Thursday, 7 November 2013

Applewood Spreadable Challenge: Cheesy Pea, Leek and Pancetta Gnocchi Bake

The lovely people at Applewood Cheese invited 20 food bloggers, including myself, to take part in the #SpreadStirShare challenge – a fun initiative to come up with family-friendly recipes using their latest product – Applewood Spreadable. I was sent a lovely hamper filled with some gorgeous fresh produce, a sample of Applewood Spreadable and a bottle of Concha Y Toro Sunrise Merlot all of which certainly gave me some food for thought!

Applewood Cheese has been around since 1965, when it was developed in Ilchester; and is famed for its’ distinct, smoked flavour that’s finished with a sprinkling of paprika. Being a fan of smoky cheeses I was keen to try the Applewood Spreadable to see if this new variety had kept all of the qualities that make the original stand out. I was impressed with the strong smoky flavour that has remained in what really is a versatile product.

The challenge is entitled #SpreadStirShare to highlight the many ways in which Applewood Spreadable can be enjoyed and I’m happy to say that outside of the three recipes that I’ve created and will share over the following three posts, I have ideas for many more dishes in which Applewood Spreadable could work well.

My first recipe is a Cheesy Pea, Leek and Pancetta Gnocchi Bake that’s finished with a crushed walnut crumb to give a lovely nutty crust and added texture. Served with some salad this made a delicious, hearty meal for four.

Here’s how:

500g fresh gnocchi
100-150g fresh leeks, trimmed
2 cloves garlic
150g pancetta
75g fresh peas
2 tbsp crème fraiche
7-8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbsp crushed walnuts
10g grated Cheddar or Parmesan
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

Firstly chop the leeks finely and crush the garlic. Add the olive oil to a pan on a medium heat and gently sauté the leeks and garlic.

Dice the pancetta and add to the pan once the leeks have started to soften. Stir through and allow to cook for five minutes.

In the meantime cook the gnocchi in a pan of salted, boiling water – two minutes maximum as the gnocchi will be baked in the oven and otherwise they will become a mush if overcooked. Drain and set aside for a moment.

Add the fresh peas to the pan with the leeks and pancetta and allow to cook for another minute or so; and then stir through the crème fraiche and the Applewood Spreadable. Once the cheese has melted into the crème fraiche to make an even, silky sauce, remove from the heat and stir through the drained gnocchi, ensuring every little piece is evenly coated.

Season generously and then run your fingers through 3-4 sprigs of the thyme to extract the leaves and stir through then transfer to an oven-proof dish. (I used a dish suitable for both the hob and the oven to save on washing up!)

Either place the walnuts in a food bag and crush with a rolling pin or do the same with a pestle and mortar or a food processor and scatter over the top of the dish to make a crumb that will turn golden brown during cooking. Scatted over the 10g of grated hard cheese and finally place the remaining sprigs of thyme across the dish.

Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top has turned a glorious golden brown. Enjoy!

To find out more about Applewood Cheese, Applewood Spreadable and the #SpreadStirShare challenge as well as keeping up with the other recipes from some fabulous other bloggers check out the Applewood news blog:

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