I don’t buy many cookbooks – those that I do buy tend to specialise in a particular regional cuisine I’m interested in. I just don’t have the space to acquire that many more cookbooks, even though I still love reading cookbooks. I usually just borrow from the library and keep them on a rotating loan for a while and then, when that runs out, I’ll borrow them again a month or two down the track. Which is what I did with the cookbook Community, which this recipe for miso eggplant soba noodles comes from. I borrowed it from the library and when I went to renew it, I couldn’t because somebody had placed a hold on it. So I went out and bought it, because I couldn’t stand not having this particular cookbook on my shelf at home.
Community is not a big glossy high-end book (though it does exude a kind of low-key hipster cool), but it’s packed with recipes of the ‘I must make this now‘ kind. I’m not the only one who loves this book: it’s become like cult bestseller. It seems to sell out at bookstores, so you have to track it down. A friend of mine bought four copies when she finally found it in stock at a bookstore: one for herself and three for each of her sisters as Christmas presents. It’s that kind of book – hard to get enough of! All the recipes are vegetarian and they are all salads, generous and filling, which work as complete meals in themselves. It’s like the perfect Sydney summer cookbook for when the humidity hits and a one-bowl salad meal is the only thing you could possibly want to eat.
The recipe below serves four to six as a main meal, so cut it it half unless you’re serving a crowd. It does make excellent leftovers the next day though and, like all the recipes in Community, would make perfect picnic food now the jacarandas are in bloom and the Sydney picnic season is upon us.
Miso eggplant soba noodles
Adapted from Community by Hetty McKinnon
- 4 eggplants (aubergines) (1.5 kg)
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 200 grams eschallots (about 6) thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 tablespoons mild miso paste
- 200 mls of dashi, vegetable stock or water
- 3 tablespoons mirin
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
- 400 grams soba noodles
- ½ cup green onions, finely chopped
- 1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
- Preheat oven to 200°C
- Peel strips of skins from the eggplant leaving thick black strips. Cut into 2 cm cubes. Place on baking tray and sprinkle with about three tablespoons of olive oil. Bake in oven for 20–25 minutes (tossing occasionally) until tender. Place in a colander, sprinkle generously with salt and allow to cool.
- Heat remaining three tablespoons of olive oil in large pan or wok, and saute sliced shallots until tender (three minutes), add garlic and ginger, and saute gently on a low heat for another five minutes. Add miso paste, stock, sugar simmer gently until thickens slightly. Add eggplant and rice vinegar to miso sauce and stir together.
- Cook soba noodles according to packet instructions, drain and refresh with cold water.
- Toss together soba noodles, miso and eggplant sauce and sliced green onions. Place on a serving platter and scatter walnuts over the top.
Serves 4–6 as a main meal