Potato Dumplings, Potted Brown Shrimp & Spinach
inspired by Townsend Restaurant
It turns out there are some benefits to going back to eating alone. With Aidan at work I am free to pick whatever I like. Without having to check it is also something he would like to eat. Don’t ask me why, but there is something almost luxurious about being able to choose a dish, cook it, and then eat the entirety of it all by yourself.
Something else that is still a luxury for me is time. As much as I’m picking up bits and bobs of work now, there’s still not enough to fill a normal working week.
So it’s an excellent thing that art galleries have reopened. Because as someone who has had spells of unemployment before (one of the many joys of being a freelancer) you quickly realise that an art gallery is your new best friend.
Often free to go into, you can spend as much time as you like there, and you feel like you are keeping yourself creatively occupied. It practically counts as work. Plus it gets your out the house and away from the horrors of daytime television.
Last week I went to the National Gallery. The first time in four months that I had stood in front of a painting. It was amazing. All those rooms of paintings I normally skip through, I lingered in. All those paintings I had seen before I felt like I was looking at them for the first time.
After such a positive experience I vowed to make it a weekly thing. A trip to a different gallery each week, to discover something new.
Which this week also meant I discovered a new restaurant to be inspired by as well.
Townsend Restaurant is a modern British dining room and cafe set within the Whitechapel Gallery. I hadn’t heard of the restaurant before, but I have sat and eaten in that dining room. When we started dating Aidan took me here, when Angela Hartnett was in charge of the kitchen.
Many chefs have cooked there over the years, but since the end of January it has been renamed (after the architect of the gallery) and run by Nick Gilkinson and Joe Fox.
They traded for only five weeks before the pandemic shut them down. Amazingly within a couple of days of closing they had a takeaway business up and running. Dishes, produce, wine and meal kits all delivered, not just to London, but to the whole of the UK.
Now they are open again but their online shop and delivery system is still up and running. So whether you fancy a trip to an art gallery, or would rather stay at home, there is an option for you.
I had a look at their menu after walking around the gallery and everything looked amazing. But one dish in particular caught my eye.
“Potato Dumplings, Potted Brown Shrimp and Coastal Herbs”
Yes, if I was eating here today, that is what I would order. Unfortunately I’m not great at eating alone in restaurants. I mean I can do it, but I don’t really enjoy it. Which sort of defeats the point.
So a visit to the restaurant will have to wait for another day. But I can try and cook this at home tonight for dinner.
A quick bit of Instagram research tells me this dish has been on the menu since they opened. I also discover that they sometimes make it with spinach which is excellent news.
Much easier to find than coastal herbs. In fact there’s some in my freezer.
Plus I’ve already got potatoes from Oddbox.
The only downside to my veg box is they don’t tell you what kind of potatoes you have. So looking at these they could be very large new potatoes, or slightly undersized regular potatoes.
It’s impossible for me to tell.
So I cross my fingers and hope that they are the right kind of potatoes to make dumplings with. Which is basically making gnocchi.
I’ve done this once before, following a video of Stefano, a chef from Bancone, to make Gnocchi in Sage Butter.
I can’t face scrolling back through my instagram feed to try and find the same video. So I’ve read a couple of recipes to refresh my memory and off I go.
I remember to boil the potatoes whole, in their skins. This takes about 20 minutes until mine are soft, but obviously this will totally depend on the size of your potato. Once cool enough to handle I peel away the skins and put them in a bowl.
Also I recall that Stefano said not to use a potato masher. You should use a fork to give a better texture for the dumplings. So that’s what I do. Season with salt and pepper, crack in an egg and mix it all together.
Most recipes seem to be flexible with the amount of flour you might need. It depends on the type and texture of your potato. Seeing as I have no idea what kind of potatoes I have, I just keep adding flour until the dough is sticky, but workable.
On a well floured surface I divide the dough into four, roll into long sausages and cut into dumplings.
I don’t bother trying to shape them on a fork to give them ridges. I was pretty useless at that before.
Plus technically I’m not making gnocchi this time, but potato dumplings. I don’t really think there’s a difference.
But maybe the difference should be that dumplings don’t have ridges.
Just to save me some work.
With the gnocchi ready for cooking I turn my attention to the shrimps and spinach.
Potting shrimps usually involve melting and clarifying butter, before adding spice (cayenne pepper, mace or nutmeg) and shrimps. Then you pour it all into ramekins and top with more butter before letting it set in the fridge.
I’m guessing in a restaurant service this means you would take some of the shrimps in butter and melt it to order to coat the dumplings.
However at home it seems a bit silly to melt butter, then chill butter, just to melt it again. So I simply melt some butter in a pan, add my frozen spinach and once that’s cooked add more butter, shrimps and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
At the same time the dumplings go into boiling salted water and once they float they are cooked. This literally takes two minutes.
Toss them in the butter and serve.
I may not know what type of potatoes I had, but I can tell you they made excellent dumplings. Soft and light, perfect with the shrimps and the butter sauce. The cayenne pepper gives it a really nice kick too.
If the rest of my dinners for one taste this good, I’m in for a treat.
I almost feel a little bit guilty that Aidan is missing out. Almost.
Potato Dumplings with Brown Shrimps and Spinach
- 3 medium potatoes
- 1 egg
- 100 g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
- 40 g brown shrimps
- 50 g frozen spinach (or a big handful of fresh)
- 25 g butter
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- First boil the potatoes in salted water until soft. Make sure to keep them whole with their skins still on. This should take about 20 minutes but will depend on the size of the potatoes.
- Take the potatoes out and leave them until they are just cool enough to handle. Peel away the skins, put them into a bowl and mash with a fork. Season with salt and pepper, crack in the egg and mix together throroughly.
- Now start adding your flour. You may not need it all, but keep adding until the potato mix comes together into a dough. It should feel a bit sticky but hold together. On a floured work surface divide the dough into four, roll into sausage shapes and cut into dumplings. Leave the dumplings on a plate dusted with flour until you are ready to cook.
- Add a small amount of butter to a frying pan and add the frozen spinach. Boil water ready for the dumplings.
- Once the spinach is cooked add the rest of the butter and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Put the dumplings in the water. Once they are cooked they should float. Add the prawns to the butter sauce and then add the cooked dumplings. Toss it all together and seve immediately.