SPRING SOBA NOODLE SALAD

The first time I ate soba noodles was in Japan, five, maybe six years ago! I was there with three friends and we basically ate our way around the main island, Honshu, for four weeks! It was Summer – humid, rainy and extremely hot! Soba noodles were often our lunch and although they didn't sweep me off my feet initially, after a few meals, I was suitably hooked! Perhaps my favourite encounter with these buckwheat noodles has been in a small restaurant tucked away in Meguro's backstreets in Tokyo. An elderly man makes the noodles by hand as a stone grinder, grinding the buckwheat, rumbles away behind him. It is a special place, hard to exactly say why, but that is where I fell for soba. As an aside, it is important to note that soba noodles are made with certain percentages of buckwheat. If you are are gluten intolerant ensure to check the label carefully as it's very rare to find 100% buckwheat in Australia and most are made with a large proportion of wheat flour!

I absolutely love soba salad, especially as the weather becomes warmer, and although those pre-made sesame dressings are absolutely packed full of flavour, they have heaps of sugar and other things in them I'd rather leave off my noodles! So, six years later and many soba meals down, I thought I would share a simple, nutritious and delicious meal I like to cook at home for dinner during the week. The leftovers become my lunch the next day, maybe topped up with some tofu or a soft boiled egg! I've used broad beans in this version, but of course you could use frozen edamame or another vegetable in season like asparagus! If you wanted to give the salad a little more oompf, perhaps some poached chicken, or pan seared salmon could be added. Feel free to adjust the dressing to suit your tastes. Add more or less of the ingredients, just keep tasting til it's balanced to your liking! I usually just make a small amount, enough for two, as it is best eaten freshly made. If cooking for a larger crowd, feel free to double or triple the amounts but perhaps enlist a few helpers to pod the broad beans!

SERVES 2

200g shelled broad beans, which is a few good handfuls of them still in their pods

200g soba noodles

A handful of greens, such as mustard greens, mizuna or mibuna (feel free to add what you have in your fridge or the garden)

FOR THE DRESSING

2tbsp soy sauce

2tbsp mirin

1tbsp rice wine vinegar

1tbsp tahini

1tbsp of olive or sesame oil

1tsp grated ginger

1tsp sugar

salt to taste

TO SERVE

Nori sheet, shredded

Black and white sesame seeds, toasted

Shichimi Togarashi

Spring onion, finely sliced

1. Blanch the broad beans in a medium saucepan of boiling water over a high heat for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain, and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Pod the broad beans, discarding the outer skin. It is a little effort, but you will be rewarded with vibrant green broad beans. Add these to a large bowl along with the greens. 

2. Once the water comes back to the boil, add the soba noodles. Cook the noodles til al dente, according to the packet's instructions, which should be around 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with running cold water. Allow to drain for a minute or two and then add to the broad beans and greens. 

3. Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a small jug and whisk til combined. Season to taste and adjust to suit. Pour over the noodles and using chopsticks, mix the noodles, beans and greens with the dressing until coated. 

4. Divide into bowls and top with the nori, sesame seeds, shichimi togarashi and spring onion. 

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