When I sat down to think of a recipe for this month’s whole grains and super foods theme, the first thought that sprung to mind is a recipe with super natural food qualities. It is a little story from my wife’s family that I remember from the times we have visited them in Japan through the cold winter months of the New Years break.
The Toshikoshi soba is traditionally eaten on the last day of the year as a part of the ritual to reflect on the year past and to wish for a good new year. The story goes; soba noodle being of long length will impart long life to those who consume it.
My mother-in-law likes to serve the soba cold to retain the noodles texture. So even though it is quite often snowing outside and well below zero, having the cold soba served with hot broth and crispy tempura keeps us warm inside (or may be it’s the sake).
1 large piece of konbu (dried bull kelp)
1 large handful of bonito flakes
2/3 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp Mirin
3 Tbsp white sugar
Or you can buy a bottle of premade broth called mentsuyu, and thin it down with hot water to serve.
1 bunch of spring onions cut thinly on the diagonal
Wasabi to taste
12 medium raw tiger or king prawns, head and shell removed leaving tails in tact
12 slices of pumpkin 1cm thick
12 slices of pepper (cut peppers into 8th)
1 egg, beaten
250ml ice cold water
1 cup of plain ‘all purpose’ flour sifted
500mL of cooking oil for frying
Daikon (Japanese radish)
Allow for about 100g of dry soba noodles (buckwheat) per person
2 sheets of nori cut into thin pieces about 1.5 inches long for sprinkling on top of the soba
1. For the dipping broth, put Konbu in a pot, cover with 1 cup of cold water and bring to the boil. Once up to boil remove konbu and add a good handful of bonito flakes and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove stock from heat and strain out all the solids through a muslin cloth (this should produce a clear stock). Add to this stock soy sauce, sugar and Mirin. Heat the mixture through just enough to dissolve the sugar set aside.
2. To prepare the tempura condiments peel the daikon and finely grate. Squeeze through a muslin cloth to remove all liquid. Place the drained daikon onto the serving plate and work into a little mountain. Top with a small amount of finely grated ginger.
3. Remove the tips of the prawn tails with kitchen scissors and dry with a paper towel making sure all moisture is removed, cut your pumpkin and peppers.
4. For the tempura batter, beat the egg add water and sift in the flour. Stir very lightly (it is fine if the mixture is a little lumpy).
5. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Once the oil is hot (to test, add a drop of batter it should bubble and quickly rise to the top) coat the prawns and vegetables with a thin layer of batter. Deep fry for 2 – 3 minutes until golden. Just pop two or three pieces in at a time so the oil temperature does not drop sharply. Remove the tempura from the oil and drain on paper towels.
The idea is you can see the colour of the food just coming through the batter - you may want to thin the batter to achieve this look
6. For the soba noodle boil a large pot of water. Put the noodles in and gently simmer until al dente. Once cooked drain and rinse under cold running water. Once cooled gently agitate/wash the noodles in cold water to remove any starch, wash until the water runs clear. Run noodles through a colander and leave to drain.
7. To serve, heat broth and pour into small individual bowls, plate the tempura with your little daikon mountain. For the soba traditionally a zaru (a flat sieve made from woven bamboo) is used but if you don’t have one just serve portions on a plate and sprinkle some nori.
To eat dip the soba into the hot broth and bring the noodles to your mouth and suck them up with a loud slurping noise.