Cold Spiced Soba and Cucumber Noodles

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When it’s hot I like nothing more than a bowl of spiced cold noodles. If you have only ever eaten them hot before you are going to have to trust me when I say that cold noodles are seriously good. The whole meal takes 10 minutes max to prepare, which is even better when the sun is shining and you don’t really fancy spending too long over the stove.
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The crunch of the cucumber noodles and nuts (from the crunchy peanut butter) really compliment this dish. I decided to use dragons back chillies which you can purchase from World of Zing here. The chilli gave the dish a kick without being too overpowering. The spring onion and garlic also adds other wonderful flavours running through this dish. The star of the sauce in my mind is chinkiang vinegar, which is also known as Chinese black vinegar. I adore the stuff and if you love Chinese cooking it is an absolute must for your store cupboard. You can easily pick is up in any Asian food store.

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The sauce is salty, sour and sweet and mixed through the noodles it is absolutely heavenly. It’s a perfect meal to take to work as it is easily transportable and can be prepared the morning or night before and then stored in a fridge until lunch. Remember to take it out of the fridge around 30 minutes before eating so that it has reached room temperature.

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Serves 2 or (1 if you are feeling a little piggy)

85g soba noodles

1/2 cucumber, noodles if you have this or thinly chopped into sticks if not

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

1 dragons back chilli, halved or quartered

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp chinkiang vinegar

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp chilli oil

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp crunchy peanut butter

1 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp black sesame seeds

1 tsp salt – optional

1. Place the soba noodles in boiling water and boil for around 5 minutes or according to the packet. Drain and run under cold water so that the noodles are completely cold. Place to one side.

2. Mix the chinkiang vinegar, light soy sauce, chilli oil, sesame oil, chopped garlic*, sugar and crunchy peanut butter in a bowl and stir to form a dressing. Taste and add salt if required.

3. Prepare the cucumber noodles or chop the cucumber into thick sticks.

4. Heat a small pan and when it is hot add the dragons back chilli or other dried chilli so that it darkens slightly in colour. I keep all the seeds, but if you like it less hot you can reduce these. Then add 1/2 tsp of chilli oil and add the spring onions for a minute. Take off the heat.

5. In a mixing bowl add the cold soba noodles, the cucumber noodles, the dressing and the dried chilli and spring onions.  Gently fold in together and place in two bowls. Sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top.

* if you prefer to cook the garlic add it to the pan with the spring onions so that it softens slightly.

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Black Sesame Paste Soba Noodles with Salmon and Spring Onions

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There are some plates of food that when presented in front of you you are a little bit sceptical that the dish will actually taste good. This dish, being predominately grey and black with only a splattering of green and white from the spring onions and the delicate pink from the salmon, is a case in point. You are going to have to trust me on this one when I say that this meal is seriously delicious. It also ridiculously quick (I know I know I say that with most of the dishes I put up on my blog) – it takes the amount of time that you cook your salmon in the oven – 15 minutes.

 

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Black sesame seeds may require a bit of effort to hunt down – I found mine at my local Asian grocers, but other than that you should be able to get hold of the rest of the ingredients pretty easily. If you don’t have tamari, just use soy sauce – they are very similar.

 

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I ate mine with a hot cup of fresh lemon verbena tea, which I have become rather addicted to since I was sweetly given a bag full of the stuff last weekend. Have you tried it before? Does anyone grow it in their gardens? Is it easy to maintain? I’d love to know as lemon verbena has a wonderful aroma and taste.

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I hope you get to try this dish very soon. I adore buckwheat soba noodles – I tend to buy the Clearspring variety – they look like this. They’re wheat free noodles, low in fat and a great source of protein and fibre. Go on give this dish a go and leave me a comment below.

 

Black Sesame Paste Soba Noodles with Salmon and Spring Onions

Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s ‘Super Natural Everyday’ – Black Sesame Otsu

Serves 4

black sesame seed paste

1 tsp sunflower seeds

1 tsp pine nuts

60g black sesame seeds

1 1/2 tbsp demerara sugar

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 1/2 tbsp tamari/soy sauce

2 tbsp brown rice vinegar

pinch of cayenne pepper

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350g buckwheat soba noodles

4 salmon fillets – skin removed (optional)

3 spring onions, finely sliced

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

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1. Preheat your oven (I use a fan oven – if you are not increase the temperature by 10 degrees) to 180 degrees. Equally you can steam the salmon if you prefer. Using a cooking brush gently wipe each salmon fillet with sesame oil. Place in a non stick dish and cook for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a frying pan dry roast, on a low heat, the pine nuts and sunflower seeds for a couple of minutes so they begin to bronze. You will need to keep moving the pan to prevent burning. As the pine nuts begin to bronze add the black sesame seeds and move them around the pan for a minute. Transfer to a spice grinder (or pestle and mortar).

3. After whizzing the ingredients for 10-15 seconds so that they are properly blended, transfer the paste into a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients to make the black sesame paste. Place to one side.

4. Place the soba noodles in a pan of boiling water and cook according to instructions – should be around 5 minutes on a low heat. Before draining save 100ml of the noodle water and leave in a jug. Drain the soba noodles and run under cold water to prevent further cooking. Before adding the soba noodles to the black sesame paste, remove 1/4 of the paste and place in a separate cup. Add the soba noodles to the large mixing bowl with the remaining black sesame paste, the 100ml of noodle water, extra virgin olive oil and almost all of the spring onions and gently stir into the paste.

5. Serve a generous portion of noodles to each bowl or plate and place the salmon fillet on top along with a dollop of remaining black sesame paste which you have reserved and a scattering of spring onions.

It can be eaten at warm, room temperature or cold. You can replace the salmon with trout or even with tofu gently fried. It would in fact make an original and tasty lunch box alternative.


Soba Noodles with Tofu, Aubergine and Mango – it’s totally addictive BEWARE!

It’s always a joy cooking for a foodie friend who eats everything and shares a similar enthusiasm for exciting flavours, textures and foods. Said friend is off to pastures new in California so I wanted to prepare a simple and yet interesting lunch that he may not have tried before, but that he was hopefully going to remember fondly.

In the last couple of years my love for tofu has grown exponentially, on average I would say I eat it once a week as a main meal. One of my all time favourite recipes – Ma Po Tofu – I  sometimes cook without the pork mince and add loads of spinach to compliment the tofu instead. I would really recommend you give this dish a go if you haven’t already, it’s absolutely superb.

Another dish using tofu, which I discovered more recently, is the one that I want to share with you today. It’s a perfect spring/summer dish bursting with colour and if the truth be told, totally addictive. Between the two of us we almost saw off a portion which Yotam Ottolenghi says ‘serves 6’. I know, I know, it  makes us sound rather piggy. Look we were hungry and it is so delicious I bet you too would have seconds or maybe thirds ;o). I think that as a main dish it’s serving is better suited to 4 than 6, unless your guests have sparrow appetites that is!

 Don’t be shy, once you’ve cooked it do write a comment below to let me know how you got on and  that you too had seconds/thirds.

Soba Noodles with Tofu, Aubergine and Mango

Adapted  from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Serves 4-6

120 ml rice vinegar

40g caster sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 red chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 lime, zest and juice

300ml sunflower oil

2 aubergines, cut into 1cm dice

396g firm tofu, cut into small cubes (a little more or less is fine so don’t worry about getting exact amount)

250g soba noodles

2 ripe mangoes, cut into strips or dice

small handful of Thai sweet basil, chopped

handful of fresh coriander, chopped

1 small red onion, finely sliced

1. To prepare the dressing warm the vinegar, sugar and salt in a pan for a minute so that the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the chilli, garlic and sesame oil and leave to cool. Once it is cool add the lime juice and zest.

2. In a frying pan heat up  half the sunflower oil and gently fry the aubergine in batches. To save time I cooked the aubergine in two frying pans cooking simultaneously. When they have bronzed place on kitchen paper to cool.

3. Using the remaining sunflower oil (if necessary – you may have enough left from cooking the aubergine!) gently heat up the tofu and cook until it has a crispy light brown appearance. This should take 6-8 minutes. Similar to the aubergine place on some kitchen paper to soak up some of the oil.

4. Heat a pan of boiling salted water and cook the soba noodles for around 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse under cold water, shaking off as much excess water as possible. Place on a tea towel to dry.

5. In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, aubergine, herbs (save a few to scatter on top when serving),  red onion and tofu. Transfer to another serving plate/dish. You can eat immediately or set aside for a couple of hours.

The dressing resting whilst I prepare the rest of the ingredients (above)

The final result (below)

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