I love … LOVE soba noodles! This week, I want to show you two quick dishes making your autumn full of flavour and nutrition.
These traditional Japanese noodles have been a family favourite for as long as I can remember and what we like to call a super food. My love of soba began with the picturesque views of mount Fuji in my hometown of Yamanashi, looking out over the farms where soba buckwheat is harvested. Scenic Yamanashi is also known for its rich food provided by the variety of wild vegetables and animals. There are also vast fruit farms in which you can experience a fun filled day of fruit picking peaches, grapes and cherries.
During recent years I have been working with the owner of a renowned local reastaurant; Sekizawa-san, whenever I visit home. Mr. Sekizawa is a soba noodle master chef, surely one of the best at it and I had the pleasure of training with him. Making only 30 portions a day due to the lengthy process of hand-making the 100% gluten free noodles. He believes that his customers should eat only fresh ingredients to the finest quality. When in Yamanashi which I recommend you to put on your ‘to-do’ list, you will recognize each restaurant produces fresh soba noodles everyday. Wait! You might be thinking your packet of soba noodles has about 20-30% of gluten; this is because commercial producers do not have as much time as Mr. Sekizawa. They freely add wheat to make the kneading process simpler and quicker.
Not only are soba noodles delicious with their smooth earthy taste, they are also very nutritious. I’m always looking for ingredients that have both of these qualities, to cook with. They also contain high amounts of fibre and antioxidants with the added bonus of lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure. It’s an all round crowd pleaser! If you ever get round to that ‘To-Do’ list, you will find that the noodles are served with the water they’re boiled in. This is traditionally called Sobayu. It has a milky colour which carries all of the remaining healthy goodness as it is high in protein. For those on a diet, it’s a great way to finish your meal. What I call a real SUPER food!
Tsukimi Soba noodle
This is my dish of the day and a regular each autumn, on the days when I want to be warmed from the inside. It is a hot soba noodle soup with an awase dashi (combined stock) of Kombu and katsuo dashi, which are a kelp and bonito fish stock. Lets warm our tums for autumn!
*All ingredients can be found in most supermarkets, or health food shops. I personally love the Clearspring brand.
Kombu Dashi (kelp stock)
1 piece of about 240mms ×50mms Kombu (dried kelp)
4 cups of water
Katsuo Dashi (bento fish stock)
A hand full Katsuobushi (dried bonito) flakes
700ml Awase stock (combined stock)
3tbs Soy sauce
A pinch of salt
4 bunches(300g) of Soba noodles
Small shreds of nori
Chopped spring onion or chives
Japanese seven spice powder “shichimi” Boiled Spinach or any green vegetables
To make the stock “ awase dashi”, wipe the Kombu with a clean cloth. (*The Kombu shouldn’t be washed.)
Put the water in a deep pot and soak the Kombu for about 30 minutes. If you are in a hurry or want to intensify the flavours use powdered kelp alongside it.
Heat it up slowly when the water comes to a boil, take out the Kombu and remove the stock from the heat. Then add the Katsuobushi flakes. Leave them to infuse for 3 minutes until the flakes sink to the bottom of the pan. Strain the stock through a paper towel.
Whilst the flavours are combining you can start to prepare your garnishes.
For the soup, use a big saucepan, add the awase dashi and bring to the boil. Then add sake, mirin soy sauce and salt and cook over a low heat for about 20 seconds.
To cook the soba noodles, put them in a pot of water to boil and cook for 4 minutes. Follow the instructions on the packet for exact times. While the soba noodles are cooking, add a cup of water to the pot 2 or 3 times. It improves the texture of the noodles. Then drain the noodles and rinse with cold water to stop them cooking further.
Add the noodles to the soup and bring to the boil.
Add your choice of garnish and enjoy!
Photo – Keiko Oikawa
The second dish and one you are going to have a lot of fun with, is a soba noodle sushi with Yuzu sauce. It is a dish, that I teach regularly in my Authentic Sushi classes, more details here: Authentic Sushi Classes . I will also be teaching these recipes at Soho House and High Road House, starting this Autumn; more details on House Seven. Do come along!
You might be thinking noodles in sushi is strange but taking into consideration the health benefits and how much you enjoyed the soup, why not give it a try! Once they are served they normally fly off the plate leaving everyone satisfied and happy. This is more of a lunchtime dish on the days you are feeling experimental and your wanting to impress with a new dish you’ve learnt. This is a vegetarian dish but if you would like to add any of your own fillings go ahead. So get stuck in!
Photo – Keiko Oikawa
Soba noodle sushi with Yuzu sauce
* Sushi mat is needed for the rolling (where the fun begins) cover in cling film for easy cleaning.
* Cold bowl of water for your hands.
Makes 4 rolls ~ Prep time? ~ Cooking time?
4 sticks of cucumber
4 sticks of red pepper
Small bunch of chives
8 slices of Avocado
120g soba noodles
4 half sheets of nori (seaweed)
2 parts soy sauce
½ part yuzu juice
Starting with the preparation of the fillings begin with the cucumber sticks, slice the ends off and cut it so that it is the same length as the nori sheets (roughly 20cm). Cut it lengthways into 4 and remove the seeds carefully with a spoon or knife. Cut the sticks lengthways into half again, so now you should have 8 sticks. Its only 4 sticks per recipe but if you want to make more just remember your quantities. The rest of the veg are just the way you would normally slice them.
Like in the noodle soup recipe, boil the noodles to the instructions of the packaging. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse under a cold running water. Drain and toss vegetable oil to prevent noodles from sticking. Pat down dry with tea or paper towel.
Now for the fun part! Place a nori sheet shiny side down, with the lines of the sheet lying horizontally across the mat. Keeping the top 4cm of the sheet clear and gradually place half of the noodles in a very thin layer, horizontally over the nori. Place all of your fillings in the middle of the noodles along the length of the nori (this is when you would add your other fillings) then start to roll holding tight to ensure it all sticks.
Cutting the sushi- remove the roll from the mat and place on a clean dry chopping board. Gently cut each roll into 4-5 pieces with a sharp wet knife. When you cut the sushi, slice it smoothly and quickly. I recommend cleaning the knife after every cut.
Now for the yuzu sauce, mix the soy sauce with the yuzu juice and now it’s your dipping sauce, simple!
I hope these two soba noodle dishes will fill you up and you enjoy their bursts of flavour!