Sunday, March 30, 2014

Autumn Warmers ... Creamy Gnocchi Bake with Aubergine, Pancetta and Cherry Tomatoes

This past week has really cooled down and I am truly grateful for the Autumn weather. I've written of my love for the change in seasons before and this time is no different. To witness the changes in the air, in nature and in our daily habits is remarkable.

Most mornings this March I have risen before the sun. My routine usually follows the same course during the working week: I slip into a robe and quietly float downstairs where Maxi cat watches me stir rice porridge on the stove for the next fifteen minutes.

This is our quiet time when the puppy sleeps soundly at the foot of the bed and Byron dreams deeply after having worked a long night shift.

Next I'll sit on a breakfast stool, spoon in hand as I hover over the warm cinnamon scented porridge. I usually read as Maxi purrs gently next to me, occasionally rubbing his soft head against me or reaching forward with an expectant paw for a little milk. I usually oblige by giving him a dollop of natural yoghurt or tablespoon of milk and it satisfies him enough to go and lay on cushion and watch me from under sleepy lids.

I'll shower and dress for work, twist and pin my hair, let Coco out on the grass, and kiss my husband's forehead before commencing the long drive to work through beautiful countryside.

In the evenings I walk with Coco along the beach. The autumn sea breezes are refreshing against my face and the sea water is still warm enough to splash about in, although a cardigan and scarf is necessary when the sun sets.

By the end of the working week I am exhausted and that, my dear friends is where this easy dish comes into it's own.

A warm, hearty dish to fill your tummy and relax you into the weekend. Byron and I decided this can be one of our go-to Autumn dishes for Fun Fridays, when we stir vegetables in a large pot and bake it for a quick, no-fuss delicious meal with our family.

This is our creamy gnocchi bake with eggplant and cheery tomatoes. It's more of a throw everything in and let it do it's thing kind of dish, rather than a precise recipe but the flavours are there and the more you play around with it, the better it gets. We use a large enamelled cast iron Chasseur cooking pot, which can be taken from stove top to oven in seconds and is ideal for this dish.

Creamy Gnocchi Bake
Serves 4

1/2 large or 1 medium eggplant
olive oil
5 rashers short cut bacon or 75g uncut pancetta
6-8 swiss brown mushrooms, quartered
dried oregano
1 medium brown onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
1/3 cup white wine
300mL cream
1 packet gluten free gnocchi
1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes
small handful fresh sweet basil
sea salt and cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Slice the eggplant into 1cm to half inch rounds. Fry with olive oil and a little sea salt over medium heat, turning once to brown evenly on both sides. Remove from heat just before cooked as they will continue to soften during baking.

We then fried rashers of bacon in the same pot before removing from the heat and roughly slicing. Alternatively, cut pieces of pancetta into cubes approximately 5mm thick (I like to cut mine into 5mm x 5mm x 20mm batons) and fry, turning occasionally until cooked. Remove from heat.

Next, brown the mushrooms with olive oil and dried oregano. When brown, add the onions and garlic and sweat with the wine until the onions have softened. Pour in the cream and uncooked gnocchi. Stir over low heat until the gnocchi begins to soften (about 10-15 minutes). Season with cracked pepper.

Return the eggplant and bacon or pancetta to the pot, add the cheery tomatoes and torn sweet basil and stir to combine.
Sprinkle with mozzarella and bake for 15-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and begins to turn golden. Serve hot.

The perfect dish for cooler weather and only one pot to wash at the end.

Some meals should be as fun, rustic and easy as this one is to prepare. It means you have more time to focus on your family and that's what Fun Fridays mean to us.

Instead of ordering a pizza or takeout, we used organic produce from the farmers market. We support local businesses and the kids can help prepare this comfort food.

You may wish to omit the wine and meat to create a tasty vegetarian, kid-friendly version of this dish, the choice is yours.

What delicious meals grace your dinner table during the cooler seasons?

Bella xx


  1. Such a beautiful post Bella, my stomach is doing flips looking at that delicious bake. I love this time of year because I can cook the type of food that I find easy and love to cook for my family. My crock pot gets dusted off. And I get to make huge stews loaded with vegetables. I will give this dish a go in the coming weeks, I'm starting to bookmark real soul food recipes and this looks perfect xo

  2. Oh I can't wait to hear what you come up with for your crock pot recipes! Isn't it inviting to come home to the aromas of a slow cooked stew?
    It's a fuss-free way to prepare a meal with love.
    Do you make your own stock?
    Bella xx

  3. I think this is probably too heavy for me, but my dad would devour it. Looks super creamy!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave your messages. I love reading your words and sharing snippets from our seaside life with you.

Love Bella xx


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