Thursday, 10 April 2014

#11: Pan-fried salmon and soba noodle soup

'Comfort food'. To me, that's always conjured up feelings of warm but heavy food. Perhaps its due to a heritage where potatoes and bread accompany nearly every meal, sometimes together (chip butty anyone?). 'Comfort food' means pasta, jacket potatoes with piles of butter and cheese, slabs of french toast, hash browns, and - of course - stew. Soups, however, are typically the one dish which falls outside of this 'heavy' category, and as the days get a little cooler here in Perth, I'm drawn once again to comfort foods and soups in particular.

Soba is traditionally served either cold with a dipping 'sauce' or hot in a soupy broth like in this recipe. I like it either hot or cold, but, with my desire for some 'comfort' in this dish, I opted for a hot soup with pan-fried salmon and spring onions. The broth here is water-based, although other recipes suggest a chicken-stock base. My decision was based solely on having forgotten to buy chicken stock (and having none in the house).

 photo 11_salmon_soba_zps859c4790.jpg

Serves 2. 1-2 hours marinading time & 20 minutes cooking time.


For the salmon:
2 fillets of salmon
2-4 tablespoons honey
2-4 tablespoons soy sauce
Lots of black pepper

For the noodles:
180g dried soba noodles
4-5 spring onions
2 large slices fresh ginger
5 cups water
1 tablespoon mirin
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil


  1. Around 1-2 hours before cooking, place the salmon in a bowl and cover with the honey, soy sauce and black pepper. Put aside to marinade.
  2. In a saucepan, bring to the boil the water, mirin, soy sauce and sesame oil, along with half of the spring onions (chopped finely) and the ginger. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. With 5-10 minutes before serving, heat a pan of sesame oil and place the salmon in. Cook to your personal preference, I like my salmon soft and light pink on the outside but fleshy and deeper pink on the inside which takes around 7 minutes on a hot ring.
  4. Remove the ginger slices and add the soba noodles from the broth and add in the soba noodles. Bring the pot to the boil again and then let simmer for around 4 minutes.
  5. Serve up the noodles and soup in bowls, adding the remaining chopped spring onions as a garnish. Finally, place a salmon fillet on top.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Share, a cookbook by Women for Women International

Women for Women International provide support and training for women whose lives have been impacted by war, working in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Southern Sudan and Rwanda. Through a one-year program, women who would otherwise be socially excluded are provided with job-specific skills, business training and education on their rights, enabling survivors of war to become strong leaders in their communities. 

Share (available through Oxfam) is a cookbook produced by Women for Women International. It features dishes from each of the countries it works in, along with recipes from chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Maggie Beer, humanitarians, including Emma Thompson, Christiane Amanpour, Sir Richard Branson, Dame Judi Dench, Annie Lennox, America Ferrera, and Livia Firth, and even Nobel Peace Prize laureates Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. I bought a copy last week, and have started working my way through some of the recipes. I'm guilty of often using recipe books as an inspirational 'starting point' when I'm cooking: sometimes I purposely deviate from the script, experimenting with different ingredients and tastes, while other times I'm simply constrained by what's in the fridge and I have to adjust recipes accordingly. However I've found that with Share I'm keen to follow the recipes to the letter, particularly when trying the dishes from the Women for Women International countries.

Share: A cookbook by Women for Women International | 52 dishes

The book is sectioned into 'well-being', 'nuture', 'community', and 'celebration', with recipes aimed at healthy dishes, meals for the family table, and recipes for sharing. The instructions are logical and easy to follow, an despite a heavy leaning towards international dishes, there aren't too many ingredients you'd need to hunt down in a specialist store. The spicy chicken casserole from Rwanda (pictured below) is a new favourite, and is likely to make its way onto the table several times this winter: it's a light and fresh dish with a nice kick to it.

Rwandan chicken casserole | 52 dishes

I'll be adding occasional recipe book reviews to the blog - if you'd like to recommend a recipe book that you swear by, please do let me know.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

#10: Pasta with roast asparagus, prosciutto and pesto

Things are a little busy in the 52 dishes household at the moment. I've been pulling a few long hours here and there, and as a result dinners have been a bit simpler and easier, aimed at getting me and my husband fed rather than something I linger over. Don't get me wrong, I'm nothing silly like an investment banker or a newborn mother, and I've still been able to make time most days for my daily dog-walk-on-the-beach, but things have been a just a little bit more hectic than I'd like.

This is just a slightly fancier version of pesto and pasta - which, let's be honest, is a student dish - making it perfect for a busy weekday night. We get fresh pasta and pesto from a local Italian grocery shop which also has the best deals on seasonal fruit and vegetables, so we typically throw in whatever is going cheap. However, this was my first time cooking asparagus: I've historically been a bit afraid of it, as I've had some tough and rubbery asparagus before and therefore assumed there was a bit of magic to getting it right. This recipe worked really well though, relying on some oil and white wine to keep it nice and tender (you could substitute lemon juice if your white wine is precious, which it probably should be).

Roast Asparagus & Proscuitto Pasta | 52 Dishes

Serves 2. 40 minutes preparation & cooking time.


400g pasta
1 onion
8-10 stems of asparagus
Half a cup of white wine
4 slices of proscuitto
4 tablespoons of basil pesto
Flaked parmesan to serve


  1. Slice the onion and put in the oven (180-200C) in a small and shallow roasting dish doused in olive oil. Give the onions around 10 minutes to soften before adding the asparagus.
  2. Chop the asparagus into 'bite size' chunks and add to the onion dish and pour on a large splash of white wine. Add black pepper and put back in the oven for around 15 minutes.
  3. Bring a pan of water with salt and oil to the boil. Add the pasta and simmer for 20 minutes (or according to the cooking requirements of your choice of pasta).
  4. Drain the pasta and stir in the pesto and sliced proscuitto.
  5. Add the onion and asparagus and serve with flaked parmesan and black pepper.

This goes fantastic with Riesling. We drank Taylors Estate Riesling which is really crisp and citrusy - a great complement to the asparagus.