Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Nigella's "Noodle Soup for Needy People" with Homemade Dashi

I think we all feel needy at times, at least I know I do. There are days when you just need to throw together a quick dinner, something healthy, nourishing and comforting and Nigella has just the recipe for it with her Noodle Soup for Needy People (worth making for the title alone!). This week we are making Sustaining Soups and Stews at I Heart Cooking Clubs, and this bowl of thick udon noodles with lots of green veggies is quite sustaining.

I was going to make my soup with chicken or veggie stock but decided to make a quick batch of dashi, a basic Japanese soup stock made with kombu (seaweed) and bonito flakes (shaved flakes of dried smoked fish). It's an extra step but it is easy enough, smells delicious and makes for a light stock that works well as a base here. I made a few additions and changes to Nigella's soup ingredients (in red below), just a few touches to pump up some of my favorite flavors.

The recipe can be found in "Nigella Express" on pg 167 & at the Food Network site

Nigella says, "I have to say, to be prescriptive about a noodle soup seems to be against the ethos of what you're actually cooking. When I need a noodle soup, believe me I am in no mood to start weighing and measuring. I heat some broth, of some description or other, and throw in a variety of vegetables that are skulking about in the fridge and the most soothing noodles I can find. You can add other things, some chicken strips or, at the end, some fine rags of raw tuna or salmon, but I generally want the vegetably broth and noodles by themselves. The protein element, while so desirable in so many ways I'm sure, is not what I'm after here. But anyway, I throw down a blueprint here. Don't get caught up in it, but follow it if feels helpful."

Noodle Soup for Needy People
Nigella Lawson
(Serves 2 for Supper)

6 ounces udon noodles (dried, from a packet)
3 cups chicken or vegetable or dashi broth (see recipe below)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 star anise (used 2)
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp red chili pepper flakes
2 Tbsp soy sauce (used low sodium)
3/4 cup sweet onion, sliced paper thin
3/4 cup bean sprouts (omitted)
3/4 cup sugar snaps
3/4 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 heads baby bok choy, finely sliced
2 Tbsp freshly chopped cilantro leaves
2 Tbsp sliced green onion (green part only)
2 tsp roasted sesame seeds

Cook the noodles according to packet instructions and while the water is boiling fill a nearby saucepan with stock, brown sugar, star anise, ginger, garlic, chili pepper, and soy sauce. (When the noodles are done, just drain them and put half in each bowl.)

When the flavored stock comes to a boil, add the vegetables. They should be cooked before 2 minutes are up.

Pour half into each bowl, over the cooked and drained noodles and sprinkle with cilantro, green onion and toasted sesame seeds.

Notes/Results: A very soothing bowl of noodles with a mild but good flavor. I am glad I added a bit more flavor to my soup, as I think I would have found it a little too mild with just the spices Nigella used. I really loved the sweetness of the sugar snap peas in it and the light crunch of the bok choy stems. This is a great curl up on the couch with a big bowl of noodly goodness kind of soup--very relaxing, pure and zen-like. If you want some protein, tossing in some shrimp, cooked chicken or tofu cubes would be great. A simple pleasure and I would make this again, with my changes and using whatever veggies I dug out of my fridge.

For the homemade dashi, I used the recipe we learned in my Japanese class--a simple ichibandashi. Ichibandashi is a very aromatic, mild flavored broth usually used for clear or lighter soups.

by Sachie Nakamura
(Makes 1 quart)

5-inch piece of dried kombu
1 1/2 cups bonito flakes
1 quart water

Prep: Wipe the kombu with a damp cloth and cut a fringe on both sides. Soak the kombu in water for at least 30 minutes and drain.

Heat the kombu in the water over medium heat until small bubbles come up from the kombu. Remove the kombu before the water starts a rolling boil, add the bonito flakes and simmer until bubbles form around the sides of the pot.

Turn off the heat and skim off any "scum" that forms. Let it sit until the bonito flakes sink to the bottom of the pot. Strain, reserving liquid and discarding solids. (Sorry the pictures have the steam still--I was too impatient (and needy!) to wait for things to cool).

Note: Max wanted me to tell you all that if you have any extra bonito to pass it along to your feline companions. The fish flakes are his favorite snack and one the vet says is OK for his not so delicate waistline. ;-) I stock big bags of bonito at all times for cooking and even more importantly, for kitty-pleasing.

You can see the Sustaining Soups and Stews that our other IHCC participants made by going to the site (here) and following the links.

Plus, because this one is so chock full of noodles I am sending it to Presto Pasta Nights, that wonderful event started (and hosted this week) by the amazing Ruth at Once Upon a Feast. Can you believe PPN is turning 3 years old this week?!? Amazing and such a fun event, I love to join in whenever I can. Happy Anniversary Ruth and PPN! ;-)


  1. yummy! and a great way to use that bonito!

  2. Oh wow, dashi sounds perfect for this soup, good call. :) Your version rocks! Beautiful photos too. I am making this noodle soup. Thanks Deb!

  3. I adore noodle soups, and this looks like a good simple recipe to follow. I need to try my hand at making dashi, it does add a wonderful touch of umami.

  4. Oh the noodle soup looks so flavorful and healthy! Just what I need right now!

  5. That does look very soothing indeed. Needy people? I don't know what you're talking about! Hahahahaha! Okay, I am rather needy.. maybe I need some soup. :)

  6. I was wondering what with the name too:-)))))
    A really fantastic recipe,hearty ,warming and deliciously delightfull.....

  7. I can definitely be needy at times...especially when it comes to food. This dish looks like it would definitely satisfy my needs though...there's something about noodle soup that is just so....satiating. Beautiful dish.

  8. Your soup turned out gorgeous Deb! I just love how this recipe is chock full of great ingredients, like noodles and veggies. It just seems like you would feel good after eating it. I'm making mine tomorrow, also without bean sprouts and with the addition of garlic and hot pepper. Great minds think alike!

  9. wow cool homemade dashi and no MSG and you make the best soups ever

  10. I definitely need to look into making some dashi. It sounds delicious.

    I love that I'm constantly discovering new food sites everyday. I've not see the PPN before and I'm headed over to check it out.

  11. I can't tell you how good this looks to me. I especially love the recipe for dashi. Your soup looks wonderfully flavorful and your photos complete a near perfect foray into the world of quick noodles.

  12. Wow Deb, this does look healthful. I love the look of it-could have used something like this at lunch for sure!
    Oh, and your blog is just lovely. Glad to have stumbled upon you. By the way, it is my dream to live in Hawaii.

  13. This looks sooooo good!!!Your pictures are also awesome! Wonderful job!

  14. I bet I could make that soup every day and never get sick of it. It looks fresh and delicious and so flavorful!

  15. Your changes sound like they really "make" this soup work!

  16. Beautiful looking soup and since so many people are feeling stressed and (at least here in the North) glum from the dreary days of winter, it's a perfect dish to bring to the big Presto Pasta Night birthday.

    Thanks for joining in the fun. Hope to see many of your noodley dishes in year #4!

  17. So yummy! The homemade dashi recipe will be very useful for me as I can never find it in the store.

  18. I love Nigella, that soup looks like health in a bowl!

    I liked the Historian, it was a bit long, but a great story. I read recently that it's the Twilight for intelligent people! : )

  19. Hi: I'm always peeking in to see what luscious recipes you have included here - especially when my fiance is a replanted "hawaiian".

    I’ve nominated you for a Sunshine Award. It is awarded to bloggers whose positiveness and creativity inspire others in the blog world.
    You can pick it up over on my blog at

  20. this soup sounds so good. I've never added soy sauce to soup...but that sure is speaking to me right now. I have some stuff at home to make a stir may have changed my dinner plans for the night :)

  21. oh this looks just what I need - does that make me a needy person so I can have some of this :-)

  22. Ooh, my husband would love that soup! I'm bookmarking this one!


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