Vegan bitterballen with mushroom filling

(Nederlandstalige versie)

Vegan bitterballen

The 17th topic for this year’s Vegan Month of Food is traditional local dishes! This seems like the perfect occasion to post my vegan recipe for Dutch bitterballen. These crispy fried snacks are usually filled with a thick meat-based sauce, and you’ll often see them served as snacks alongside a drink (hence the name: they’re balls that you serve with bitters).

If you’ve never had a bitterbal before, here’s what they look like on the inside:

Vegan bitterballen

Standard recipes for bitterballen (I’ve used this one as a reference) are actually surprisingly easy to veganise. I make my roux with oil instead of butter, I use cornstarch slurry instead of eggs in the breading, and I fill my ballen with mushrooms instead of meat. I’m sure this recipe would also work with seitan, TVP, or certain vegetables, but I like the mushroom version so much that I haven’t gotten to other variations yet.

I’ve got a full recipe at the end of this post, but it may look more complicated than it is, so I’ll talk you through it first.

Chopped mushrooms, garlic, dried thyme, fresh parsley

Start by chopping the mushrooms. The pieces should be relatively small so the filling is easy to roll into balls and the mushrooms won’t try to poke through the breading.

Homemade bitterballen: sautéed mushrooms and roux

Fry the mushrooms with garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Adding a splash of white wine and letting it evaporate near the end of the cooking time would probably make these even more delicious, but I haven’t had the chance to try that yet.

When the mushrooms are nicely browned, transfer them to a bowl, and use the same pan to make a roux: melt the oil, stir in the flour, and let them cook until bubbly. Mix in the vegetable stock.

Homemade bitterballen: mushroom filling

Once the sauce is smooth and glossy, mix in the mushrooms, parsley, and nutmeg.

Homemade bitterballen: mushroom filling

Now you have your filling! Chill the mixture before you shape it into balls. You can speed up the cooling process by spreading the sauce out over a baking sheet lined with baking paper.

When the mixture has cooled completely, you can start shaping and breading the bitterballen. Take three shallow bowls (I used small bowls in some of the photos, but bigger ones are better if you don’t want to make a complete mess) and fill them with flour, breadcrumbs, and a cornflour/cornstarch slurry.

Homemade bitterballen

Take a tablespoon-sized portion of the filling, coat it in flour, and roll it into a ball.

Homemade bitterballen: slurry and breadcrumbs

Submerge the ball in the slurry and cover it in breadcrumbs. Do this twice to ensure a good, sturdy crust. Repeat these steps until you run out of filling; then you can freeze the balls to fry them later.

Here’s a quick (and rather messy) video of the breading steps:

I’ve found the filling to be really easy to work with when I’ve made it with coconut oil or margarine. When I used sunflower oil, however, the roux would soften and I’d end up with flat-bottomed ballen. That’s why I started storing them in this ice cube tray I bought at the market for €1:

Ice cube moulds (that also work for bitterballen!)

It keeps the bottoms of the bitterballen round and it also makes sure that they don’t stick together in the freezer. I imagine a cake pop mould would work as well. You don’t really need one, though — my ice cube tray only holds 13 ballen so I put the rest in a regular container and they’re fine, especially when I make the recipe with a solid fat.

Now, on to the recipe! Wait, just a few more notes:
– The worst thing a bitterbal can do, in my opinion, is to burst open and leak filling into your deep fryer. I haven’t had that happen with this recipe, as long as I 1. freeze the balls first so they’re firm when I go to fry them; 2. apply a double layer of breading; and 3. chop the mushrooms small enough that they don’t poke through.
– As I said, the filling is much easier to work with if you use fat that solidifies as it cools, like coconut oil or margarine. I’ve also made these with sunflower oil, though, and they were delicious, just a bit harder to shape.
– Deep frying is really the best way to cook these. I’ve also had good results cooking them in a frying pan (more tips at the end of the recipe). I’ve tried baking them too, but the results weren’t pretty.

Vegan bitterballen with mushroom filling (makes 26)
Adapted from the Van Dobben recipe

Ingredients

For the mushrooms:
1 tablespoon oil
400 g white mushrooms, chopped into cubes no larger than 1 cm (1/2 inch) (about 5 cups after chopping)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
a pinch of salt
a pinch of black pepper

For the filling:
4 tablespoons oil (preferably coconut oil) or margarine
60 g (1/2 cup) plain flour
500 ml (2 generous cups) salted vegetable stock
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
a pinch of nutmeg

For the breading:
120 g (1 cup) plain flour
120 g (1 cup) breadcrumbs
50 g (6 tablespoons) cornflour (cornstarch) or chickpea flour
180 ml (3/4 cup) water

Oil for frying
Mustard for serving

Instructions

1. Over medium heat, preheat a wok or frying pan with the 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the mushrooms and fry them for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper, and continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are lightly browned — 10-15 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and put the pan back on the heat.

2. Turn the heat down to low. Add the 4 tablespoons of oil or margarine to the pan, let them melt, then stir in the flour a tablespoon at a time to make a roux. Let the roux bubble for a few minutes, then gradually add in the vegetable stock. It may be lumpy at first, but keep stirring until you have a smooth and glossy sauce — 5 minutes or so.

3. Take the pan off the heat and mix in the mushrooms, parsley, and nutmeg into the roux. Taste for salt and pepper. Now let the mixture cool completely: either transfer it to a sealed container to refrigerate for later, or spread it out on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to the fridge to chill for at least an hour.

4. Once the filling has chilled completely, set out your breading ingredients. Take three shallow bowls. Place the flour and breadcrumbs in two separate bowls, then mix together the cornstarch and water in the third. You may want to start with a smaller amount of flour and breadcrumbs and add more as needed. Get a flat container ready (or a mould with round indentations) for your finished ballen.

5. Now it’s time to shape the bitterballen! Use two spoons to scoop up a tablespoon-sized blob of the filling and drop it into the bowl of flour. Dust it with flour, then use your hands to shape it into a ball. Submerge the ball in the cornstarch slurry and transfer it to the breadcrumbs, using a spoon to coat it completely. Cover it in cornstarch slurry once more, then give it a final coating of breadcrumbs. Place it in the container or in the ice cube tray while you prepare the rest of the ballen.

7. Repeat step 5 until you’ve used up all the filling: flour, cornflour slurry, breadcrumbs, slurry, breadcrumbs. Freeze the bitterballen until solid — at least a few hours. If you don’t want to cook them all right away, store them in a sealed container in the freezer.

8. To fry the bitterballen in a deep-fryer, heat the oil to 180°C (350°F). Add them to the oil a few at a time (depending on the size of your fryer), and fry them for 6-10 minutes, or until they’re nicely browned and hot all the way through to the middle. You definitely don’t want them to have frozen centres, so take one out and cut it in half if you want to make sure.

If you don’t want to deep-fry, I’ve actually had pretty good results cooking these in a frying pan as well. You probably won’t be able to keep them perfectly spherical, but you can still get them nice and crispy. Use a good layer of oil, add a few bitterballen and tilt the pan to coat them in the oil, then turn them often enough to get the outside nice and browned. I like to cover the pan with a lid to make sure the insides thaw completely, but make sure you finish cooking them uncovered to ensure maximum crispiness.

If you know in advance that you’re going to cook them in a frying pan, though, I actually recommend making burger shapes instead of balls:

Bitterballen, burgers, kroketten

The flat patties are easier to cook all the way through and easier to manage with a spatula. I’ve also used this recipe to make kroketten (the sausage-shaped versions pictured above), but I’ve found that to be the hardest shape to work with, so I wouldn’t recommend those if you’re making the filling with a liquid oil.

Links of the day

Long post, I know, but I have to tell you about a few dishes from other parts of the world that MoFo bloggers have veganised! I loved this Bakewell tart from Derbyshire by Emma from Walks, Talks and Eats; this Bavarian plum cake by Sonja from Tartes and Recreation, and these Chicago-style deep dish pizzas by Kelly from Seitan Beats your Meat.

Vegan bitterballen

Curry soup with lentils and rice

(Nederlandstalige versie)

Curry soup

I’ve been making this soup a lot lately while trying to get used to the cold weather: it uses ingredients I usually have on hand, so I don’t have to go out into the rain to get groceries, and it requires very little chopping and preparing so I can just get everything into the pot and go hide under a blanket near the heater while it cooks. The recipe is pretty budget-friendly (I sometimes leave out the coconut milk, though if you have it definitely put it in!) and you can add extra vegetables if you like. I’ve made it with cauliflower, chickpeas, kale, potatoes—but the basic version is still my favourite.

This is a slightly modified version of a recipe from my Mum’s recipe binder (she also makes it a lot). The original is on a magazine clipping with no other information so unfortunately I can’t tell you who wrote it. Whoever came up with it: thank you! :)

Curry soup with lentils and rice

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 red chillies, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 1/2 litres (about 6 cups) vegetable stock
150 grams (3/4 cup) brown rice
150 grams (3/4 cup) red lentils
200 ml (3/4 cup) coconut milk
toasted sliced almonds and fresh coriander/cilantro (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté them until they’re translucent (about ten minutes).

2. Stir the red chilli and the curry powder into the onions and sauté for another minute. Add the vegetable stock and the rice. Rinse the red lentils in a sieve under cold water and add them to the pot as well. Cover the pot and turn the heat up to high until the stock comes to the boil, then turn down the heat and let the soup simmer until the rice is cooked and the lentils have fallen apart (about 40 minutes).

3. Mix the coconut milk into the soup and serve it with fresh coriander, almonds and/or bread.

Chickpea flour dumplings with yellow peppers in tomato sauce

(Nederlandstalige versie)

Chickpea flour dumplings with yellow peppers in tomato sauce

I first made this stew after I kept seeing blog posts about shakshuka, which is a dish of eggs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. I’ve never actually had shakshuka but I tried to imagine a vegan version, and whenever I think egg replacement I think chickpea flour. Of course these dumplings are nothing like eggs — and you definitely wouldn’t want to undercook them to dip your toast in the middle — but I liked this stew so much that I decided to share the recipe anyway. I’ll have to look for vegan shakshuka elsewhere (Terry Hope Romero has a recipe I’d love to try!).

I’ve made several versions of the sauce (some with just onions and peppers and another with quartered cherry tomatoes added in), so if you’re not an aubergine/eggplant fan you can just leave it out. If you’re like me and spicy food makes you cry, don’t be a hero; just take the seeds out of the chillies. Maybe we’ll get there someday.

I’ve written the recipe the way I prepare it, which is by adding the vegetables to the pan as I’m chopping them, but if you like mise en place of course you can chop everything in advance. I think it makes for a good one-pot meal on its own, but I definitely wouldn’t say no to some fresh bread on the side.

Chickpea flour dumplings with yellow peppers and aubergine in tomato sauce

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, quartered and sliced
1 medium aubergine/eggplant (or a handful of smaller ones), quartered and sliced 1/2 cm (1/5 inch) thick
3-4 yellow bell peppers, in 2-cm (1-inch) pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 red chillies, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika (smoked paprika is great, sweet paprika is cheap; I use a mix of both)
500 g (about 2 cups) passata (smooth tomato sauce)
Fresh coriander/cilantro and/or parsley (optional)

For the dumplings:
100 grams (about 3/4 cup, packed) chickpea flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
about 75 ml (5 tablespoons) water

1. Place a large frying pan or sauté pan over low to medium heat and add in the olive oil. Quarter and slice the onion and add it to the pan. Keep stirring occasionally as you add the other vegetables.

2. Depending on the size of your aubergine, halve or quarter it and cut it into 1/2-cm (1/5-inch) slices. Add it to pan with the onion. Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers, roughly chop them, and mix them into the onions en aubergine. Mince the garlic and thinly slice the chilli (removing the seeds if you want to), then add both of those to the pan as well.

3. Add the cumin, paprika, and tomato passata to the frying pan, stir to coat the vegetables, turn the heat up, and cover the pan to bring it to a simmer while you make the dumpling batter.

4. To make the dumplings, mix together the chickpea flour, salt, baking powder, and oregano in a small mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and mix in the water a little at a time, starting with a few tablespoons and mixing until smooth — I find that this helps to prevent lumps. The batter should be thick but quite smooth.

5. Once the sauce in the frying pan has come to the boil, turn the heat down to low and add in the dumplings by dropping teaspoon-sized blobs of the batter all over the sauce. Put the lid back on the pan and let it simmer until the vegetables are soft and the dumplings are cooked; I’ve found this can take 10-20 minutes depending on the tightness of the lid. When you press on a dumpling with your finger, the surface should spring back; if it just forms an indentation, you should let it cook for a bit longer.

6. Ladle the sauce and dumplings into bowls, sprinkle it with fresh herbs (if using) and serve it on its own or with bread.

Chickpea flour dumplings with yellow peppers in tomato sauce

Quinoa salad with za’atar tofu and aubergine

(Nederlandstalige versie)

Quinoa salad

I’ve finally found beautiful cheap pomegranates at the market again! I’d wanted to make a quinoa salad with pomegranate and za’atar for a while, and I was reminded of that by this quick and delicious-looking za’atar lentil salad that Martine from Vegetus posted last week. The salad pictured above takes a bit more time to make, but it does make a big bowl that lasts for days.

I’m trying to post more recipes this month because they’re a more effective way of explaining how I made something than just posting a long description, but it does bring challenges of its own. If I’m going to post a recipe, I kind of want to tell you about all the variations you could make in case you don’t like certain ingredients or if you’re short on time or don’t want to create too many dirty dishes – but too many sidenotes just make a dish seem unnecessarily complicated. I’ve made an attempt at a concise recipe below but you know, make whatever changes you want — salads are hard to mess up.

I didn’t add the onion until after I’d taken the photo but it was a real improvement, so I did include it in the recipe. I used a lot of coriander and parsley leaves because I needed to use them up, but I think rocket/arugula would be really good as well. In that case, you can definitely add more than a cup.

Quinoa salad with za’atar tofu and aubergine

Ingredients:

1 cup dry quinoa (or 3 cups cooked)
2 cups water

1 450 g (1 pound) block tofu
olive oil for pan-frying
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons za’atar (or 2 teaspoons sumac, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon thyme and 1 teaspoon oregano)
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 aubergine/eggplant (or 2-3 smaller ones), in 1/2-cm (1/4-inch) slices
olive oil for pan-frying
a pinch of salt
smoked paprika (optional)

1 cup herbs and/or rocket/arugula and/or other greens (I used parsley and coriander leaves)
1 cup pomegranate arils (that’s about one pomegranate)
1 red onion, halved and sliced
salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice for the dressing

1. First, prepare the quinoa. Rinse it in a sieve under cold water. Drain well, and place the quinoa and the 2 cups water in a pot with a lid. Bring the water to the boil. turn down the heat, and let the quinoa cook for about 15 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Take the pot off the heat and let the quinoa rest for a few minutes with the lid on. Then give it a stir and leave it to cool.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the tofu. I’m a big fan of this method from Olives for Dinner. First slice the block of tofu in half lengthwise and then cut each slice into six rectangles — they should be just the right size to fit into a frying pan. Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of olive oil and add the tofu. Cover the pan with a lid, and place over medium-high heat. The tofu will start to sizzle and sputter and that’s supposed to happen! Let it cook until the bottoms are nicely browned (depending on your preference; check after a few minutes), flip the pieces, and put the lid back on. Repeat these steps until at least some of the sides are crispy and bronwed.

3. If you have enough pans (if you don’t, skip to the next paragraph), you can fry the aubergine/eggplant at the same time. I used a grill pan, but a regular frying pan works too. Heat a bit of olive oil in the pan and fry the slices on both sides with a pinch of salt. If you want to make sure that the slices are soft, add a splash of white wine or water near the end of the cooking time to steam the slices a little. Once all the slices are cooked, you can add them back to the pan and sprinkle them with a few pinches of smoked paprika, then stir to coat.

I recently learned (also from Martine’s site!) that you can cook aubergines in the microwave as well: place the slices in a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, cover the bowl and steam them for about 7 minutes on high power.

Leave the cooked slices of aubergine to cool a little before adding them to the salad.

4. The tofu should be ready by now. (I know, this is kind of a lot of work for a salad, but we’re almost there.) Sprinkle the pieces with the lemon juice, take the pan off the heat, and add the za’atar and salt as well. Stir to coat the tofu, but don’t worry if not everything sticks; you can just mix it into the salad. If you don’t mind eating the salad with a fork and knife, you can leave the tofu pieces as is; you can also slice them into smaller pieces like I did.

5. Finally, take a big bowl and mix everything together: the quinoa, the tofu, the aubergine, the herbs/rocket/other leaves, the pomegranate arils, and the onion. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste and store in a covered bowl in the refrigerator.

Chickpea flour pancakes with cumin and fresh coriander

(Nederlandstalige versie)

Chickpea flour pancakes

Chickpea flour is one of my favourite ingredients because it’s so convenient for quick, filling meals that don’t require many other ingredients. A while back, one of my favourite simple one-serving meals was a kind of mini quiche made from chickpea batter with herbs and cubed vegetables. I made this a couple times a week, until one time I took the batter out of the oven too early so the inside was still undercooked. After one bite of raw chickpea flour I was done with those quiches for a while. I don’t know how something so delicious can taste so vile with only a few minutes’ difference in cooking time. Anyway, since then I’ve switched to thinner pancakes for a while. There’s definitely no raw chickpea flavour in these!

I like to have these pancakes for lunch (the ones in the picture are rolled up with hummus and carrot spread) but they also make a good side dish with a curry. They taste best fresh from the pan when the edges are still crispy, but you can also eat them cold or briefly reheat them in a frying pan.

Chickpea flour pancakes with cumin and fresh coriander (makes 6 pancakes)

1 tablespoon olive oil (plus more to cook the pancakes, if needed)
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 cup chickpea flour
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup water
¼ cup finely chopped fresh coriander/cilantro

Toast the cumin seeds in the olive oil in a (preferably non-stick) frying pan over low heat until the seeds become fragrant and slightly darker in colour. This step brings out the cumin flavour while also ensuring that the pan is hot enough by the time you start cooking the pancakes. Meanwhile, make the batter (but keep an eye on the cumin so that it doesn’t burn take the pan off the heat in time).

In a bowl or large measuring cup, mix together the chickpea flour, salt, and turmeric. Add the water, a little at a time, and stir to form a smooth batter. The cumin seeds should be ready by now; pour them into the batter along with the oil and stir to combine. Finally, stir in the fresh coriander/cilantro.

Make sure the frying pan is coated with a thin layer of olive oil — add a little extra if necessary — and return the pan to medium heat. Scoop about ¼ cup of batter into the middle of the frying pan and tilt the pan to spread it out. Wait until the pancake is completely dry on top and you can easily slide a spatula underneath (1-2 minutes), then flip it. Cook the pancake for at least another minute on the other side (longer if you want crispy pancakes) and repeat this for the rest of the batter. Add extra olive oil to the pan inbetween pancakes if necessary (I like to use a spray bottle).

Roasted carrot spread

Here I was thinking I was making up my own spread recipe until I went to write down the ingredients and realised I had almost exactly made the Curried Carrot Dip from Veganomicon but with roasted carrots instead of boiled ones. In case you’re still curious, this was my version:

Preheat the oven to 200 °C (400 °F). Place three sliced carrots (about 230 g), one thickly sliced red onion, and three unpeeled cloves of garlic in an oven dish and mix with olive oil, curry powder, and salt. Cover the dish with aluminium foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the vegetables with a large handful (about 1/4 cup?) of sunflower seeds. Return the dish to the oven for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and the sunflower seeds are slightly toasted.

Let everything cool for a bit, remove the skins from the garlic, add a tablespoon of lemon juice and puree everything in a food processor or blender to form a spread that’s more or less smooth. Add salt, pepper, and/or lemon juice to taste.

Dornish chickpea scramble with red chillies

(Nederlandstalige versie)

Yesterday I posted about a specific meal from the world of Game of Thrones. The dish below isn’t mentioned in the books, but this is what I imagine a vegan breakfast in Dorne would look like. Fiery dragon peppers are a typically Dornish ingredient and they’re mentioned a few times in the description of egg dishes. I think they’d work just as well with chickpeas. This dish is supposed to be very spicy, so choose the hottest pepper you can handle! (In my case, that was still a pretty mild one.)

The recipe is really a combination of the tofu scramble from Isa’s Vegan Brunch and the chickpea scramble from Isa Does It. I love the flavours from the former, but I can see how tofu would be hard to come by in Dorne, so chickpeas seemed like a better choice. (Although I also don’t know where in Westeros you’d find nutritional yeast, but shh.)

Dornish chickpea scramble

Dornish scrambled chickpeas with red chillies

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 red chilli (or pepper of your choice) seeded or not seeded (depending on your preference) and thinly sliced
1 cup chickpeas
1 clove garlic
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½-1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
fresh coriander/cilantro (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes. Stir in the red chilli.

2. Meanwhile, mash the chickpeas with a fork until they are mostly broken up but with a few larger pieces here and there (you can also mash them once you’ve added them to the pan). Add the chickpeas, garlic, and salt to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or so, until the chickpeas start to brown; stir occasionally.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the lemon juice and cumin and stir them into the chickpeas. Heat everything through, adding a spoonful of water if it looks too dry.

4. Turn off the heat and stir in the nutritional yeast. Garnish with fresh coriander, if you like, and serve with flatbread for a Dornish breakfast.

Carrot gnocchi with fennel en papillote

(Nederlandstalige versie)

I kept seeing people on cooking shows preparing dishes en papillote and it looked pretty and I wanted to try it too. I think this technique is mostly used for fish (maybe it would work well on seitan?) but I decided to use it for fennel, one of my favourite vegetables.

I also cooked up a pot of gnocchi again because I love making them, even though mine always turn into irregular lumps rather than pretty pillows (at least this way they’re quicker to make). (And look, it’s a post with an actual recipe! I thought I’d try that for a change).

Carrot gnocchi with fennel and toasted almonds

Carrot gnocchi with fennel en papillote and toasted almonds (serves 2)

For the gnocchi:
300 g carrots (three large ones), in 1-cm (1/2-inch) slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
120 g (1 cup) plain flour (more or less; use only as much as needed)

For the fennel:
1 fennel bulb
a few shallots (depending on their size) or a red onion, quartered or sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the almonds:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped almonds (or sliced almonds if you have them)
a pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 200 °C (400 °F).

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the carrots and boil them for about 10 minutes. Scoop the carrots out of the pot but leave the water; you can use it to boil the gnocchi later. Drain the carrots well and leave them to cool for a bit.

3. Meanwhile, prep the rest of the vegetables. Remove the root of the fennel bulb and separate the leaves. Rinse them to get rid of any dirt and remove any dark or wilted parts, but reserve the little green fronds. Slice the fennel 1-2 cm (1/2-1 inch) thick and mince the fronds.

4. Place a large piece of aluminium foil or parchment paper on a baking sheet (I preferred foil; see the note below). Place the fennel and fennel fronds on the baking sheet along with the shallots, dill, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix everything together with your hands, fold the foil or baking paper over the vegetables and seal the edges of the parcel so no steam can escape (see the link at the bottom of this post for a video). Put the baking sheet in the oven for 20-30 minutes (depending on how soft you like your vegetables).

5. Puree the carrot, which will mostly have cooled down by now, with the olive oil and salt using a blender or food processor (a stick blender works fine as long as the carrot is soft). Start incorporating the flour: stir it into the carrot puree a few tablespoons at a time until the dough becomes too stiff to stir. Dust your work surface with flour and knead the dough a few times but add as little flour as possible. Divide the dough into four parts and roll each piece into a 30-cm (12-inch) rope. Cut the ropes into rectangular chunks to form the gnocchi. I like to put the finished gnocchi on a clean tea towel so they don’t stick to the work surface and I can easily lift them to transfer them to the pot.

6. Bring the pot of water that you used to cook the carrots to the boil again. Add the gnocchi, cover the pot with a lid, and let the gnocchi cook gently until they float to the surface — a few minutes. Remove the gnocchi (I scoop them from the pan using a sieve because they can be very delicate) and let them drain well.

7. While the gnocchi are cooking, heat the olive oil and chopped almonds in a large frying pan over medium heat until the almonds are lightly browned. Sprinkle them with the pinch of salt, scoop them from the pan, and set them aside for now. Now add the drained carrot gnocchi to the pan and pan-fry them in the olive oil for a few minutes until some of the edges are golden brown, stirring every now and then.

8. By now the fennel should be ready as well. Remove the parcel from the oven and add the contents to the pan of gnocchi along with the toasted almonds. Stir everything together, divide between two bowls and serve immediately.

Fennel

A note about sealing the vegetables in the parcel: this video demonstrates how to seal the parchment paper so no steam can escape. Unfortunately my piece of paper was too small and my fennel bulb was too big, so I couldn’t seal the parcel with having it tear. If the same happens to you or you’d like to prevent it from happening, you can add an extra layer of aluminium foil (or just use foil to begin with) — as long as the parcel is sealed well.

Carrot gnocchi