Back when I was at uni, our campus was abundantly green with startling clusters of blossoming wild daffodils, primroses and water violets dotting the verdant landscape. We would often sit outside spotting ladybugs on blades of grass under the temperamental English sun with piping hot coffee in hand and snacks that came in large freezer bags from the pound shop. Ever since I took to cooking, picnicking with friends is something I miss quite a bit since the weather is almost never picnic-friendly in Mumbai. When we take day trips out with family though, I’m always pro making my own meal rather than stopping at a dingy roadside place that’s probably not going to sit well with my stomach anyway. These meals, always simple to make and packed smartly, are the highlight of my trip and I honestly look forward to them during my journey.
My meal of soba noodle with a maple carrot dressing and grapefruit is healthy-ish and super yum because it calls for nutty buckwheat soba, 100% pure maple syrup from Canada and coconut milk dressing, bitter grapefruit or pummelo, nuts, and herbs. Feel free to play with the elements while keeping the dressing the same. Peppery greens like arugula go brilliantly here as well. Swap out the green peas for beans too if you’d like. When making the dressing, I strongly urge you to use 100% pure maple syrup from Canada since that’s the real deal and I do not condone adding corn syrup, sugar, or those maple-flavoured pancake syrups to this dressing, which will make it taste sickly sweet and we’re going for a more rounded maple and carrot flavour.
When packing this up for a picnic, put the noodles, peanuts and the dressing in separate containers and chill till it’s time to go. You can combine the leaves if using, herbs, peas and grapefruit segments in another container. Simply stir everything together when it’s time to eat.
Soba Noodles with Maple Carrot Dressing and Grapefruit
Yield 2-3 as a meal
Perfect for picnics or even as a working lunch, this soba noodle salad has crunch, creamy sweetness from the 100 % pure maple syrup and lots of greens.
Soba noodles 200g (you can buy brands like Red Dragon available locally)
Salt 1 tsp
Green peas 100g
Grapefruit 1 or 1/2 pummelo, peeled and segments removed
A handful of arugula, torn roughly and refreshed
Peanuts 100g, lightly toasted and crushed
Coriander leaves 3 tbsp, chopped roughly
For the dressing:
Coconut milk 50ml
Ginger 1-inch piece, freshly grated
Turmeric 1/2-inch piece, freshly grated
Carrot 1, preferably a long red carrot, peeled
Green chilies 2
Extra virgin olive oil 2 tbsp
Blended sesame oil 1 tbsp
100% pure maple syrup from Canada 1-2 tbsp depending on how sweet you want it
Rice vinegar 2 tbsp
Red onion 1 small, peeled and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and drop the soba noodles in once you’ve brought the water up to a rolling boil with a heaped teaspoon of salt. Cook the noodles for 4-5 minutes or until it is cooked through but with a bit of bite still left to it.
Drain the noodles and run them under cold water. Set aside. To the same pot of boiling water, add the peas and blanch them for a whole minute, then drain and shock the peas in ice cold water. Set this aside as well.
In a high power blender, add all the ingredients for the dressing and adjust the salt and the vinegar if necessary.
When it’s ready to serve, toss the soba noodles using chopsticks or two forks with the dressing, grapefruit segments or pummelo, coriander, arugula, green peas and sprinkle over the chopped, lightly toasted peanuts. Serve.