I have a habit of making way too much salad. And the problem is that most of the salads, especially bright refreshing summer salads, don’t last long once you dress them. On top of that I dislike, understandably, throwing food away. So the combination of the two means that we always have to finish the meal with that extra serving of salad that no one quite has space for.
And this brings me to the topic of why I like colder months of the year, like fall and winter. And it is all about the salads this time of year. Big, bold salads. Salads that are dense and hearty and, importantly, that only get better with time. Which means you can make a big bowl of salad on the weekend and still enjoy it mid-week. Hooray! No more leftovers or extra unwanted helpings!
There are quite a few salad that fall into this, let’s call it, winter category. But my outright favourite has to be Asian-style Soba & Kale salad. A perfect meal on its own or a beautiful side dish with your chosen helping of protein.
Before I move onto the salad, let me say a few words about soba. While soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat, most of soba noodles you find are made from a combination of both buckwheat flour and wheat flour (used as a binding ingredient). I try to avoid wheat, and any type of gluten, at least when cooking at home. Not because I have gluten intolerance, but simply because I have realised how much better I feel when I follow a gluten-free lifestyle. (I do allow myself an occasional gluten-filled treat on the weekends, like a bowl of pasta or a slice of sourdough toast with my Sunday breakfast. And you appreciate those so much more when they are occasional treats rather than every day occurrence). So back to soba. You can find 100% buckwheat soba noodles – Towari or Juwari are the two types of soba that you want to keep an eye out for.
So, once we have chosen our soba noodles, boil them according to pack instructions (typically 5-6mins) and refresh under cold water to wash off all the starch. I typically do half a pack at a time, which would make enough salad to feed 3-4 people as a side dish.
Next wash and prepare a large bunch of kale (dinosaur kale is my favourite). Cut out the stems, roll the leaves and cut them into thin ribbons.
Now make a dressing – and you can vary the proportions according to taste. Remember – tasting as you go along and adjusting the proportions is what really makes this recipe your own.
1 large clove garlic, grated
thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
2 spring onions, sliced
red chili to taste, sliced
A large handful of herbs, chopped – I like basil, parsley and/or coriander
2 Tbsp. tamari (gluten free soy sauce alternative)
3-4 Tbsp. raw sesame oil (use less if you use toasted sesame oil as it is much stronger in flavour)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
zest and juice of 1 lime (if you dont have any limes on hand, you can always substitute with a little mirin or rice wine vinegar)
Mix all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl and add the cooked soba and the kale. Mix well. I like to top the salad with either a handful of sesame seeds or some chopped nuts (raw cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds… – pretty much anything you have on hand to give it an element of a crunch).
Perfect as a meal on its own, but I like to have mine with a side of terriyaki salmon.
Can be enjoyed straight away or kept in the fridge for a few days (which makes this brilliant for those mid-week lunchboxes or dinners after a late night in the office).