Quick and easy kombu miso noodle soup

Snowdays were the magic of New York winters, here in London, it’s the flowers. Flowers in winter! I had never noticed.

Perhaps living most of my adult life in cities where temperatures in January usually sink far below freezing is to blame. Perhaps I just wasn’t looking. I have over the years gone from a reliable killer of every indoor plant, to a tentative balcony pot tender, all the way, most recently, to a mildly obsessive pruner, mulcher, planter, and general garden observer these past couple of years when there was Absolutely. Nothing. Else. To. Do. Somehow I hadn’t really realised that some flowers bloom in the dead of winter, and not because of climate anomalies.

This has changed my view on January. I don’t bemoan the absence of snow, or gripe at the soggy, bone-chilling but stubbornly above freezing — ‘this isn’t proper winter!’ — temperatures.

The camelia I was given last year (the day I also discovered these life-altering sourdough discard scones) has just begun to bloom. Hellebores are unfurling. And tiny tightly bound buds have appeared on all the mimosa trees nearby.

— Magic!

Quick and easy kombu miso noodle soup
This has become my favourite easy, one-pot, 40-minute (but only because the kombu needs to soak for half an hour) lunch.

A 5 to 15cm piece of kombu

Per person —
1/3 to 1/2ltr (1 1/2 to 2 cups) water
75g rice or soba noodles
100g-ish of tofu or salmon or boneless chicken thigh (or breast)
2 Tbsps miso paste
4 to 5 spring onions (scallions)
Tamari soy sauce
Favourite form of chilli (flakes, paste, rayu, …)

Let the kombu soak in the cold water in a saucepan for 30 minutes. => choose a pan that will hold about 3 times the amount of water.

Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients: (It’s important to prep everything in advance as the dish comes together in bare minutes at the end)

Cut the tofu/salmon/chicken into bite size pieces. NOTE: These pieces could be seared in a pan, which would be very good, but it creates an additional step and uses a extra pan that will need to be washed… For simplicity I added them directly to be cooked with the noodles.

Remove any damaged outer layer and chop the spring onions (scallions) very thinly (discard both ends).

Once the kombu has soaked for half an hour, turn on the heat and bring the water to a boil. Remove the kombu just before the water starts to boil (when there are just tiny bubbles forming around the kombu, before they erupt into a full boil).

Scoop a tablespoon of miso paste into each bowl, add just a spoonful of hot kombu water and mix well until the miso has dissolved (this will prevent the miso from forming clumps in the broth).

Put the noodles into the boiling water — the cooking time is usually just five minutes. Watch carefully and taste for doneness.

Tofu option: place the pieces of tofu inside the bowl with the miso.
Salmon or chicken option: put the fish/meat in the pan with the cooking noodles during the last few minutes of cooking — the chicken should take 3 to 4 minutes to poach, the salmon just 1 or 2 minutes so add this at the very end!

As soon as the noodles are cooked, remove the pan from the heat and pour the soup (and noodles) into each bowl.

Sprinkle a small handfull of spring onions over the soup and season with tamari or soy sauce and a spoonful — or two — of chilli.

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