About me

After being diagnosed with a long list of food intolerances seven years ago, I was forced into getting more creative in the kitchen.

For me, the best recipes are those which are easy to prepare and deliver heaps of flavour, perfect for sharing with friends and family without having to single anyone out because of a specialised diet.

My love for cooking and adapting recipes for my own dietary requirements has given me the incentive to share tips with others who also live with restricted diets.

I hope you find a bit of cooking inspiration from my blog. Please feel free to comment and post any questions...

Monday, 9 April 2012

Sushi for 'Absolute' Beginners

I never agreed to attempt making sushi under the pretence that it would be easy...but neither did I think that just a few simple nori rolls, filled with rice, an assortment of fish, julienne vegetables and some wasabi or sweet chilli would be THAT challenging!

I have a new found respect for sushi chefs who speedily, chop, roll and slice sashimi as though it were as simple as blinking. Culinary art is served up daily at countless Asian supermarkets and restaurants all over this city, with little thought into the ancient skills honed in order to produce a perfect California roll.

In retrospect, half past nine on a weeknight, after a long day of studying was probably not the best time to begin this feat, especially due to the amount of serious preparation needed to produce just two servings of sushi.

Note to self: When tired and hungry, do not reach for the salmon and wasabi!

Apologies for the uncharacteristically, negative attitude towards cooking, do not let my first time experience of D.I.Y. sushi put you off the prospects of making your own. It’s a fantastic opportunity to experiment with different flavours and learn new cookery skills, as well as being able to serve up wheat, gluten, dairy and meat free alternatives to your friends.

But I strongly suggest forward planning and getting a few tips from an expert before you begin.

The supermarket "HiYoU" nearby The Gate in Newcastle City Centre is a euphoria for anyone who enjoys cooking Asian food or wants to try some new and exciting flavours. You can watch the sushi being freshly prepared in front of you whilst you sit with a cup of Iced Green Tea or Aloe Vera Juice.

Admittedly it was a struggle not to spent hundreds of pounds in HiYoU. The towering aisles and cool sections are overflowing with delicious, interesting ingredients and colourful animated packets.

 But after about 40 minutes of pondering just how much I would need to purchase for my first sushi trial, I put the Japanese tea set down and headed for the till. I scaled down my basket's contents to sushi rice, vinegar, wasabi, sesame seeds, nori sheets, rolling mats, and a few sweet extras.

I also got some instructions on how to make the perfect sushi rice and a new loyalty card...something tells me I will soon be a regular customer.

Several hours later, I had thinly sliced an array of cucumber, celery and carrot. My tuna in sweet chilli sauce, salmon sashimi and smoked mackerel were ready to roll and the wasabi mayo was good for dipping.

 I was told that "sushi rice" and "sushi vinegar" were a must and that after following the instructions for measurements on the packet, you must leave the thoroughly rinsed rice to cook for an hour in salted water until all the water is absorbed. Once cool a few dashes of sushi vinegar and a good mix with a fork will make the rice stickier and easier to press down onto a nori seaweed sheet.

Finally later at stupid o'clock, my dinner date had arrived and we were both eager for sushi. I had looked up a few tips on the internet on how best to roll the sheets, but in all honesty, it wasn't much help. You just have to be brave and develop your own skills along the way.

 After several messy attempts, I had learnt a few things. Firstly that if you don't want your sushi to resemble that which wears an "oops!" sticker in the last minute section of the supermarket, you need a very sharp knife to slice the rolls with.

Secondly in order to save your ingredients from falling out all over the kitchen work tops, do not get over zealous with the amount you lay on the nori sheet before rolling. One sheet needs only a small amount of rice, fish and sauce before you realise that your sushi roll is going to look like a green sandwich wrap. Something which my sous-chef did not consider to be a negative.

To conclude, preparation, a little research and a good knife sharpener will get you through, and regardless of looks, our enormous platefuls of obscurely shaped sushi were delicious.

I may have been wearing an assortment of soy sauce, wasabi and sweet chilli and yes, there may have been sushi rice in my hair, but by 11pm we were content, fed and sporting two Asian food babies.

The kitchen was not looking quite so cheery.