thoughts; sometimes it’s just a series of bullet-points. The hope is that someday I will have a stack on these books on the shelf, and my little daily scribbles will trigger memories. It’s what I can manage, for now.

I used to be an avid journal-er. Those were the pre- internet, pre-kids, living away from home years. My journals also banged around in my purse back then, along with a little beige pencil case. Inside the case were pens, pencils and a glue stick. You never know when you’ll need to glue a train or concert ticket in there, alongside a little drawing or scribbled thoughts. The journal was always there on long train rides, or mornings alone with a coffee. It was a friend of sorts. A one-way conversation. A creative outlet. A listener.

I’m sitting at the airport right now, phone in hand, realizing that Instagram has also become a journal of sorts. As I scroll through my images I see that this time last year I was seven weeks into filming LOVE FOOD, with six more weeks to go. The images hold stories, stories that I briefly shared at the beginning of each episode. Those stories swirl in my head, now layered with memories of life on set. The long laughs with Ben and Dave. Dale’s whistling. Deep chats with Boots, our make-up artist. Doug’s precise mis en place as he helped prep for the day, and those deep back bends he’d do after chopping at a low table. The way Riverview herbs delivered nasturtiums directly to the studio the day I made edible flower spring rolls. The visit from my Truro friends, Mary Jean, Sylvia and Jeannie. And, the aroma of sautéed mushrooms floating through the studio.

That was the day I told the camera about my honeymoon. My husband James’ father died ten days after our wedding day. My sister had open heart surgery the day of his funeral. Then, a month later, James’ Grandmother died. We weren’t your typical glowing newly weds, but tickets had already been already purchased. So we went to France, feigning happiness. But then, after a week of going through the motions, we found ourselves in a village in the Champagne region, standing at the gate of an inn, the owner, greeting us, in her rubber boots, a basket of foraged mushrooms in her arms. Would we be wanting dinner? It would just be something simple. Wild mushrooms with lentils. Baguette. Cheese. Wine.

I didn’t tell the camera all of that. Just enough to explain why I loved the smell of sautéed mushrooms, the way they float up through the kitchen, down halls, into bedrooms, saying dinner is coming, and all is going to be ok.

Gnocchi with Mixed Mushroom Sauce

You can serve this sauce simply with toast, or over pasta, puy lentils, pasta or polenta. Here it is, as I made in on the show, served with gnocchi.

Serves 4

350g store bought gnocchi

20 g mixed dried wild mushrooms (shiitake, morels or porcini)

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cups button mushrooms, chopped in half or left whole if small

125 ml Madeira or sherry

2/3 cups cream

3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

parmesan cheese, to garnish

Chopped parsley, to garnish

Soak the dried mushrooms in 1 cup of boiling water for half an hour. Strain, reserving the soaking liquid. Chop the soaked mushrooms into small pieces and set aside.

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft.

Add the button mushrooms, turn up the heat a little, and sauté until browned. Add the chopped wild mushrooms, ¾ cup of the reserved soaking liquid and the Madeira or Sherry. Simmer for a little while, until mixture reduces slightly. Add the cream, salt and pepper. Stir and simmer gently until gnocchi is ready.

Meanwhile, cook gnocchi according to package directions in plenty of boiling salted water. Place a large pan over medium high heat and coat with a little olive oil. Gnocchi float to the surface when they’re ready. As they reach the surface, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place them in the hot pan. Stir to crisp up the edges.

Tip gnocchi onto a serving platter, top with mushroom sauce and garnish with parsley and parmesan cheese.