Gnocchi, Girolles and Barra Cockles by Roy Brett of Ondine

The joy of being a chef is that you’re never finished learning. Every time I eat in a restaurant and every time I travel to another country, it makes me looks at ingredients and dishes in a new light. I first came across this combination on a journey of discovery in Sicily. I recall the wonderful texture of the soft pillows of gnocchi coated with the salty mineral broth from the cooking juices of the cockles. It’s such a simple and elegant dish that lets the flavours of the ingredients shine through.

This is a great example of recipes that use the best ingredients and techniques from two different countries. The traditional Italian gnocchi works so well with Scottish seafood that it’s a match made in culinary heaven. We’re surrounded by such fantastic produce in Scotland, whether it’s from the sea or the land and it’s important we always make the most of local ingredients and savour them.

The gnocchi dish has stuck in my memory and this recipe is the version we now make at Ondine. By adding the girolles and making a mariniere style sauce, it’s our take on this classic dish. The fresh parsley and grated walnut lifts the dish to a point of true satisfaction. For me, it’s a reminder of the joy of cooking and poignancy of simplicity when creating a dish.

Remember that gnocchi is a labour of love. The time and patience put into the dish will be worth it and the results warrant the effort. It’s important to work with a dry potato mix. My top tip is to work with small batches of the dough. Keep the dough that you’re not using covered so that a skin can’t form. It can take a little time to get used to the technique but once you do, you’ll never buy gnocchi again!

You can buy cockles from your local fishmongers. Whenever you cook them, it’s really important to make sure you wash the cockles well in cold running water with a generous pinch of salt. This will allow any excess sand to be released. It’s worth taking a bit of time on this step, as you don’t want any sand to ruin the eating experience.

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Serves 12


For the gnocchi:

1kg Maris Piper potatoes, baked, peeled and finely mashed or put through a potato ricer

320g 00 flour or strong flour

2 eggs, whisked

Salt and pepper to season

For the cockles:

1tbsp olive oil

500g cockles

200g girolles

2 sprigs of thyme

1 shallot, finely diced

6 garlic cloves, finely diced

1 glass of white wine

100ml fish stock

2tbsp unsalted butter

Small bunch parsley, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to season

To serve:

Small bunch parsley, finely chopped

20g walnuts


1. First, make the gnocchi. Mix the flour, eggs and potatoes together in a bowl. Season well at this point then work it together to make the dough. Roll into thin sausage shapes and then cut evenly into little pillows. You can make these whatever size you like but I usefully go for roughly 2.5cm wide and 2cm long.

2. Next, prepare the sauce. Heat a thick-bottomed pan to a moderate heat and add a good splash of olive oil and allow to warm through before adding the thyme, shallots and garlic. Cook for a few minutes to soft but without colouring.

3. Now, cook the gnocchi. Bring a medium sized pan of water to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and add the gnocchi. The dumplings will naturally float to the top when they are ready. Once cooked, remove from the water and set aside.

4. Add the girolles to the sauce and cook for a minute before adding the cockles. After 2 to 3 minutes add the white wine and the fish stock. Cover with a tight lid for a further 5 minutes or until all the cockles have opened. Add the diced butter and parsley to enrich the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

5. At this point add the cooked gnocchi to the pan. The cooking liquor will coat the dumplings perfectly.

6. To serve, sprinkle over the parsley and check the seasoning. Finally, grate over the walnuts and serve immediately.