Slurping delicious buckwheat soba noodles is a New Year’s tradition in Japan. I know New Year’s celebrations might feel like a while ago at this point, but we’re still in January, and I’m certainly still in transition mode from one year to the next. I think we too often forget that this transition is something we can take our time over, and that new goals, intentions and plans don’t need to suddenly materialise from one day to the next. For me, this soba recipe not only makes a warming bowl packed with all the vitamins and health boosting benefits of winter leafy greens and a range of wild mushrooms, but it also full of symbolism. Slurping the long soba noodles represents peace and longevity into the new year, while breaking some of the brittle buckwheat noodles signifies letting go of things that you need to release. Taking time over the making as well as the consuming of this meal is all part of the ritual in my eyes and sometimes even more meaningful towards the end of January when the excitement of the New Year’s celebrations and resolutions is perhaps beginning to wane.
I don’t usually really espouse the health benefits of specific ingredients or foods, as although I find all of these things interesting, I am not a nutritionist by any means. With that said though, there are a number of wild mushrooms that are getting people very excited for their medicinal potential. Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) and artist bracket (Ganoderma applanatum – related to the Reishi mushroom) have begun been researched both for their immune-boosting as well as their potential anti-tumour properties. Even if that is proved not to be the case in the long run, I think infusing this broth with a number of different wild mushroom species, each with their own benefits to bring to the mix, as well as a handful of wilted wild greens thrown in for good measure, is a good recipe for fighting the January blues if ever I saw one.
I should briefly explain the language I’ve used in the recipe for the different mushrooms, because they require different handling to get the best out of them. I’ve referred to things that are tough and only really used for infusing the broth as dried “hard” mushrooms. These are things like turkey tails and artist bracket mushrooms that have a lot of health benefits and give depth of flavour, but are woody and unpleasant to chew, and so are discarded after infusing the broth. Mushrooms that dry well and are also great to eat once rehydrated, I’ve referred to as dried “soft” mushrooms. These are things like ceps (porcinis), chanterelles, blewits, or other mushrooms that can be preserved this way. Fresh mushrooms I think should be self-explanatory. Mushrooms are seasonal just as vegetables are, so the fresh mushrooms in this recipe can be adapted to whichever season you find yourself in. For example, use morels and St George’s mushrooms in spring, fresh ceps and chanterelles in autumn, or fresh velvet shanks and oyster mushrooms in winter.
If you don’t forage or have access to wild mushrooms and greens, don’t worry! Feel free to swap out the wild mushrooms for any dried or fresh mushrooms you do have access to, and use spinach and spring onions instead of the wild greens. The soup will be just as tasty!
Wild Mushroom Soba Recipe
- Handful dried hard mushrooms (e.g. turkey tails, artists bracket etc)
- 30g dried soft mushrooms (e.g. ceps (porcini), field blewits, or any other dried mushroom that you can eat the flesh of without breaking your teeth!)
- 60g fresh seasonal mushrooms (e.g. oysters, velvet shanks, jelly ears etc in winter)
- Handful seasonal greens (such as dandelion, garlic mustard, three-cornered leek, hairy bittercress or cleavers in winter)
- 100g buckwheat soba noodles
- 1 litre water
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Soy sauce to taste
- The night before, if using dried hard mushrooms such as turkey tails and/or artist bracket mushrooms, place into a slow cooker with the water and leave to infuse slowly overnight to get the most out of your mushrooms.
- The following day when you’re ready to make your broth, strain out the dried hard mushroom pieces and discard, retaining the liquid which is now full of flavour and nutrients. Heat in a saucepan until just below a boil and pour the liquid over your dried soft mushrooms, in a bowl. Cover and leave for 30 minutes so that your mushrooms rehydrate and your broth takes on even more flavour and depth.
- Meanwhile cook your buckwheat noodles as per the instructions on the packet.
- Sautee your fresh mushrooms in oil with a dash of soy sauce.
- After your dried soft mushrooms have soaked for 30 minutes, remove your rehydrated mushrooms and finely chop, decant the broth back into a saucepan (but take care to leave any sediment or grit behind). Gently reheat your broth and season to taste with salt or soy sauce ready for serving.
- Serve the soba noodles into bowls and ladle over your mushroom broth and wild winter greens. Top with the chopped rehydrated and the sautéed mushrooms and enjoy.
Let me know in the comments what you think of this recipe, or tag me on Instagram @plotandlane as I love to see and share your creations! I’d love to know which wild and seasonal ingredients you use for yours…
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