My super, sister, Suzy, gave me a sushi set for Christmas. Given my normally embarrassing tendency to not make full use of culinary Christmas presents for at least a decade, it has been almost newsorthy that I have managed to make the most of it in July. Only 7 months on from Christmas.
The kit contained a kilo of sushi rice, ginger, mirin, wasabi paste, rice vinegar, rolling mats, instructions and an amazingly sharp sushi knife. So all I needed to buy was 2 sushi books (why buy one when you can get 2 saying almost the same thing), 3 types of soy sauce, edamame, a rice paddle, and sushi grade salmon, tuna and makerel for 8 people. Cowie and I got most of the kit from an obscure and stifflingly hot Japanese store on Brewer Street before getting the bus to Victoria from the far more sanitary looking Japan Centre on Picardilly. Whoops.
We decided to do sushi as a starter and fill everyone up with miso marinated salmon as a main course. We made the brilliant decision to delegate pudding to Anna and Edwin... and they certainly lived up to the task. This truly was an Anna Surprise which I doubt you'll find in many Japanese recipes books. Or indeed any recipe book that has made its way past a comprehenisve tasting committee.
Suz met me in Selfridges to collect our fish along with some bright orange fish roe and filleting advice from the charming lady on the immaculate sushi stand. She even gave us some belly tuna free to go in our rolls. We whizzed back to the flat as fast as possible as we realised that not only did all the rice have to be cooked by 7.30... it also had to have cooled! Ah. Panic.
But not to worry. With the Brown siblings working in tandem we managed to get the rice cooked, cooled and made vaguely into salmon, tuna and makerel nigiri relatively easily. The rest of the team feasted on edamame, sashimi and Japanese beers.
Having never made sushi before, I was amazed at how sticky the rice is. But even more so it made me realise that the sushi you are served in Japanese restaurants is stunningly perfect. To get that level of control and precision over such niggly rice is mind blowing. But it also made me realise how crap the sushi is from Tescos and the likes of Prett.
With the nigiri filling everyone up and making us feel more confident we moved onto to using the rolling mats. Our first roll was very ricey, but well put together. After setting the bench mark Suz took over and created master piece after master piece. If she ever gets booted out of Harrods she can always go and become a sushi master! Here she is in action:
These little badgers with the roe on top were stunning...
I guess it shows that I had a more innocent childhood...
And here's Suz embarking on what looked impossible in the book... but turned out to be pretty easy.
Everyone had a go at making maki rolls with varying degrees of success. It's such a brilliant way of hosting a small dinner party with everyone getting a chance to have some fun. Very interactive. I can't wait to give it another go and get seriously good at it. It's also made Cowie want to go out to all of London's best sushi restaurants... which is going to cripple me.
On to the now thoroughly unnecessary main course! Miso Salmon. Having had some epic black miso cod the week before I had it in my head that we had to recreate it... albeit with some cheaper fish! With a few packs of salmon tails from Sainsbury's and a large tub of shiso miso from our weird Japanese shop on Brewer Street I embarked on creating the salty, sticky marinade that turns cheap fish into stunning haute cuisine (or whatever the Japanese is for that). I religiously followed a brilliant recipe I found on Gastronomy Domine. I say I religiously followed it... I've got to confess that I only let the salmon sit in the sticky goo over night rather than for the stated 3 days! Next time!
It was stunning. I am still kicking myself for letting the skin char a bit too much. One of my favourite things in the whole kingdom of food is crispy fish skin. And there's a fine line between gorgeous crispiness and a mouth full of soot! The flesh itself was stunning. The salmon tails had been through a full transformation from decidedly average through to very special.
But not as special as Anna and Edwin's "Anna Surprise". Which is rather a kind name for it. I am still not quite sure what it was despite it being the one thing that will stay in everyone's minds for over. My tasting notes would be... like a creamy, warm, Red Bull and grean tea soup with a hint of gelatine. I am not kidding, my stomach just started growling with horror as I typed that last sentence.
We all had a wonderful time - Cowie and I can't wait for our next sushi adventure. It's made me yearn to go to Japan!