Thursday, 18 September 2014

How to 25: Cook 100% Buckwheat Soba Noodles

Two ways to use soba noodles

A little later than usual this month, our how-to gives you some tips on cooking 100% buckwheat (aka soba) noodles to perfection. Soba noodles are delicately-flavoured and gluten free; an interesting change from rice or wheat noodles. Cooking them correctly is something I learned the hard way -so you don't have to!
My very first batch had to be thrown away (and we almost never do that) as the noodles had become so sticky that they resembled a giant ball of chewing gum! There was really nothing that could be done to save them. It's important to read the general directions on the packet, as brands do vary. We use King Soba brand, but even then the cooking time can vary slightly from batch to batch, so be flexible about timing and keep an eye on what's going on.

  1. I recommend leaving cooking your noodles until last; that way you can give them the attention which they deserve.
  2. Put plenty of water in the pan, as you would for pasta. This helps prevent sticking.
  3. Ensure the water is boiling before the noodles go in.
  4. Stir immediately to stop them sticking together, and stir again from time to time. You may see white "clouds" in the water as excess starch comes off.
  5. Once the noodles are in the pot, turn the heat right down or even off to avoid overcooking them.
  6. They only take a few minutes to soften, so keep watching, stirring, trying...
  7. When they are soft, remove from the heat and rinse in cold water straight away. This is really important to avoid ending up with a sticky mess.
  8. If you overcook them, they will either break up, become really sticky and clump together, or both. If this starts to happen, sometimes repeated rinsing in cold water while very gently separating them can save them- but all too often it's too late.
  9. Remember soba noodles are really designed to be eaten cold and dressed. They may become a little sticky again if you let them stand, but another gentle cold water rinse should sort them out. 
  10. They are now ready to add to broths (at the last minute) or to soak up a dressing to make them even more delicious! If you must re-heat them, then try immersing them briefly in very hot water and draining- but you must serve them straight away after this. (They may start to break into short pieces if overheated.)
Happy noodle-cooking! What are your favourite types of noodle? Your favourite noodle dishes?

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Soba Noodle Tofu Salad Bowl with Ginger and Lime Dressing- gluten free

How many of the ingredients can you spot?
The great thing about soba noodles is how well they soak up a dressing and become deliciously full of flavours. I'd been meaning to make a salad with them for a long time but was just waiting for the final pieces of inspiration... and then I decided that now would be the perfect time; we are between Summer and Autumn this week- cool mornings, darker evenings and the last of Summer's bounty to harvest. Salads still appeal, but there is a need for something a little more substantial, and for warming spices like ginger. Into this salad went some bargain peaches, home grown courgettes and kale and the last of our fresh mint and basil. Use grilled tempeh instead of tofu, add some minced chilli to the dressing or substitute any kind of noodle you like; by all means embellish it with a dollop of sriracha if that's how you roll, but believe us: this salad is tasty enough without. 

Serves 3-4 as a main meal:
50ml any good oil- we used extra virgin olive
50ml tamari sauce (it's important to use tamari instead of soy if you are gluten or wheat intolerant)
50ml agave nectar; I know this seems a lot, but you want some sweetness in the mix to offset the salty spiciness
2 tsps grated fresh ginger root
1/2 tsp compound hing (optional, but adds some pungency)
1/2 cup (1 cup = 250ml) crushed/ broken roasted and salted peanuts; I used Himalayan pink salt with mine
fresh coconut shavings (optional)
lime wedges
170g (uncooked weight) 100% buckwheat soba noodles
1/2 large avocado, diced
2 peaches, diced
1 tab sesame seeds
1 tab chopped fresh mint and basil leaves
1/2 a loosely-packed cup chopped fresh coriander leaf
about 65g raw veggies: think carrot, courgette and pepper matchsticks, shredded kale, mung sprouts,etc.
6-8 cubes of tofu per per serving; about one packet- or pressed tofu made with  l soya milk

  • Start by whisking the dressing ingredients together in a bowl; this gives time for the flavours to blend together.
  • Now prepare the nuts and tofu- I used grilled our tofu cubes in a little oil, but you could just marinate it in the dressing if you don't want to grill it
  • Chop the veggies and set aside.
  • Now cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet; be careful, as soba noodles can get very sticky unless you treat them right. When they are soft, drain and rinse them in cold water straight away.
  • Mix everything together in a large bowl. If possible, let it sit awhile so the noodles and tofu can absorb the dressing.
  • Add the garnishes to each bowl just before serving.

If you liked the look of this main meal salad, check out our Yogi Veg Bowl which combines quinoa, tofu, raw veggies and red pepper dressing: