I hadn’t really cooked any dishes from Ottolenghi’s books for about a year (and it would be another 6 months before I went back to cooking his recipes regularly). When I began cooking from Plenty More again, I realised 2 things: Firstly how much I had missed the flavours of Ottolenghi, and secondly I remembered the almost tedious number of processes in each recipe.
The deep sweetness and intensity produced by miso paste, combined with other Japanese staples, are guaranteed to put a smile on your dial on an overcast Winter or Early Spring day.
This one is no different. It has 7, yes seven, different processes with associated pots, pans and equipment. Make the vegetarian dashi, ribbon cut and soak ginger and spring onions, prep the eggplants, deep fry the eggplants, saute the onions, walnuts etc, make the sauce, cook the noodles.
So Ottolenghi flavours come at a price. Leave an afternoon free – at least several hours to cook and clean up – when making any of his dishes.
To be fair though – the man I call the Master of Flavour produces amazing dishes that makes the hours worth the effort!
This is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area. You can see the original recipe here.
Browse all of our Japanese dishes and all of our Eggplant recipes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Mid Spring recipes.
Noodles with Fried Eggplant, Miso and Walnuts
0.5 medium cucumber
3 spring onions
2 small eggplants
250ml sunflower oil, plus 1 Tblspn extra
250g udon or soba noodles
sea salt to taste
100g shallots, thinly sliced
1 Tblspn chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
120g walnuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
2 Tblspn mild miso paste
150ml vegetarian dashi
3 Tblspn mirin
2 Tblspn soy sauce
1 Tblspn caster sugar
1 Tblspn sake, optional
Cut the cucumber into long, thin, 2mm-thick strips and chill. Cut the spring onions into 5cm lengths then in half lengthwise, then cut into thin julienne and place in a bowl of iced water and chill. Place 10g of the ginger in the water with the spring onions.
Use a potato peeler to peel strips of skin from the aubergines, from top to bottom, so it leaves a stripy pattern. Discard the peels. Cut the aubergines into 2.5cm-thick discs, then cut each disc into four.
Heat 250ml oil in a medium pan and deep-fry the aubergine in batches until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a colander, sprinkle with a little salt and leave to drain.
make the topping
Put the shallots and remaining oil in a large pan and sauté on medium heat. Once they soften, after about two minutes, add the remaining ginger and garlic, and cook on low heat for five minutes. Add the walnuts and fried aubergine, stir, remove from heat and set aside.
If you have made your own dashi, remove the shiitake mushrooms and/or kombu and slice very thinly. Add to the pan with the aubergines.
make the sauce
In a bowl, whisk the remaining sauce ingredients (not the noodles, cucumber or spring onions), then add to the pan with the eggplants.
Cook the noodles as instructed on the packet. While you do so, reheat the sauce and allow some evaporation so it thickens a little but not much.
Drain and dry the spring onion and ginger.
Serve individual portions of hot noodles, topped in the centre with walnut sauce. Finish with a sprinkling of the cucumber, ginger and spring onion.
recipe notes and alternatives
I make my own dashi, or you can just simmer kombu, an edible kelp, for just five minutes in a little water (buy it online, or at Asian, Japanese and some health-food stores). Or simmer with some soaked dried shiitake mushrooms.