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Sushi for obsessives

This is why you need to wipe your knife between roll cuts. Notice how I have focused on the only clean one

Up until very recently I laughed at people who made their own sushi. There are some things that are best left to the experts, is my view – and sushi is one of them.

Then my raging pregnancy craving for sushi got quite out of control. It’s all I want to eat, ever. It’s all I can really stomach eating. I don’t really mean actual raw fish, although that will do, I really mean cut rolls, maki rolls – California rolls, spicy tuna rolls – even vegetarian rolls. I don’t care. I’m not fussy. I just want fucking sushi. I am an addict.

Even my Japanophile husband is getting a bit alarmed by it all, especially when we went out to a robata (a Japanese grill, where they cook tiny things on skewers – really delicious) and refused to eat anything except sushi.

But I can only squeeze a trip out for sushi out of him about once a fortnight or he starts getting bored with it, so I’ve had to come up with ways of filling in the gaps between my professional sushi hits. I stopped short at the Japanese sundries section of Waitrose the other day, dithered for a moment, then held out my arms, and swept the whole lot off the shelves and into my trolley: sushi mat, nori paper, wasabi, sushi rice, sushi rice seasoning. Then I wheeled back to the vegetable aisle and bought a cucumber, then I wheeled over to the fish section and bought some cooked, peeled prawns.

And I will say this: homemade sushi is actually pretty good. It’s not that hard to do and doesn’t make much of a mess - all you need to cook is the rice and everything else is just an assembly job - I can see if you did it reasonably often you’d get very good at all that rolling.

My problem is with the rice – although I’ve never been good at cooking rice, I’m hoping that results will come with practice. The two times I’ve cooked it now it comes out a bit overcooked and means a slight mushiness in the resultant roll. I now wonder if this might not be because of actual overcooking but allowing the rice to soak for more than the advised 30 minutes prior to boiling.

If you are going to make homemade sushi, then obviously the thing to do is look up a tutorial on YouTube, that is the only way to see properly how to do it, but I also offer the following additional notes:

1 When you cover your sushi mat with cling film, tuck the ends of the film in under the mat, to stop the film ending up getting rolled up inside the sushi, which is not the idea at all.

2 Sushi rice is like fucking concrete. Do not allow it, as I did, to sit in sieves, pots, on knives or sushi mats for more than a few minutes because it wil lliterally superglue itself to any unguarded thing - it’s mental.

3 Do wipe your knife on a wet cloth inbetween cuts of your sushi roll as it will make it all look so nice; if you don’t, little bastard grains of rice will stick to the knife and then stick to the next roll of sushi and look all messy (see photo above).

4 Be generous with your sushi rice seasoning. Plain old rice is awfully boring and I have found that the directions on the back of the seasoning bottle don’t allow for enough.

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Garlic & Blue Cheese Green Bean Almondine – I Just Couldn’t Do It

When I went to culinary school in the early Eighties, the
chef instructors used “Green Beans Almondine” as a prime example for the kind
of stodgy, clichéd, faux-fancy, vegetable side dishes that we were supposed to
eradicate shortly after graduation. 

This was the dawn of a new age of American
cookery, and something so old-fashioned as green beans almondine had no place
along side our newfangled raspberry vinaigrettes and cajun fish.


There was only one problem with this prohibition…green
beans and almonds tasted really good together, and made for a lovely side dish once in
a while. Of course, fearing you’d be laughed out of the young, hot cooks club
(hot from heat, not from hotness) you just didn’t dare make or serve such a
dinosaur.


Anyway, to make a long story short, I’ve finally done a
green beans almondine video, but added roasted garlic and blue cheese to it,
just in case any of my old classmates are watching.  I actually did this at Thanksgiving, sans nuts, and it got
rave reviews, so I had a feeling the addition of the slivered almonds would
work just fine, and they did! I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4-6 portions:
1 pound green beans, blanched in boiling, salted water until
almost tender
3 heads garlic
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne to taste
1/3 cup sliced almonds browned in 1 tsp butter
2 oz Pt. Reyes blue cheese, or other blue cheese
400 degrees F. for 15 minutes

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Fish Stew – Sexy Is As Sexy Does

You often hear people describe food as “sexy,” but I’ve
always believed it’s really more the occasion and company that makes a meal
sexy. Put your Valentine across a candlelit table, pour a couple glasses of
wine, and no matter what you serve up, sexiness will ensue.


Having said that, it certainly doesn’t hurt to hedge your
bets and serve up a naturally sensuous dish like this simple, but
sophisticated fish stew. This is great for you less than confident cooks, since
your timing doesn’t need to be that precise. Did I mention there’d be wine
around?

You can actually do everything ahead, up until adding the
fish if you want. Since the pieces will cook in between 5 and 10 minutes, when
you’re ready to eat, simply bring the mixture to a boil, add the fish, and
simmer until done. You can also hold the stew over very low heat for a good
15-20 minutes without major problems, in case, well, you know.


By the way, make sure you check and see if your dining
partner likes fish and wine, as this would be a horrible choice if they don’t.
If they do, you’re in business. Almost any type of fish or shellfish will work
in this, as well as any small, cute potatoes. Just don’t forget to peel the middles, as it’s kind of a big deal. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 portions:
2 tbsp butter
1 large leek, chopped
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1/2 tsp salt, more to taste
3/4 cup white wine
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sliced fennel root
1 pound small red potatoes
cayenne to taste
1/2 cup cream
1 pound boneless fish filets
1 tbsp chopped tarragon

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