A Farmer’s Ramen

05 Dec 2012

I am constantly searching for role models or examples or just mere kindred spirits that I can learn from, be inspired by, be comforted with a feeling of being less of a stranger in this world of rural living, or to just plain witter on with about the fact that chicken plucking is grissly work. 

Our kind neighbours have been here for generations. They are lovely, but country living is not new to them. My experience is very different. As much as I embrace it this lifestyle, I admit that there are days that I double-damn the notion that I can’t just walk out my door and down the street with my family for a steaming hot bowl of Pho, a 10-minute freshly wood-fired pizza, the perfect donut that someone else made, potato latkes from the Jewish deli, or to be perfectly honest, a grande soy “holiday spiced” latte that hails from a certain mammoth coffee chain. The longer I am here I recognize that the upside to not having those conveniences is that I appreciate it all so much more when I do spend time in the city. {That girl jumping up and down for joy waiting for takeaway at Cecil’s?  Me!}

Then, I stumble upon a memoir…discover a blog….meet a person…whom shares a similar lifestyle, and if I am lucky, a remarkable recipe that widdles down my bouts of whinging.

This time the recipe is: ramen.

And, the person is: Nancy Hachisu. A kindred soul living on the other side of the world. A woman moved to a new country for the food and ended up falling in love with a farmer.

I love her story, a flipflop of ours, but more importantly, I am thankful that she has shared a beautiful, time-honoured recipe for ramen with me the world.

Using freshly plucked chicken(s) from the farm and as many home-grown + local ingredients as possible, we followed Nancy’s recipe.

Is there anything better than a steaming bowl of homemade ramen?

I think not.

We ladled up. I closed my eyes, took one slurpy mouthful and was instantly transported to my favourite noodle bar in NYC. It was better than a scene out of Tampopo. It made me cry.

From a farm in Japan to a farm in Ireland, I give you-

Ramen At Home

{Make sure you have tissues}

Recipe from Japanese Farm Food, by Nancy Hachisu

Serves 4.

For the broth:

2 carrots, cut into 1 inch lengths

2 small Japanese leeks, or 4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

4 bone-in free-range chicken thighs (or 8 wings)

1 tsp sea salt

2 TBS rapeseed or sesame oil

For the noodles:

TBS sesame oil

2 c. flour

2 eggs, at room temperature

2 egg yolks, at room temperature

For the toppings:

4 eggs

1 small bunch chopped bitter greens, such as bok choy or kale

3 TBS finely chopped Japanese leeks or scallions

1 sheet nori, cut into eights

Soy sauce, miso, or sea salt (to taste)

Make the broth.  Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Place carrots, leeks/scallions, ginger, and chicken thighs in a roasting pan, and toss with salt and oil.  Roast for 40 minutes.  Pour chicken, veggies, and all the juices into a large stockpot, and cover with 16 cups of cold water.

Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.  After 1 hour, remove the lid.  Take out 2 of the chicken thighs and place in a small bowl.  Cover the thighs with hot broth and let cool to room temperature, then shred.  Continue simmering the remaining broth for another 30-60 minutes, until it is reduced to about 8 cups.  Strain broth into a clean pot and keep warm over low heat.  Discard vegetables and remaining chicken thighs.

Make the noodles: mix 2 TBS of the sesame oil into the flour with your fingers until it is crumbly.  Add eggs and egg yolks and stir with your hand until incorporated, then knead on a flat, clean surface for 5 minutes until the dough is pliable but stiff.  The dough takes some force to really work it into a pliable piece.  Let dough rest 10 minutes. 

Roll out the noodle dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch using a pasta machine or a heavy rolling pin.  Cut into linguine-sized noodles by hand with a pizza cutter, sharp knife or by using a pasta machine.

Prepare the toppings: bring a large pot of water to a boil over high-heat. Add the eggs and boil for exactly 7 minutes, then remove with a strainer and place directly into a bowl of ice-cold water.  Let cool, then peel.  In the boiling water, blanch the bitter greens until just tender, then add to the cold water with the eggs.  Keep the water boiling – you will use it to cook your noodles just before serving.

Once the broth, noodles, and toppings are ready, prepare the bowls: add a small amount of miso, soy sauce, or salt to each bowl (according to diner’s preference) and pour a ladleful of hot broth over the seasoning.  Stir the broth into the seasoning.  Divide the shredded chicken amongst the bowls.  Drop the noodles into the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes – they will float up to the top when they are done.  Remove the noodles with a strainer and divide among the bowls.  Top off each bowl with a few more ladlefuls of hot broth, 1 egg cut into halves, a handful of the cooked greens, some of the nori pieces, and a sprinkling of scallions.

Serve very hot, with extra seasoning as desired.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2012. Ramen noodle cutting by Richard McDonnell + the slurping schoolboy is Geoffrey McDonnell. This post is not sponsored in any way by Nancy Hachisu or her publisher, but I love it, and would urge you to find the book if Asian or farm food interests you…it is really special. PS. Thank you Laila for introducing it to me!

 

 

 

 

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