Here in Sydney, a week of temperatures above 30 degrees C has meant salads for dinner every evening, followed by a Frosty Fruit ice block for dessert, followed by a night of sweat-drenched, disrupted sleep (and not in a good way). That's how the past 7 days has panned out. And didn't we all draw a deep breath of relief when the cool change swept into town... phew, I'll never complain about cool weather ever again!
Given the predilection for salads, non-creamy desserts and the unprecedented loss of bodily fluids, I'm actually surprised that I haven't lost any weight. This may have something to do with the fact that I haven't been exercising either, just draped on the sofa each night, moaning about how hot it is and why the heck doesn't this house have air-conditioning??? That's just an aside...
One of the salads we ate was this fantastic combination from Ottolenghi's Plenty cookbook. It takes soba noodles (which are brilliant when served cold) and lightly pan-fried eggplant and mixes them with mango. Well, I would have used mango if the ruddy supermarket had any - there was a dearth of mangoes even before the recent cyclone Yasi, so I had to substitute nectarines instead. Any type of mellow yet firm fruit will do, though I'd hesitate to recommend something like pineapple or orange. Best stick with the known and trusted.
Soba noodles with aubergine and nectarines
60ml rice vinegar
20g caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp sesame oil
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
100ml sunflower oil
1 aubergine, cut into 2 cm dice
150g soba noodles
1 mango or 2 nectarines, flesh cut into 1cm dice
70g marinated firm tofu, cut into 1 cm dice (optional)
20g basil leaves
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1. For the dressing: In a small saucepan, gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic and sesame oil. Alllow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.
2. For the aubergine: Heat the sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the aubergine in batches. When golden brown, remove to a colander, sprinkle with salt and allow to drain.
3. Cook the noodles in boiling water for about 6-8 minutes, until tender but still with some 'bite'. Drain and rinse well under running water. Leave the noodles to dry in a clean tea towel.
4. In a mixing bowl, toss the noodles with the dressing, nectarines, aubergine, onion, basil and tofu, if using. Mix well, then serve.
recipe adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
Ingredients, including nectarines (in the absence of mango), aubergine (aka eggplant), soba noodles, lime and garlic. The original recipe also calls for coriander, but you know what I think of that particular herb... hint: it's not angelic
Once the aubergine has been shallow-fried and drained, everything is tossed together.
It forms a substantial and interesting salad.
The good thing is, you can add whatever ingredients you have on hand - like the cubes of marinated tofu here.