Recipe: Japanese Buckwheat Soup
As the weather starts to truly turn, we’re delighted to share our second cosy extract from The Fruitful Kitchen – beautifully designed cookbooks printed in small quantities in Melbourne, using only recycled and FSC papers. With each book containing 13 eclectic, mostly vegetarian recipes featuring seasonal produce, the aim of their delicious game is to get people excited about each season. Written and photographed by Rachel Pitts and designed and illustrated by Nicole Stewart, you can snap the books up here – and after you do that, whip up this delicious, wholegrain soup – ideal for keeping the winter chill at bay.
This soup was inspired by one I ordered in a very hard-to-find little restaurant in an isolated part of Japan called the Iya Valley, where buckwheat is grown. I loved the idea of the soup before I even tasted it – a vegetable soup not with the usual buckwheat (soba) noodles, but with actual buckwheat grain. It is a bit of a revelation, especially if you don’t eat gluten (most soba noodles contain wheat flour too), or if you are just into whole grains like me.
The soup also happens to be impressively quick and easy, made with only water. The vegetables make their own light stock in the water while they cook. I use pine mushrooms in autumn, but you can also use fresh or dried shiitake.
Grated fresh ginger on top is another revelation. It gives the soup fresh heat and makes it taste incredibly, well, Japanese.
Ingredients (serves 3–4)
1.25 litres water
2 large carrots, diced
7 fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms (rehydrated in hot water if dried), or 5 fresh pine mushrooms (saffron milk caps), diced
½ cup buckwheat kernels
200g tofu, cut into small cubes
2½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
Generous knob of ginger, grated
1 spring onion, finely sliced (optional)
Combine the water, carrot and mushroom in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the buckwheat kernels into a small saucepan and cover with generous water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the kernels are just soft. Drain and rinse the buckwheat.
Add the tofu, soy sauce and mirin to the soup and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in the buckwheat and heat briefly, then turn off the heat. Taste for soy and mirin, adding more if needed. Serve in bowls with dollops of grated ginger. Garnish with spring onion if you have it – although the soup is also perfectly great without.