daring cooks sushi challenge
I joined the Daring Kitchen family last month and was excited to tackle my first Daring Cooks challenge hosted by Audax (Audax Artifex) and Rose (The Bite Me Kitchen). Their sushi challenge was rather appropriate for me seeing as in the summer I never go a week without eating sushi. However I always eat it out and have never attempted making it myself at home. The challenge required us to make sushi rice from scratch, then shape it into three types of sushi: Nigiri, Spiral Rolls and Dragon Rolls. Making the sushi rice was surprisingly easy, although turning out neat and presentable rolls was trickier and required a few tries. One tip I would give is to constantly wet your fingers when working with the rice or you’ll end up with more rice on your fingers than on the nori! Audaz and Rose’s detailed instructions were fantastic but lengthy, so I’ve abbreviated them below (hopefully they are still clear enough to follow).
(makes approximately 7 cups)
2 cups short grain rice
2 cups water
3 inch square konbu (dried kelp seaweed)
2 tsp sake
5 tbsp rice vinegar
5 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Wash the rice by swirling gently with your hand in a large bowl of water. Drain, then repeat 3-4 times until water is almost clear. Pour into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.
Place rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid, then add the water and konbu (wipe first with a damp cloth to remove the white powder and score with a knife to help release its flavour). Leave to soak and infuse for 30 minutes.
In the meantime prepare the sushi rice dressing. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and heat on low until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.
When the rice is ready, add the sake and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, covered, for 12-15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Do not remove the lid while it is cooking. Turn off heat and leave to stand (still covered) for another 10-15 minutes. The steaming completes the cooking process so don’t be tempted to lift the lid off at this point.
When the rice has rested for long enough gently turn it out onto a large non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl or deep tray, taking care not to crush the grains of rice. Remove the konbu, then slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon onto the hot rice.
Carefully spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and separate the rice. Do not stir or mash rice. Once spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.
Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (with a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Continue fan while gently slicing, lifting and turning the rice occasionally for 10 minutes.
You can stop fanning when there is no longer visible steam from the rice. The rice should have taken on a glossy sheen and all the vinegar dressing absorbed by the rice.
If you aren’t working with the rice immediately, cover it with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent it from drying out. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature and must be used on the day. Do not place it in the fridge as the rice will harden and be unpleasant to eat.
makes 1 roll (cut into 8 pieces)
2 cups prepared sushi rice
2 sheets of toasted nori, each 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm)
a selection of fillings (I used tuna sashimi, avocado, cucumber, japanese mayo and togarashi)
Join the sheets of nori by moistening the adjacent edges and overlapping them about 1/2 inch (12mm). Place the joined sheet shiny side down on a rolling mat, part of the nori will extend beyond the mat.
Moisten your fingers, then place the rice onto the nori, gently raking your fingertips across the grains to spread evenly, leaving 1/3 inch (6mm) of nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Don’t press the rice onto the nori, the rice should be loosely packed (it’s fine if you can see the nori through the rice in parts) but evenly distributed over the entire sheet.
Use your fingers to form six grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by pushing the rice away, do not mash or squash the rice, leave a loose one grain layer of rice in the bottom of the grooves. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.
Place your fillings in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed. Then roll the sushi up from the edge closest to you, this will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.
Slice into 8 pieces with a very sharp wet knife, wiping the blade with a damp cloth after each cut. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy for dipping.
Dragon (or Caterpillar) Rolls
makes 2 rolls
2 cups prepared sushi rice
1 sheet 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm) of toasted nori, halved
1/2 japanese cucumber, or normal cucumber with the inner soft, seeded flesh discarded
100g (3oz) unagi (glazed barbecued eel)
Cut the cucumber into 1/3 inch (6mm) x 7 inch (175mm) strips, then salt, rinse and dry with kitchen towel.
Warm the eel by either boiling in the plastic packaging for 10 minutes (if of the frozen, vacumn-packed variety) or grill for about 2-5 minutes until bubbling. Cut into two lengthwise strips.
Halve, pit and peel the avocado. Cut the avocado halves into thin even 1/8 inch (3 mm) slices. Fan the slices out into a 7 inch (175 mm) overlapping pattern.
Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori shiny side down, lengthwise, on the edge the mat.
Moisten your hands with water, then place one cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
Flip the rice-covered nori over (so the bare nori is now on top) and place on the edge of the mat closest to you. Arrange one of the eel strips across the length of the nori, about a third of the sheet away from you. Place half the cucumber sticks next to the eel.
Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands, keeping your fingertips over the fillings, and roll the mat and its contents until the edge of the mat touches straight down on the nori, enclosing the fillings completely. Lift up the edge of the mat you’re holding, and continue rolling the inside-out roll away from you until it’s sealed. Tug at the mat to tighten the seal. If the rice doesn’t quite close the roll add more rice in the gap and re-roll using the mat to completely cover the inside-out roll.
Slide a knife under one fan of avocado and transfer it onto the top of an inside-out roll. Gently spread out the avocado layer to neatly cover the entire roll. Lay the plastic wrapped mat over the avocado-covered roll. Squeeze very gently to shape the roll.
Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the roll. Slice the roll into 6-8 equal pieces, wiping your knife with a damp towel before each slice. Discard the plastic wrap. Repeat the above to make one more roll.
Arrange the cut pieces on a serving plate, using soy sauce, unagi sauce and/or japanese mayonnaise to create legs and flames for your dragon. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy for dipping.
Nigiri Sushi (picture at top of post)
makes 16 pieces of sushi
2 cups prepared sushi rice
8 pairs of assorted toppings – about 200 gm (7oz) of sashimi-grade fish
(you can also use cooked fish, meat and/or vegetables)
1 tbsp wasabi (optional)
Moisten your hands with water, then scoop up a small amount (about 2 tbsp) of rice with your forefinger and second finger of your right hand and placing it in your cupped left palm.
Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow loaf (about 2″ x 1″) in your cupped palm, and press gently, but firmly to make the rice hold together.
Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don’t let sushi touch or they’ll stick to each other. At this point, you can cover the sushi with plastic wrap, and they’ll keep at room temperature for several hours.
If using the wasabi, dab a small amount on top of the rice and place your topping on it. You may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form an attractive piece of nigiri sushi.
I have made simple nigiri with just sashimi as a topping but if you choose a loose topping like fish roe, you can place a strip of nori (higher than the rice) around the nigiri and form gunkan (or ‘battleship’) sushi. The cavity that the nori forms holds the topping so it does not fall off. You may also wish to garnish with strips of nori (or vegetables) to tie the topping to the nigiri.
Serve your pairs of sushi with pickled ginger and soy for dipping.