Food

If you’ve got pasta or noo­dles in the pantry, mak­ing a tasty meal can be quick and easy.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - by Lau­raine Ja­cobs

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

MISO DRESS­ING

2 tbsp or­ganic miso

2 tbsp rice vine­gar

4 tbsp grape­seed oil

1 tsp runny honey

NOO­DLES

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 car­rot

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.

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