Friday, 23 March 2012

Oriental cucumber noodle salad

It’s official: Spring is officially in full swing. The daffodils are out and proud in cheerful yellow hues and there’s a carpet of delicate purple crocuses in St James Park. It’s not all that long until the long Easter weekend, which we tend to fill with socialising and lots of food. Now that the weather is getting warmer, I'm starting to shun my trusty soup recipes and bust out my refreshing salad recipes. I tend to lean towards zingy and fresh flavours in simple combinations that are - as always - easy to throw together.

This oriental-style cucumber and noodle salad is my current favourite. The ribbons of cucumber are cool and refreshing while the dressing of sweetened vinegar, garlic, soy and a touch of chilli is punchy. If you have time, you can toast the sesame seeds but I like to keep them pale and interesting; the toasted sesame oil in the dressing adds richness anyway. Use whatever noodles you fancy; rice ones are tasty if you're observing a gluten free diet. It keeps pretty well and can be made in advance; prepare the dressing and drizzle over before serving.

I call it "oriental-style" because I'm not certain whether it's Japanese, Chinese or something-else-ese. Apologies for my ignorance and enjoy!

Oriental cucumber noodle salad
Serves 2 (or 4 as a side)

For the salad:
½ a large cucumber
1 small cos lettuce
90g dried (rice) noodles
2 tbsp sesame seeds

For the dressing:
50ml white/rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp mirin (optional)
Squeeze of lime juice
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce (or to taste)

- Boil the kettle and cook the noodles as per the instructions (mine needed submerging in boiling water for four minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water to stop them from over cooking.
- Meanwhile, warm the vinegar, sugar, garlic and chilli together in a pan over a medium heat, whisking to encourage the sugar to dissolve. Set aside to cool.
- Half the cucumber lengthways and scoop the seeds out with a teaspoon. Finely slice or use a peeler to produce thin ribbons. Finely slice the lettuce.
- Whisk the remaining ingredients into the cooled flavoured vinegar.
- Combine the cucumber, lettuce and noodles and drizzle with dressing and sesame seeds.
- Plate up and scatter with a few more sesame seeds.

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