Green Tea Soba Salad

  • Time: 2 hours plus pickling time
  • Serves: 4
  • Level: hard

I’ve given this a ‘hard’ rating. But this really relates to the effort in gathering ingredients and co-coordinating all the stages.

Mr WDC
This is inspired by a recipe in the book, 'Salad' by Amy Nathan (1985).

What you need

For the noodles:

200g green tea soba noodles

1 ripe avocado

1 tsp groundnut oil

Black sesame seeds

For the noodle dressing:

1 tbs groundnut oil

1 tbs sesame oil

2 tbs light soy sauce

2 tbs mirin

2 tbs lemon

For the seaweed salad:

5g dried wakame seaweed

5g dried hijiki seaweed

For the seaweed salad dressing:

2 tsp light miso

2 tsp light soy sauce

2 tsp rice vinegar

4 tsp groundnut oil

For the spinach salad:

520g fresh spinach

White sesame seeds

For the spinach salad dressing:

4 tsp tahini

2 tsp light soy sauce

2 tsp mirin

2 tsp rice vinegar

Good pinch dashi no moto powder

1/2 tsp sugar

Pepper

For the prawns:

150g – 200g raw peeled king prawns

Petal of begonia ‘Fragrant Falls Peach’

Pickled red fruit (I’ve used rowan berries)

150ml chicken stock

2 tbs light soy sauce

Juice of half a lemon

For the pickled cucumber:

200g – 300g cucumber

2 tbs salt

2 tbs sugar

8 tbs rice vinegar

1 red chilli

Grated fresh ginger



Dad's Recipe Tales

In 1988, an artist friend, gave us a very ‘artistic’ cookbook. The book was Salad, by Amy Nathan and Kathryn Kleinman, (1985). According to the sleeve notes, it was full of ‘stunning salad dishes to delight the eye as well as the palate.’ At the time the book was published, the modern English restaurant scene – with its regalia of Michelin stars and Instagram galleries of beautifully crafted food images – was still waiting in the wings. It’s therefore remarkable that a cookbook, 32 years old, should include such arresting visuals of food – it was clearly well ahead of its time.

Each plate of food (and photographic ‘plate’), was immaculately composed into symmetrical or asymmetrical patterns. The food was shot on top of a light box using transparent dinner plates, a technique that emphasised not only the colour and shape of the food, but also the creativity of the authors. These days, the photographer’s light box has been replaced by burnished metal or distressed wood, the transparent plates with artisan crockery. Both styles could be accused of fetishising food, however, the intention of Salad is not to stimulate a ‘food porn’ reaction, but rather to show the food in a more elemental and refined light so that each ingredient might be appreciated for its own sake. Salad’s dishes are reminiscent of Nouvelle Cuisine, its characteristic lightness of touch, lightly cooked ingredients and the minimalist approach to arranging food could have been an inspiration for the book.

I’ve been critical of the new trend in scattering grains, seeds and whole foods on a plate. I imagined treating ingredients as an assortment of components brought together in a random manner will only create endless nondescript dishes. What is needed is a greater appreciation of the ingredient: why is it distinctive, what are its characteristics, what does it add to the plate, can it be complimented or contrasted by other ingredients? I sense our Salad authors considered this as much as the visual appeal.

My versions, are adapted to add further ideas, either in the visual impact or in the flavour combination. The tomato salad, is simplicity itself. But, it allows us to pause and acknowledge the different tomato varieties. I have also attempted to add, where possible, new ideas about taste and texture contrasts such as savoury, fresh and crunch. A baked goat’s cheese is turned into a poppy flower incorporating beetroot. A pear dish is less about leaves and flowers and more about a classic pairing of flavours.

Salad should be used by culinary colleges to help students with their presentation and appreciation of flavour combinations. It certainly made me re-think how I put food on a plate and provided new insights into combining food.

How Dad Cooked It

  1. Pickle the cucumber a couple of hours before the rest of the salad. Put the salt, sugar and vinegar in a pan and heat gently just until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Wash the cucumber, slice in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds using a spoon. Place the cucumber skin-side up on a chopping board and roundly bash with a rolling pin or tenderiser. Put the cucumber in a bowl, with the pickling liquid and put in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  2. Put the seaweed in a bowl and pour over a generous amount of hot water. Leave for 15 minutes and then strain. Dry on a kitchen towel and place in the refrigerator.
  3. Cook the soba in a pan of boiling water (add half a teaspoon of salt per litre of water), they take about 5 minutes – continually check to make sure they are al dente and then take off the heat. Pour off half a mugful of the cooking water and retain, then strain the noodles – put them back into the pan and add several splashes of cold water and strain again. Return to the pan and add the cooking liquid and a teaspoon of groundnut oil and set aside somewhere until they have cooled, and then place in the refrigerator.
  4. Make the soba dressing by whisking together the noodle dressing ingredients. Place place in the refrigerator.
  5. Cook the prawns. Put the prawns with any juices into a pan with the stock, soy and lemon. Poach very gently until just cooked. Stain, retaining the liquid, and cool the prawns on a large plate. Put the prawns in a bowl with the cooking liquid and put in the refrigerator.
  6. Cook the spinach. Wash and cook the spinach in a large pan or wok. Turn the spinach often to cook evenly. Once the spinach has wilted cook for a further 2 minutes. Refresh with plenty of cold water and strain. Squeeze the water out of the spinach using your hands. It’s a weird thing to do but it is the most efficient way to rid the spinach of water, we are after very dry spinach. Put into a bowl and place in the refrigerator.
  7. Make the spinach dressing by whisking the ingredients together and set aside in the refrigerator.
  8. NB: When assembling the salad there will be ingredients left over. Keep these for another time or take to the table if guests would like more.
  9. To assemble the salad, strain the soba and return to the bowl. Pour over the dressing and mix well. Twirl a portion of the soba on a two-pronged carving fork and place on four individual plates.  Garnish with slices of avocado and sesame seeds. Pour the seaweed dressing over the seaweed and mix well. Place a pile on each of the plates and garnish with sesame seeds. Strain the cucumber and place a portion on each plate. Garnish with grated ginger and sliced red chilli. Form four portion-sized rectangles of spinach and place on the plates. Pour over the dressing and garnish with sesame seeds. Drain 3 prawns per plate and arrange with begonia petals and pickled fruit.

 

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