Friday, 13 September 2013

Buckwheat/soba noodles with flat mushrooms and seaweed


Cooking isn't my forte. I'd take baking over cooking any day. BUT. My family's been trying to cut down on eating sweet food lately and mum's complaining that she gained a belly and lots of weight from eating my baked goods! Ah the joys of living with a baker. So, I thought I should venture more into these foreign waters. Start by gingerly dipping my toes in, adjust to the temperature, then slowly wade my way through to the deeper ends. 



I found that cooking is just like swimming. Not that I swim much. In fact, I haven't swum in... 5 years? 7 years? A rare case seeing that I live literally 5 minutes drive from the beach and NZ is so much of a water loving country. I've only learnt to swim when my family moved to NZ, which was about 10 years ago. And ever since those swimming lessons at the YMCA pools in Year 8, I haven't really had the inkling to dip myself in a pool of water. Anyway, like swimming, cooking is about relaxing yourself and following your instincts. I used to be afraid of cooking (can you believe?), preferring whisks and oven over frying pan and stove. But I think I'm gradually acclimatizing to the cooking scene. And I think noodles and pasta are a good place to start. 



My dad is a renowned cook amongst friends and family. His skills and passion for cooking were inherited from my grandma, who is also a renowned cook amongst her friends and family. Since migrating to this faraway land, we haven't had much opportunity to enjoy grandma's cooking. But my dad sort of makes up for it. It was through my dad's knack for cooking and his years of experimenting and skill-honing in vegetarian cuisine that I think, my family were so easily acclimatized (this word again, yes!) to eating vegetarian food. Of course throughout these years we still occasionally cook meat, though in a much smaller portion. But around three months ago, my dad turned full vegetarian. I of course eat whatever was on the table so vegetarian it is. And even when I eat out I order vegetarian food as I'm not used to eating meat. Although if I'm in a circumstance where I'm presented with meat, such as going to a friend's house and they cooked meat, I will eat it but try to eat less of it since it would be really troublesome for them to prepare something special or different for me. 



So, noodles! Everybody loves noodles don't they? I admit, I'm more of a rice gal though I won't say no to the occasional noodle. My dad, my sister and my boyfriend Peter love noodles. I swear they can live solely on noodles. My sister always has these random noodle cravings. Especially the Korean ones. Spicy and hot, with an egg cracked into it, slurp slurp slurp yum! And to be honest, noodles are so quick and easy to prepare (compared to a lot of other dishes). Today, we'll start with buckwheat or soba noodles. 



These noodles are really great as they already have a sweet, almost nutty flavour from the buckwheat flour. When you buy them from the supermarket it pays to check the ingredients as some of them have a high percentage in wheat flour rather than buckwheat. I prefer ones made just with buckwheat flour and water and do not contain other sorts of flavouring or additives. They're better for you! 

I cooked these soba noodles the non-traditional way and these are served hot rather than cold. For the vegetable pairings I used things I found in my fridge. The mushroom and chinese cabbage really adds that more complex, umami flavouring which goes well with the salty, weathered ocean taste from seaweed (I used a mixture of kombu and wakame). The carrots and celery lends sweetness and with a touch of sesame oil, the whole dish comes together in a nutty coating. Enjoy! I didn't use any animal products, so this dish is unintentionally vegan! And gluten free too for you celiacs out there!



[Buckwheat noodles with flat mushroom and seaweed]
Serves 5

A handful of buckwheat noodles. (The noodles came divided into portions tied with little ribbons. Use 3 portions. They will swell up a lot!)

1/2 inch ginger, finely chopped
5 medium to big sized flat mushrooms, cut into thick strips 
2 button mushrooms, cut into strips
4 leaves of chinese cabbage, cut into thick strips
half a carrot, julienned
1 stalk of celery, julienned
1 bowl (chinese rice bowl) of kombu and wakame, broken into small pieces
Water 
Sprig of parsley

Seasoning
Olive oil
Soy sauce
Salt
Pepper
1/2 teaspoon of raw sugar (trust me, it helps)
Sesame oil

1. Fill up half a pot of water. Turn on the element for the water to boil.
2. Mean while, in another deep pan, drizzle in olive oil and wait for it to become hot. Add in the ginger and fry until lightly golden. Add the carrots and celery and stir for about a minute. Add in mushrooms and stir until it starts to brown (make sure to have enough oil in the pan or the mushrooms will stick). Add in the chinese cabbage and about a cup of water. Season with soy sauce (about 3 or 4 tablespoons - adjust it to your liking but remember the seaweed is slightly salty too). Cover to simmer. 
3. Once the chinese cabbage has softened (you want it nice and soft for the sweetness to shine), add in the kombu and wakame. Simmer until softened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the sugar. Turn off the heat and drizzle in about a tablespoon of sesame oil (you do this with the heat off as heat causes sesame oil to lose its flavour). 
4. Place the buckwheat noodles in the other pot of boiling water. It will take only a few minutes for it to cook. (Do not cover the pot with a lid, it will bubble out! Yea.. found that out the hard way lol). Once the buckwheat noodles are cooked, transfer them onto another pot or container with cold water. 
5. Place buckwheat noodles onto a serving dish. Pour the vegetables on top of the buckwheat noodles. Garnish with a sprig of parsley. Serve! 

There you go, easy. I think the key is to have your mise en place ready. Once you have everything chopped up, ready to go, it's easier to relax and enjoy the cooking process. I am by no means a good cook, in fact, I'm still a beginner! So if I can do it, you can too. Happy cooking!


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