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Dashi Herring and Poached Mooli Soba Broth

I reach for this soup when seeking pure nourishment as it is delicate, light and real injection of heart-warming goodness.    

Hon-dashi is the core of all most Japanese soups and noodle dishes. It is traditionally made from bonito fish: loins of skipjack tuna are smoked and dried until rocket hard, then shaved on a special Japanese mandolin into ultrathin slices looking like pink chip wood, these are then lightly cooked in water with soy into a smooth soup base infamous by its high umami content. Unfortunately, most commercial brands of hon- dashi contain MSG, so to avoid this I often make my version of dashi from mackerel head, bones and tales left over from making mackerel sashimi and add a dash of Thai or Indonesian fish sauce to get a hint of the fermentation missing in this fast tracked version. Do as follow: put discarded pieces from 4 mackerel into a sauce pan and add 1 litre of water, 2 dried shitake mushroom, one nob of ginger about 2 centimetres long cut into thin slices (no need to peel), 1 pieces of konbu about 10 centimetres long and 10 whole pepper corns. Bring just to the boil and leave to simmer for 30 minutes, drain over a colander and return liquid to a clean sauce pan, add 10 ml dark soy sauce and reduce over low heat for 10-15 minutes, cool and freeze in an ice cube tray. I cube = one tsp. hon-dashi. 

Soba noodles I prefer the 100% buckwheat for a gluten free version, but soba noodles containing some wheat flour or flat udon can also be used in this recipe.

Serves 4

Make time 40 minutes

Allergens: herring (fish), hon-dashi (milk, fish) or homemade dashi (fish, crustaceans), soy sauce (soy), soba noodles (wheat)

8 pin boned herring fillets
Sea salt
300 ml sushi vinegar
10 centimetre konbu
1 medium size mooli
½ cucumber

20ml + 10 ml. soy sauce
50ml mirin
1tbs hon-dashi, preferable made from own stock
1tbs honey
500ml water and 600ml boiling water
½ kg baby spinach
200g dried soba noodles
½ red onion thinly sliced

Place the herring fillets in a shallow tray flesh side up, sprinkle with a generous layer of sea salt and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes. Prepare the mooli, peel and cut into 1-centimetre-thick discs. Place mooli in a sauce pan with soy, mirin, hon-dashi, honey and 500ml water, leave to simmer until the mooli is just soft.

Clean the spinach thoroughly and remove stalks. Blanch in plenty of salted boiling water for just 2 minutes, drain in a colander and leave to cool for at least 10 minutes. Peel the cucumber and cut into ½ centimetre slices, cook on a very hot non slip pan until charred, leave to rest on the side.

Now cure the herring, first rinse herring in cold water to remove ALL salt, then add sushi vingar, kombu and 10 ml. of soy for 15 minutes.

Cook the soba noodles until just al dente for 6-7 minutes, drain, rinse in cold water for less than a minute and leave to rest on the side. 

Add the herring to the mooli liquid and poach for 1-2 minutes until just heated through, but taking care not to break up the fish by overcooking. Gently remove herring and mooli form poaching liquid, return sauce pan to the stove, add boiling water to ensure you have 1 litre piping hot mixture, then return noodles to the liquid for a few minutes to heat through. Divide soba into 4 serving bowls, add herring, spinach, red onions, then pour the poaching mixture over the dish and the noodles are ready to serve.

Add the spinach, mooli and herring. Sprinkle with the spring onions and serve.