Of fish and fruit

Yes, I have been making more sushi. I feel like I'm on a bit of a sushi roll right now (...no pun intended) and finally found some sushi-grade mackerel in the fishmongers so was keen to do something with it. I made mackerel makisushi, filling the nori-wrapped rice with mackerel, soy sauce, cucumber, pieces of pickled ginger, and some sesame and nigella seeds for texture. I also made mackerel nigiri sushi, with strips of raw mackerel laid out on top of the rice. The seeds idea came from some M&S sushi I had recently, where the rice wasn't wrapped in seaweed but instead in a coating of these little black and white seeds. They go really well with the Asian flavours and add a more interesting base note than soy or wasabi would alone.

As well as this, we had salmon and tuna nigiri sushi, and tuna rolls filled with chopped raw tuna, soy sauce, sesame and nigella seeds, and crunchy bits of cucumber. My favourite raw fish is still salmon, because I think it has slightly more flavour. I actually found the mackerel lacked the gutsy flavour I thought it would have, being so strong-tasting when cooked or smoked. Next time I'll probably just stick with my smoked mackerel and red pepper filling, but this was nice for a change. I've heard that it is common to marinate the mackerel in some sort of vinegar mixture before use - I might try this next time and see if it makes a difference.

For dessert, something that I liked to tell myself was just as healthy as the sushi. I suppose it is when it looks like this:

But then you soak the grilled pineapple in a sugar, lime, and vanilla syrup, cover it with toasted coconut, and serve with a scoop (or two...) of vanilla ice cream. It's still vaguely healthy I guess, and absolutely delicious. I think I've written about it before, but it deserves another mention. Also, I got to use my blowtorch to caramelise the top of the pineapple rings, which was more exciting than it perhaps should have been. My friend Helen tells me that the Japanese love pineapple, so it was actually a very themed meal (accidentally, though).

Sushi: a first attempt

Having recently developed a slight obsession with sushi, accompanied by a sinking feeling every time I hand over the best part of a fiver and receive a tiny box full of the stuff, I decided to try making my own. If one of the contestants on Junior Masterchef can do it, I figured, so can I. 

A trip to the oriental supermarket followed, and I returned laden with the following: sushi rice, pickled ginger, wasabi paste, miso soup, nori seaweed sheets, and even a bamboo sushi-rolling mat.

The rice is easy: soak in cold water for an hour, then put in a pan with twice as much water, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or so until all the water is absorbed. Then stir in a mixture of caster sugar, rice vinegar and salt, and leave to cool. It ends up incredibly glutinous and sticky - I have a feeling that the "sticky rice" you can order in oriental restaurants is just sushi rice. It's actually quite hard work to extract the amount you want from the entire mass in the pan at the end.

The type I decided to make is called makisushi: rice and filling inside a sheet of nori seaweed. To make this, you lay a sheet of seaweed down on the bamboo mat.

Put the rice on top with a little bit of wasabi paste spread over it (in future, I may skip this step and let people add their own wasabi as they eat it...it was a little too strong!)

Then add the filling - this one is smoked salmon and cucumber - and use the bamboo mat to roll the nori up around the rice. You can wet the end to seal it together, but I found it held together nicely without me needing to bother.

This one is "crab" (i.e. crab sticks, because I can't afford real crab, nor can I find any in Cambridge) with avocado mashed with lime juice. 

And finally, a filling of smoked mackerel mashed with roasted, skinned red peppers (which, by the way, tastes absolutely amazing on its own and would make a beautiful sandwich):

So you're left with nice long rolls of sushi, which you can then slice (using a very sharp serrated knife) into rounds as long as you like - shorter is better for ease of eating, I found.

I think they look rather stylish laid out on plates with some pickled ginger and wasabi sauce. I also found some miso soup in the oriental supermarket to go with them. Some edamame beans would have been nice - there are few things more satisfying than podding them yourself straight into your mouth - but unfortunately I couldn't find any fresh ones. Next time, perhaps. Next time I also want to do it properly and use raw fish, maybe once I'm back in Oxford and have access to a proper fishmonger. I'd like to try nigiri sushi, which is just blocks of sushi rice with a strip of raw fish laid out on top. 

Not bad for a first attempt though, I think. And the best part? I still have at least two lunch-sized servings left, with no need to hand over my hard-earned cash to M&S.