There are times I'll bet, when like me, you feel like the inside of a garbage bin. Days, maybe even weeks of eating anything that crosses your path, the first thing you see when you open the fridge door, or two-thirds of your pal's taco chips, if she still dares to open a bag when you're within sight. I usually feel this way post Christmas and New Year's, after all that wanton and mindless feasting and will almost always repent slowly and painfully for the first 2 months or so, of the new year. This year's been a bit different for me - I haven't been my usual greedy self, but nonetheless have been feeling run down and lethargic.

This morning, I thought I'd show my body some kindness and steam a side of bream or roast a lightly stuffed mullet. But, as I was making my way to the fishmonger's slab, I stopped in my tracks before a towering display of the freshest, most beautiful ginger I've seen in a very long while. I picked up a large tuber and ran the edge of my finger nail over it's translucent, pink tinged, pale bronze skin. Immediately, I was rewarded with that spirit lifting, sense stirring, sweet, hot and pungent tang I know and love so well. All thoughts of fish floundered out of my mind as I imagined how pleasurable it would be to sit before a bowl of noodle soup, gently wafting its gorgeous, gingery perfume in my face. Just thinking about it put a little spring in my step as I walked home.

Once back, I found some soba noodles, mushrooms, dried and fresh and a few decent centimetres of my favourite Japanese soy still in the bottle. What else is a girl supposed to do? This was not intentionally vegan but as it happens, is precisely so and proves that you don't need meat for flavour or complete gustatory gratification.

Prep  5 mins              Cook  20 mins                  Serves 4


1.5 l (about 7 - 8 teacups) water
A generous handful dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed thoroughly
8 cm length (about 3 in) fresh ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
7 Tbsp light soy sauce (preferably Japanese)
1 - 2 Tbsp mirin
1 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
1 1/2 tsp sugar (optional)
400g fresh soba noodles (about 4 generous coils)
A handful fresh mushrooms (shiitake or your favourite kind) sliced
1 spring onion (scallion) sliced


Put the water, dried mushrooms, ginger, soy sauce, mirin, salt and sugar into a pot and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat, cover and simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

While broth simmers, boil another deep pot of water. When boiling, blanch the noodles briefly then drain. Put into bowls. Next quickly blanc the sliced fresh mushrooms, drain and put over the noodles.

Ladle the broth (avoiding the ginger and dried mushrooms) over the noodles and sprinkle over some spring onion.

Serve immediately. You could serve the dried mushrooms along with the broth, but I've used them here only for their flavour as I don't really like their texture.