Buckwheat flour is gluten-free which makes it a good choice for anybody with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. Buckwheat is not a cereal grain but it is actually a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb and sorrel. It is packed with nutrients and has a nice nutty flavour. Buckwheat also has a low Glycemic index. Diets that contain buckwheat have been linked to lowered risk of developing high blood pressure and this is due in part to its rich supply of flavonoids, particularly rutin that includes the catechins of green tea and the polyphenols of red wine, is not found in other grains or beans, but is contained in great quantity in buckwheat.
The key to their powerful cancer-fighting potential is precisely their wholeness of the buckwheat as supplements containing rutin only is not as effective. Flavonoids are phytonutrients that protect against disease by extending the action of vitamin C and acting as antioxidants. Buckwheat also contains almost 86 milligrams of magnesium in a one-cup serving. Magnesium relaxes blood vessels, improving blood flow and nutrient delivery while lowering blood pressure; the perfect combination for a healthy cardiovascular system. Buckwheat is also high in insoluble fiber (4.5 grams/cup) which can help women avoid gallstones. Researchers think insoluble fiber not only speeds the time food moves through the intestines, but reduces the secretion of bile acids (as excessive amounts contribute to gallstone formation), increases insulin sensitivity and lowers blood fats.
Soba noodles are native Japanese noodles made of buckwheat flour. Like pasta, soba noodles are available in dried form in supermarkets, but they taste best if freshly made by hand from buckwheat flour and water. The traditional Tokyo-style soba noodles have a ratio of 8 parts buckwheat to 2 parts wheat flour. The recipe below tells you how to make the noodles but you can buy the dried form from the supermarket as long as you ensure these are buckwheat noodles without any additional preservatives. The noodles are easy to make once you’ve made then a couple of times. If you have kids of ages 4 or above, this is a great weekend chore to do with them. Once made these noodles can kept in the fridge for a couple of days, as long as during the making process you dust generously with buckwheat flour to prevent sticking and keep it in an air tight container.
So, go on then, have a trip to Japan!
Ingredients to make homemade noodles:
230 grams/ 8 oz. buckwheat flour
60 grams/ 2 oz. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. unrefined salt
6 fluid oz. of water
Ingredients for finished dish:
Homemade stock made from chicken, fish or prawns or pieces of chicken, fish or prawns
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
Unrefined salt to taste
Shredded lettuce, prepare this only when dish is almost ready to be served to preserve the Vitamin C content
Sift both flours and salt into a mixing bowl. Pass your hands on the surface to break it and then gradually add the water until the right consistence is achieved. Create a paste with your fingers as you gradually form a sticky ball incorporating all the flour. Unlike wheat, buckwheat readily takes in water. The aim of this step is to make a complete mixture within just 10 seconds (or as quickly as possible!). Work the flour into a ball. Divide into 3 equal portions (one serving each portion). Work with once portion at a time. Cover the other two portions with a lightly damp cloth or wrap up in a cling film to prevent it from drying out.
Dust with a very generous amount of finely ground buckwheat flour and flatten the dough with a rolling pin to approximately 1.5- 2 mm thickness. Dust with more finely ground buckwheat flour to prevent sticking and place it in a pasta making machine to obtain the ribbon/spaghetti noodles. The settings on the pasta machine should be No.1 (thickest) for the thickness of the dough; there is no need to place the dough several times through the machine, just once to obtain an even thickness.
If you don’t have a pasta making machine, do not divide the dough but you will need to work the dough to stretch as much as possible. Then roll out to the required thickness as above, dust generously with fine buckwheat flour, fold dough over a couple of times, then cut noodles with a sharp knife to approximately 1.3 mm width. This is more tedious so investing in a pasta making machine is preferable!
It’s very important to boil a large amount of water per serving. The boiling time depends on the noodle thickness. To cook the regular thickness of soba, you’ll need about one and a half minutes. And if the soba is thicker then you’ll need to cook longer. Make sure the noodles are cooked completely, not al dente as Italian pasta. If the noodles aren’t boiled for long enough, they will be too hard to eat. Do not worry if the noodles have begun to stick together before cooking. Place the noodles in the water without separating them apart; they will loosen in the water. Scoop up the cooked noodles with a strainer, and set the noodles down briefly in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.
Drain the noodles well and return to a pot with a little added homemade stock made from chicken, fish or prawns. These noodles can be served with chicken, fish or prawns. In this instance, boil the chicken or fish in a small amount of water (do not overcook; meat will become too hard), add the drained noodles. Add some sesame oil, Japanese soy sauce and unrefined salt (if required). Remove from pan and add some shredded lettuce and slices of red chillies if desired. Serve hot.
These noodles can also be served with any other sauce dish, for instance fish curry! Amazingly delicious!