Pork and Mushroom Udon Soup

Silly me, I called out a dangerous sentence in my household this morning. I should have known better, or stopped myself when I felt it coming on, but nonetheless, “I’m doing a shopping list, what do we want for dinner?” fell out of my mouth. Such a question will result in one of two responses: a shrug of the shoulders and non-committal grunt of “I don’t know”, or a very excited, specific request.

Today, I got the latter. The 12 year old Japanophile piped upped almost instantly, “Ramen!” and of course, he didn’t mean the cheap, quick 2 minute noodle style (thankfully, because I really don’t care for those). I tried to point out that even in Japan, people don’t make ramen at home, they go to a noodle house. He saw right through that, and I found myself at the huge Asian supermarket not too far from my house.

As grumpy as I sound, I am of course, quite pleased with the outcome. I cook a lot of soup, even a lot of Asian style soups, but I think this might have been the best yet. I got a little inspiration from Nigella Lawson, a little from the Japan cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu, and a little from years of eating ramen and never coming across one I didn’t love. I won’t claim pure authenticity, but I will claim deliciousness. And healthfulness – it’s pretty wholesome at only 450 calories a serve.

Ingredients

20g dried, sliced shiitake mushrooms

5 cups dashi or chicken stock

2tsp minced ginger

2tsp white miso paste

2 radishes, thinly sliced

1tbs soy sauce

2tsp olive oil

300g pork loin, thinly sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper

4 eggs

400g udon noodles

2 bok choy, shredded, or 100g baby spinach

8 slices narutomaki

scallions, sliced thinly, to serve

1 small chilli, sliced thinly, to serve.

Methods

  1. Place mushrooms, stock, miso and ginger in a large saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. In the last 3 minutes, add radishes and soy sauce. Meanwhile, continue with the following steps.
  2. Saute the pork in the oil over high heat until just cooked through, Set aside.
  3. Boil eggs for 6.5-9 minutes, until set to your preference. We like a 6.5 minute egg, where it’s hard around the outside of the yolk and still slightly soft toward the middle. When done, remove with a slotted spoon, reserving the water, and run under cold water, peel and set aside.
  4. Place udon in the water from the eggs and cook for 4 minutes, or to package instructions. Drain and rinse.
  5. To assemble, place noodles in bowls. Add spinach/bok choy and pork, then ladle in soup. Top with narotmaki, scallions and chilli.
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Japanese Curry

Once again, dinner at my house was ascertained by the husband watching TV characters eat something, then looking at me with a half sly, half sheepish grin that absolutely means “hey… you could make that for us!” i KNOW that this is what this smile means, because the worlds usually tumble out of his mouth shortly after the grin spreads across it.

So, props to whatever show had the characters eating a Japanese curry. Actually… I think it might have been a Youtube video of some sort. At any rate, I spent the next hour or so hunting down a good recipe. Which was challenging, because while I have certainly eaten more than my fair share of Japanese food, and a moderate amount of curries, I don’t believe I’d ever had a Japanese curry. So evaluating it was tricky. What sold me on this recipe from Just One Cookbook was that while Nami assures us that we can use store bought curry roux (many sites insist that it’s the done thing), she also provides a fabulous recipe to make it from scratch. The whole dish was out of this world: the sweetness of the apples and honey is perfectly balanced with the heat of the other spices, and made my house smell nothing less than divine. Of course, I’ll keep researching Japanese curries (for science), but I could not be more pleased with this one. The whole family gobbled it up, and as is so often the case with curries, the leftovers the next day were possibly even better than when freshly cooked.

Honestly, I didn’t change much with this recipe. I just wanted to put it all together in one place for ease of reference. Because of the potatoes, rice is unnecessary (but not altogether unwelcome), and one fifth of the recipe is only 396 – very respectable for such a flavour bomb!

Ingredients

Roux:
3 Tbsp butter

4 tbsp flour

3tsp curry powder (6 g)

2tsp turmeric

1 Tbsp garam masala

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Curry

  • 600g boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 pinch maldon salt flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
  • ½ tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups good quality chicken stock
  • 1 red apple
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 1/2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp ketchup
  • Rice to serve (optional, not included in calorie calculation)

Method

To make the roux:

Melt butter over low heat. Add flour, and using a rubber spatula, cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent roux from catching. When roux is browned and bubbling, add the spices and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside until step 7

To make the curry:

  1. Soak the potatoes in warm water while making the roux, or for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper and set aside until step 5
  3. Heat oil over low heat and sweat the onions and carrots for five minutes. Add onions and garlic, and cook for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the chicken, and brown all over.
  5. Pour the stock over the chicken. Bring to the boil.
  6. Peel the apple (discarding the skin) and grate directly into the broth. Stir in honey and potatoes and simmer for a 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender but not mushy.
  7. Incorporate a ladleful or two into the reserved roux, and stir until it is a smooth paste. Spoon the roux into the stock, and stir to combine.
  8. Add soy sauce and ketchup. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or so, until the curry becomes thick.
  9. Serve with rice if using, and steamed vegetables.
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