Thursday, October 21, 2010

Zucchini and Pumpkin Noodles

I know, I have an addiction to vegetable noodles. But honestly, after looking at the photo above, how someone could not have an addiction is beyond me. They're so beautiful! Colourful enough to win an art prize and so full of flavour that I wonder why a certain someone I know eats pre-packaged pasta and sauce (yes, the sauce comes as a dry powder sachet). Plus they're faster to cook than normal pasta, and you can use the extra couple of minutes to shred the vegetables with a vegetable peeler.

I used hokkaido squash and zucchini for this batch. Hokkaido, owing to the hollow centre, thin flesh and rounded shape, is much easier to make into noodles than a a stocker squash like butternut. Plus hokkaido can be left unpeeled, which adds a touch of red to the already vibrant colour. Carrots are also a good choice. I like my noodles to have a little 'bite' to them - I don't want squishy noodles, but if you've got an aversion to barely-tender vegetables, then stick to just zucchini. Pumpkin is liable to simply disintegrate if you overcook it. My method of cooking here is to cover the noodles with boiling water and leave it for a few minutes, testing it every minute for texture. There's no need to boil these noodles in a saucepan.

When I was shredding the zucchini, I eventually came to the very inner 'core' of the vegetable, at which point it's impossible to shred any more. At this point, I simply finely chop the rest of the zucchini flesh and mix it into whatever sauce I'm making. The residual heat from the sauce cooks the zucchini. If you're shredding noodles before you make your sauce, then of course you can cut them to whichever size you prefer, and incorporate into the sauce as per normal. This recipe would be easily adaptable to make it suitable for raw foodists, but I chose to serve mine with a piping-hot, spicy and filling TVP mince (textured vegetable protein) and kidney bean chilli.

Zucchini and Pumpkin Noodles

2 zucchini
1/4 hokkaido squash

Finely shred the vegetables, using a vegetable peeler, to make long but thin strands. Rotate the vegetable as you work, so that you're always on the edge of the vegetable - the thinnest strands are made this way. If you have a mandolin, go for your life.
Mix the vegetables together, and sit in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and leave to soak for a few minutes, depending on the desired texture. Test often (every minute) and drain the noodles as soon as they're soft enough to wrap around a fork.
Serve immediately, with the sauce of your choice. I chose a thick chilli non-carne, and they love tomato-based sauces, but a bechamel or white sauce also works nicely.

Super-quick White Sauce:
3 Tbsp margarine/butter
3 Tbsp white flour
1 & 1/2 to 2 & 1/2 cups Soymilk/milk

Melt the margarine in a frying pan (for maximum evaporation!) and mix the flour into the mix, allowing the paste to cook for a few minutes to remove that raw-floury taste and texture. Lower the heat.
Very slowly add a cup of the soymilk (or milk, I know you don't all love soymilk like I do!) whilst constantly stirring, so that it becomes incorporated completely without creating lumps. Using a whisk is a good idea to remove lumps.
As the sauce thickens, add more soymilk to thin it. Adjust the heat as necessary - I have an electric hotplate, so I turn the heat up to medium and simply remove the pan from the heat when it's thickening too quickly - that way I can add more liquid before it becomes a thick paste.
How much liquid you need depends on how thick you want your sauce to be. At a certain point the roux (flour mix) will reach saturation point at the sauce will stop thickening. Once this happens, simply add liquid to reach your desired texture, and serve immediately.
To use this over pasta, I recommend a few tablespoons of finely chopped, fresh parsley and a generous grind of each salt and pepper.

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