Are you guys ready for some serious comfort food? I hope you are as I have a perfect recipe for you! It’s become a bit cold again around these parts and one or two runs in the freezing cold that I’ve forced myself to go on lately has inspired me to come up with this low on effort but high on comfort dish. Now I can come home, whack it in the oven while I’m in the shower and enjoy a well-deserved and super comforting meal to warm myself up with.
Typically, I would probably gravitate towards a tomato-based gnocchi dish as I love these sorts of flavours, but Duncan and cooked tomatoes do not get along so well sometimes and as a brand new owner of a cast iron skillet I am aware that they don’t like acidic foods very much either, as acid tends to strip off the coating of seasoning that makes these pans so good to cook on.
It’s taken me a long time, but I am finally a happy owner of a cast iron skillet, not because of the cost as they are famously inexpensive, but because I was worried about the required maintenance. It’s early days as I have only had this skillet for a couple of months, but I do love it. It’s especially great for dishes like this one where you can go from the stove straight into the oven without any issues (don’t worry if you don’t have one though, a baking dish will work great here too). I have forgotten not to use washing up liquid once or twice and oiling straight after drying is a bit of a nuisance but I am getting into a rhythm and so far, the pros outweigh the cons in my opinion and I have no regrets.
So this dish is super easy and fairly lazy. I made it with shop-bought gnocchi and the only other essential element here is the béchamel sauce which takes minutes to make. You can skip the broccoli and (or) mushrooms if you are not a fan, although I personally love mushrooms in this dish so I would recommend not to. And if you do, at least go to the trouble of sautéing some shallots and garlic to add into the dish as they contribute a lot of flavour and again, that doesn’t take much time. I like to top this dish with some kind of vegan cheese, some pine nuts and coarse breadcrumbs for extra comfort. It is a perfect weekend meal to have on the couch, in front of a film and with a glass of wine to go with it. I hope you’ll give it a go and enjoy it as much as we have!
- 2 large shallots
- 3 garlic cloves, divided
- 20-30 ml / 4-6 tsp olive oil
- 300 g / 10½ oz mushrooms (I used chestnut / cremini and a few oyster mushrooms), sliced
- 30 ml / 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tsp all purpose wheat or chickpea flour (for GF version)
- 450 ml / scant 2 cups almond milk (or any other neutral tasting plant milk)
- 2 tsp white / shiro miso paste*
- 2-3 tsp Dijon mustard, more to taste
- 1 heaped tbsp nutritional yeast
- approx. 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or rosemary leaves, chopped)
- approx. ¼ tsp black pepper (for the entire dish)
- approx. ¾-1 tsp salt flakes (for the entire dish)
- 20 ml / 1½ tbsp lemon juice, more to taste
- 500 g / 17½ oz shop-bought gnocchi** (gluten-free if needed)
- 150 g / 5¼ oz tenderstem or regular broccoli, chopped small (optional)
- 50 g / 1¾ oz vegan cheese, grated or homemade cashew cheese
- 2 tbsp coarse breadcrumbs (optional)
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- Dice shallots and two garlic cloves finely, grate or mince the third garlic clove and set aside for the bechamel.
- Heat up a cast iron skillet or a medium size pan on a low-medium heat. Add 2-3 tsp of olive oil and once the oil is warmed up, add shallots and diced garlic. Fry them off gently until fragrant and translucent, stirring often.
- Remove shallots and garlic from the skillet. Heat up another 2-3 tsp of oil in the skillet.
- Add the sliced mushrooms and fry them off gently, stirring frequently, until they are lightly browned and all the water has cooked out. Season the mushrooms with a generous amount of salt and pepper and some picked thyme leaves. Return shallots and garlic to the pan, mix well and set aside for later.
- Preheat the oven to 200° C / 390° F.
- Heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil in a medium size pot. Once the oil comes to temperature, whisk in flour. Allow the flour to cook off for a bit in the oil stirring with a wire whisk. The flour should bubble very gently and it will turn a little golden after a few seconds, but don’t allow it to brown too much. Add in almond milk slowly, whisking the whole time, to create a béchamel sauce.
- Season the sauce with a grated garlic clove, miso, mustard, nutritional yeast, thyme leaves, salt, pepper and a good squeeze of lemon to cut through the richness. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
- Transfer the sauce to the skillet you used earlier (if you don’t have a skillet you can use a baking dish instead), place raw gnocchi, cooked mushrooms, raw broccoli chopped small in the sauce. Top with grated vegan cheese (or puddles of homemade cashew one like I did), breadcrumbs, pine nuts and some more thyme leaves.
- Cover the skillet tightly with a piece of kitchen foil and allow it to bake uninterrupted for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, take the foil off and bake for a further 20-25 minutes until everything is beautifully browned. Divide between bowls and enjoy immediately.
**Be sure to check that your shop-bought gnocchi is vegan as some supermarket brands add milk. I have not tried making this dish with homemade gnocchi, but I believe that it will work just as well.