If you’ve got pasta or noodles in the pantry, making a tasty meal can be quick and easy.
A packet of noodles in the pantry can be the basis of a quick and tasty meal.
What makes a good cook? When I attended the London Cordon Bleu cookery school, one of our teachers told us such a person could whip up a delicious meal at a moment’s notice using store-cupboard ingredients. There’s an underlying implication that a good cook will have that pantry or refrigerator well stocked with useful ingredients.
But now we have noodles. You don’t need to be a good cook to whip up a basic meal, just simply add a jar of well-selected pasta sauce. Supermarkets usually have a huge variety of noodles (see sidebar next page), and most require only a simple accompaniment to make an easy meal. The vegetable storage bin in the fridge is bound to harbour a few bits and bobs that can be combined with noodles (even the instant kind) to make a satisfying meal.
In the following recipes, the importance of creating great flavour is the key to making a tasty dish. The soba noodle recipe requires miso, a Japanese paste made from fermented soy beans, to add a savoury or umami dimension. Both recipes can be made with other types of noodles or pasta – whatever’s on hand will be fine.
The second recipe needs a well-flavoured chicken stock, then adds extra punch with Asian fish sauce, soy sauce and hot pepper sauce or flakes.
JAPANESE SPRING SOBA NOODLES
2 tbsp organic miso
2 tbsp rice vinegar
4 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 tsp runny honey
200g baby mushrooms
2 tbsp vegetable oil (grapeseed or rice bran) 12 baby carrots
1 cup broccoli sprouts
180g soba noodles sesame oil shredded Japanese pickled ginger sesame seeds, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan coriander or vietnamese mint leaves for garnish
Prepare the dressing by thoroughly mixing the ingredients together in a jar.
To prepare the vegetables, slice the mushrooms as thinly as possible. Heat the oil in a frying pan, then add the mushrooms. Toss them over a gentle heat for 2-3 minutes until they begin to wilt, but are not soft. Remove them to a plate, then add the carrots to the pan. If necessary, add extra oil so that the carrots will pan-roast over a very gentle heat until tender. Toss frequently.
Simmer a saucepan of salted water and blanch the broccoli sprouts for 2 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, bring another pan of salted water to the boil, then drop in the noodles and simmer for 3-4 minutes until soft. Drain well, then toss with a little sesame oil so they don’t stick together.
To assemble the dish, toss the noodles (either warm or cold) in half the dressing. Place on a large serving platter, then top with the mushrooms, carrots and broccoli. Drizzle with the remaining dressing. Garnish with pickled ginger, sesame seeds and herb leaves.
Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main course.
Wine match: dry gewürztraminer.
RICE NOODLES IN SAVOURY CHICKEN BROTH
750ml well-flavoured chicken broth 2 chicken breasts
1 red pepper
5cm piece of peeled ginger 1 courgette
200g frozen or fresh broad beans 100g sugar snap peas 2 tbsp Asian fish sauce
150g rice noodle sticks coriander leaves for garnish
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp soy sauce hot pepper sauce or flakes to taste
Bring the broth to a simmer in a large saucepan. Wash the chicken breasts, then pat dry and place in the simmering broth. Poach over a very gentle heat for 5-7 minutes until they are cooked through.
Remove the pan from the heat and let the chicken cool in the broth.
To prepare the vegetables, cut the carrot, pepper and ginger into matchsticks.
Slice the courgette in thin rounds using a very sharp knife or Japanese mandolin.
Defrost the beans, then shell. If using fresh broad beans, blanch them in boiling water, cool under cold running water, then shell.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, then place the carrot, pepper
Japanese spring soba noodles. Left, rice noodles in savoury chicken broth.