Don’t bin those beetroot tops. Cook them instead

Gnocchi are comforting little pillows of joy, and brilliant carriers of flavour. A little garlic and herbs is all it takes to turn them into an irresistible meal. They are quite time-consuming to make from scratch, which is why they’re seen as something of a labour of love, but if you have cooked potatoes left over, they become more time-efficient and lift leftovers to a whole new level. Whole, skin-on steamed or baked potatoes work best, but even leftover mash will work, so long as it’s not too wet.

Beetroot leaves and stems have become a regular vegetable in my kitchen. I usually remove and cook them the day I buy them, be that simply sauteed with garlic or in this slightly more elaborate dish.

Spelt gnocchi with beetroot leaves and walnuts
Gnocchi are one of the stodgiest and most decadent of all comfort foods, which makes them ideal for the colder months of the year. In this recipe, a garnish of finely grated walnuts takes the place of cheese and adds further depth of flavour. It’s best to steam or bake potatoes with their skins on when making gnocchi, because they take on less water than when they are peeled and boiled. That said, this dish will work with any leftover potatoes so long as they aren’t too wet – they may just need a touch more flour to bind, though.

Gnocchi are a blank canvas that carries all kinds of flavours well. Other than beetroot leaves, consider dressing your gnocchi with other leftovers. For example, reboil any cruciferous vegetable, chopped up, in a little water until very soft, then add the gnocchi and drain once cooked. Stir through some crumbled feta (or nutritional yeast), chilli flakes and a squeeze of lemon, season and serve.

200g mashed potatoes per person
50g flour per person (ideally wholemeal spelt flour), plus extra for dusting
Sea salt and black pepper
Nutmeg, freshly grated, to taste
100g beetroot leaves per person, including the stalks (or use chard instead)
1 small clove garlic, peeled, bashed with the flat of a knife, but left intact
1 sprig rosemary
1 splash white wine, optional
Juice and zest from 1 unwaxed lemon, or to taste
2 walnuts per person

Mix the potatoes with the spelt flour, season with sea salt and nutmeg to taste, and knead into a ball; if the mix feels a bit wet, add a touch more flour. Break the ball into manageable pieces, then, on a lightly floured surface, roll into long, 2cm-thick sausages. Cut into 3cm lengths, dusting with more flour as necessary.

Gently cook the chopped beetroot leaves in a pan with the garlic, rosemary and a splash of white wine or water, cover and leave to cook on a low heat for about five minutes, until soft and wilted.

Shake any excess flour off the gnocchi, then gently stir them into the vegetable pan. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the gnocchi, cover again and cook on a low heat for five minutes, gently turning the gnocchi occasionally and taking care not to break them up , until the gnocchi are cooked through. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and lemon juice and zest, to taste, and serve hot with a generous grating of walnut.