Cold Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce
This is a great prepare-ahead dish for a crowd. You can use any type of Oriental noodle for this; there are so many available today - some dried, some ready-to-use. Even Italian pasta works well with this peanut sauce.
500g dried noodles (I like rice noodles)/ 1 tbsp sesame oil or sunflower oil
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns (see note) / 3cm fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 large juicy garlic cloves/ 4 tbsp smooth, low sugar peanut butter
4 tbsp soy sauce/ 3 teaspoons chilli oil (chilli-flavoured oil) / 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tsp sugar/ 6 spring onions, finely sliced diagonally/ 3 tbsp natural peanuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, depending on type. Drain, rinse well and let drain for a couple of minutes. Add a little sesame oil and toss gently.
Heat a small frying pan and toast the Szechuan peppercorns for a couple of minutes until they smell aromatic and begin to smoke a little – do not let them burn. Tip into a bowl and cool then grind to a powder using a pepper grinder or mortar and pestle.
Transfer to a food processor, add the ginger, garlic, peanut butter, soy sauce, chilli oil, salt, sugar and 140 ml warm water and blend until smooth and creamy. Beat in extra warm water if too thick. Add the sauce to the noodles, toss well, then transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the spring onions and peanuts on top.
Note: Szechuan peppercorns, sometimes known as Chinese pepper or fagara, are little brown berries that are dried and roasted to bring out their spicy, woody flavour. They are readily available in larger supermarkets. If you can't find them, use black pepper and a tiny pinch of Chinese five-spice powder