Grilled eggplant, spinach, and quail eggs on soba noodles
for 4 cups dashi
15 x 15 cm piece of kombu
dried shiitake mushrooms
medium sized, 6cm across
not used if making a vegetarian version
bunch fresh spinach
dried soba noodles
Japanese chilli flakes
Grill/broil the eggplants whole, skin on, until the skins are charred black.
As soon as the eggplants are cool enough to handle, carefully peel off the charred skin.
Place in a colander, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and allow any juices to drain.
Reheat in the oven at 140 degC for 15 minutes before serving.
In a saucepan (not aluminium) soak the kombu and dried shiitake mushrooms in the 5 cups of water overnight, or for at least 3 hours.
Put the saucepan over a medium-low heat and wait until it simmering and soon to boil.
Remove from the heat. Remove the kombu and discard.
Remove the mushrooms and set aside. We will dice and sauté those.
If you are making a vegetarian version, that’s it. Set the dashi aside ready for the final assembly.
If you are making a non-vegetarian version, now is the time to add the katsuobushi. Let it steep in the hot dashi until it sink to the bottom.
Strain the dashi through a fine strainer, and then through muslin. Set aside ready for the final assembly.
Wash and coarsely chop the spinach.
Finely dice the spring onions.
In a wok or large high sided fry pan, sauté the spring onions inn the butter for 2 minutes.
Add the spinach and sauté until starting to wilt.
Add the salt and truffle oil (if using), toss, and remove from the heat.
Sous vide the quail eggs at 64degC for 40 minutes.
Plunge into an ice water bath.
Very carefully, peel the shells from the quail eggs.
Sautéd mushrooms slices
Using the shiitake mushrooms from the preparation of the dashi stock, dry with paper towels if necessary, and remove stems.
Slice across the longest edge to get good sized pieces.
Add a little oil to a skillet and sauté the sliced mushrooms until golden.
Soba, tsuyu, and serving
Cook the dried soba noodles according to the package, or until al dente. That will normally be 5 to 7 minutes. Start sampling at 5.
Drain the noodles in a colander and place under cold running water to stop the cooking and wash away any starch. Allow to drain.
To make the tsuyu, add 4 cups of the dashi, together with the soy sauce, mirin, and sake to a saucepan.
When nearly ready to serve, bring up to a simmer, and simmer for 5 minutes to evaporate off the alcohol.
Distribute soba noodles between bowls.
Top with grilled eggplant, spinach, quail eggs, and sautéd mushroom slices.
Pour over a portion of the dashi broth.
Sprinkle with chilli flakes, diced spring onions, or nori flakes.