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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Jess Loves Sushi!


Guys, it is a momentous day today. After this, Jess will no longer be...a sushi-making virgin. That's right, today I am teaching Jess (and all of you) how to make sushi. Because sushi is wonderful. As is Jess (nawh).

Anyway first things first, you do need quite a lot of ingredients for this, but it's really not that hard! Don't be put off by false tales, everyone is lying, sushi is easy to make! It is time consuming though, so set aside an evening with you and a couple of friends and have fun making your own combinations as you want them. First things first though, you will need to get yourself a sushi mat. Any asian food store will have them, even Sainsbury's do now (but you have to buy a kit sadly), normally they cost about a pound and you can reuse them and have delicious sushi for evermore. In a perfect world. Second step is to get a copy of this book:

Seriously, it's awesome.

Jess loves it too

It's one of my favourite cookbooks. I still haven't made half the stuff in it, but one day I will, and till then it's served me well enough. You may notice a theme today, and that is Jess loving things. As I introduce her to the wonders of japanese cooking, I make sure that she has the time to stop and appreciate each thing in turn. And then photograph it. Because Jess <3 sushi. Seriously, I'm making her a t-shirt for christmas. Jess must <3 sushi forever.

Many people are put off sushi because of the raw fish. Because I'm vegan I'm not putting any meat in mine, because honestly I think it's fine without it (not that a good piece of tuna sashimi isn't melt-in-the-mouth gorgeous, but that's for other people) and for Jess I'm cooking a nice piece of teriyaki tuna with some reduced tuna steak we found in Sainsbury's (student life win) to put in her maki (rolls). Before I start, if any actual japanese cooks, or even people who actually know what they're talking about, I apologise deeply for any inaccuracies here, I am 100% self taught through experimentation and far too much time spent on the internet in the early hours of the morning, so chances are this will not be authentic sushi. However, it tastes amazing anyway, so sorry if I get anything technically wrong here, this is just how I do it. And it works. Also I'm only making maki and uramaki here (these are both rolls) as these are my favourite and to be honest, I've never had much luck making nagiri.

That aside, here is what you will need to make some sushi:

For the Rice:

2 cups Sushi Rice (this is japanese short grain rice)
2 1/2 cups Water (cold - always cold!)
5 tbsp Mirin (normally I use rice vinegar with a bit of sugar and salt added, but mirin was the same price in Sainsbury's so I thought it would be easier - to make mirin use 1/3 cup rice vinegar with 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp sugar)

Tom's Sushi Protip No 1: Sushi rice is hella expansive. A bag is about a fiver and most supermarkets won't sell it. However they do sell pudding rice in equivalent sized bags for about seventy pence. If you read the small print on these bags you will notice that pudding rice is in fact 'Japanese Sweet Short Grain Rice' until you add evaporated milk to make it into rice pudding. This sounds familiar? Yes, this pretty much the same as sushi rice, for a ridiculous amount less. Buy it. It's not the same grade as sushi rice so it doesn't hold together quite as well but if you (like me) like to keep your money then this is a good save.

For the Rolls:

5 sheets of Nori (this is the seaweed used to wrap up the rice)
1 piece of Teriyaki Tuna (link)
1/2 a Cucumber
1/2 a Red Pepper
1/2 a cup Red Cabbage (thinly sliced)
1/2 a cup Grated Carrot
1/8 a cup of Red Onion (thinly sliced)
Vegan Mayonnaise
A couple of tbsp of Toasted Sesame Seeds

For the table:

A bit of Soy Sauce (for dipping in a shallow bowl)
A whole lot more Saki (for drinking as you eat)
Chopsticks (because if you made this much effort, you definitely have to eat it properly)


Let's start with the sushi rice:

First wash the sushi rice under cold water until the water comes off clean (you'll see what I mean as it happens - usually takes about 5-10 minutes)
Then leave to dry again.
Then place in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid (preferably seethrough - you'll see why) and add the water.
Place on your medium heat hob and put on full heat, then put the lid back on.
As soon as you can see white bubbles in a ring around the edge of the pan, turn the heat down to the lowest.
Now here's the hard part, do. not. touch. it. This is why it's best to have a seethrough lid, so you can see what's happening (if, like me, you're a control freak who has to watch everything like a hawk at all times).
You need to leave it for around 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. If you take the lid off it will loose pressure and heat really quickly so try your hardest not to do this.
Once all the water is absorbed, take the lid off, give it a quick (but gentle) stir with a wooden spoon (so as not to damage the grains) to make sure it's not stuck to the bottom, then put a teatowl over the top and put the lid back on to steam for a further 10 minutes.
After this you need to clear a big space on your worktop and cover it with a sheet of tinfoil or clingfilm.
Spread the rice out on this in a thin layer (still being gentle).
Make cross shapes in the rice and pour in your mirin into these, then gently fold into the rice. This seasons the rice and gives it the flavour of sushi rice.
Now get a book, or a fan if you have one, or in our case, a piece of Cornflakes box we found in the recycling, and fan the absolute crap out of your rice. You want to cool it as quickly as possible so it stops cooking and retains it's shape, so fan it all on one side, then flip the rice over (as best you can) and fan that side until it's all about room temperature. Now you can put it into a dish, clingfilm it, and put it in the fridge whilst you get everything else ready.

Jess <3 fanning rice

Tom's Sushi Protip No. 2: Clingfilm your mat with two layers of clingfilm, this way nothing sticks to it, and instead of having to clean it, you just peel off the clingfilm and done.

Tom's Sushi Protip No. 3: Always keep your hands wet. Not sopping, but pretty wet, then the rice won't stick to your hands (well it won't as much anyway). Have a bowl of water in front of you as you roll the sushi so you can keep them wet.

Tom's Sushi Protip No. 4: Nori has two sides, a smooth shiny side and a rough matt side. Have the smooth side down and the rough side up as you make your sushi so the rice will stick to it.

To make the maki:

Preparations (yes, there's more):

Chop the cucumber and pepper into long thing strips so they will fit inside the rolls.
Toast your nori, use the biggest frying pan you have and then literally just heat it up to a medium heat, and dry-fry the nori until they smell toasted and go crispy. You should have enough rice to do 5 sheets.
Toast the sesame seeds.
Assemble everything on a table (so you can sit down) and have all your ingredients in front of your and your mat (including a bowl of water), this will just make it easier.

Assembling your maki:

Take a sheet of toasted nori, shiny side down, on top of your mat.
Cover it with rice up to an inch from the top edge, here you don't need to be gentle with the rice (since you're about to eat it) so don't be afraid to press it down firmly.
Line up your vegetables an inch and a half from the bottom (as in the photos).
Jess made teriyaki tuna with cucumber and pepper, I put cucumber and pepper in some of mine, then another I filled with grated carrot, red cabbage, onion and a line of mayonnaise to give a coleslaw-like flavour to it. All with liberal sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds over the rice.
Now begin to roll the maki. First fold all the way over until your vegetables are in the centre of a roll (it will look kinda like a snail). Again, be firm with it, give it a good squeeze all the way along to make sure it's rolling properly. Then in stages roll the mat over and then peel it off a bit, until all the rice is gone and you can just see the inch of nori you left uncovered. Wet this slightly with a bit of water to help it stick and then roll up fully and give the maki a good squeeze before you remove the mat (it should be just lying on top of it by now).
Now you just need to cut the roll into six with a sharp knife (also wetted from your bowl to stop it sticking) - easiest way is in half then into three.
Assemble on a plate with your other maki and get ready to eat!

Guess what? Jess <3 sushi ingredients

Tom is indifferent to sushi

Tom's veggie maki with cucumber, pepper, teriyaki sugarsnaps and vegan mayonnaise

Jess' maki with cucumber, red pepper and teriyaki tuna

Making sushi is great, just look how much fun Jess is having.

To make uramaki:

Uramaki are simply sushi rolls with the rice outside.
Again, have your nori with the rough side up.
Spread rice onto the nori, this time leaving an inch at the bottom.
Cover in toasted sesame seeds (because it looks pretty).
In one quick movement, pick up the right hand edge (if you're right handed) of the nori and flip it over so the rice underneath.
Again, assemble your ingredients an inch and a half from the bottom.
This time, when you start to roll, you'll need to wet the nori straight away to stick it down, then roll up as before.
Slice into two, and then into threes and arrange on a plate with the other maki.

You are now done! Serve with any leftover teriyaki fish (you might even want to make some extra for this - it's delicious), edamame (if you like them), we made some roasted sweet potato wedges (link) as well, spring rolls if you have them, you get the idea, anything. Oh, and lots of warmed Saki. If you don't like Saki at first, have a mouthful just as you're eating a piece of sushi, the saltiness of the sushi takes away the bitter of the Saki and the result is wonderfully sweet and salty (and more importantly alcoholic!)

This is very easily adaptable and can be made into any type of maki you like (there are some recipes online, have a google). A favourite of mine before I was vegan was uramaki with salmon, avocado and crabstick, kind of an augmented California roll and unbeatable (one thing I do truly miss).

Send us your maki and uramaki and/or photos of yourselves trying to make them (the first time is always hilarious) and enjoy!

Jess <3 sushi (last time I promise)
I lied (I'm sorry Jess)

A very full Tom and Jess x

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