I love sushi. I really love sushi. You may think this is strange as I am a vegetarian, but I love the textures and the clean flavours of such a complex food made with such simple ingredients.
In my mind, soy sauce makes sushi. Don’t let this put you coeliacs out there off sushi, I sometimes carry around a little pot of gluten free soy sauce when I know I’m going to enjoy some sushi. Problem solved!
I taught myself how to make sushi by watching an unhealthy number of YouTube videos, so I don’t claim to be a sushi master, but I like to think I have done some thorough research. And every time I make sushi, I think I get better. Practice makes perfect!
I think the key to making good/great sushi is good ingredients. You may find it hard to find some of these ingredients (nori sheets, mirin, rice wine vinegar), but these are available in most large supermarkets in the UK. Alternatively visit a Japanese or Korean supermarket as they will definitely stock these ingredients.
Sushi rice: this is stocked in most super markets so you should have too much problem finding it. Sushi rice is a short grain rice that is really glutinous when cooked, so it sticks to everything from nori to fingers. Don’t be tempted to rinse the rice before cooking as you want to retain as much of the starch as possible
Mirin: this is rice wine. You can make sushi without it, but it does add another flavour dimension to the rice. If you can’t find mirin, just use a pinch of sugar and stir that into the rice whilst it is still hot.
Rice wine vinegar: if you can’t find this, I wouldn’t replace it with any other vinegar, I would just make sure the rice is well seasoned with salt.
Nori: this is toasted seaweed sheets. Store them in a dry place as slightly damp nori is not a nice taste sensation! You can’t make too much sushi without nori, so I would recommend trying to source this (I know that waitrose sell this).
Please don’t be put off by the length of my recipe, it is mainly hints and tips I have picked up along the way.
200g Sushi rice
Splash of Rice wine vinegar
30ml mirin (sweet rice wine) (or alternatively use a pinch of white sugar (granulated)
Salt (for seasoning)
5 Nori (Seaweed sheets)
Gluten free soy sauce
1. Cook the sushi rice according to the packet instructions. Take care not to overcook; the rice is the centre piece of this dish so you want to cook it perfectly. Also you want the rice to absorb all the cooking water, so only add just enough water to cook the rice. This way you won’t have to drain the rice and you retain the key quality of sushi rice: stickiness.
2. When the rice is cooked, add a splash of rice wine vinegar and a large pinch of sugar and gently stir in, taking care not to aggravate the rice too much. Leave the rice to cool (I usually spread it out on a large plate to speed up cooling time).
3. Whilst the rice is cooling, prepare the vegetables. Gently steam the asparagus and pepper for a couple of minutes. Cut the cucumber, avocado and steamed pepper into long strips.
4. Cover your sushi rolling mat with clingfilm (I don’t even want to think how nasty washing up a bamboo rolling mat would be if you didn’t cover it in cling film!)
5. Place a nori sheet onto the rolling mat. If you look closely at the nori, you will see that one side is slightly rough and the other is smooth. Make sure that the rough side is facing upwards, the rice will stick to this rough side better.
6. Wash your hands and leave them a bit wet as it will stop the rice sticking to your hands.
7. Take a small handful of the cooled rice and gently spread out onto the nori, using your fingers, taking care not to squash the rice kernels. Spread the rice right to the bottom (closest to you), left and right of the nori, but at the top, leave an inch of nori without rice.
8. Choose the filling of your choice and line it up about 1 inch up from the bottom of the rice/nori (the bit closest to you). Don’t put too much in as you will end up struggling to roll the sushi.
9. Rolling the sushi. Curl up the bamboo mat with the nori/rice on top, and carefully fold over the filling, making sure it is rolled nice and tight, but don’t apply too much pressure on the bamboo mat when you are rolling or you will squash all the rice. Now you have rolled over the filling, before you continue rolling, gently pull the rolled bit of the sushi towards you, and simultaneously push the other end of the sushi mat away from you. Continue rolling the sushi and at interval, repeat this move of pulling the roll towards you and pushing the unrolled part of the sushi away from you. Roll until the sushi has formed a cylinder.
10. Cutting the sushi. You will need a very sharp knife and quite a heavy one. Make sure the knife is clean and slightly wet as this will prevent it from sticking to all the rice and squishing the roll (I wash the knife between slice to get a cleaner cut). Start by cutting the roll in half, letting the weight of the knife do most of the work. Place the 2 halves side by side, then cut each half into 3 pieces of equal size.
11. If you want to make a California roll, spread the rice on the rough side of the nori, as described above, then flip the nori over, so the rice is between the bamboo mat and the nori. Line your filling along the nori, 1 inch up from the bottom, and then roll as before. I then roll the rice in sesame seeds.
Serve with gluten free soy sauce, wasabi and miso soup (you may have to hunt around to find a vegetarian miso soup, but Clearspring sell it in large waitrose and sainsburys stores)