Posts Tagged ‘tuna’

The Japanese GP – home made Sushi!

October 15, 2011

Last Sunday was the Japanese GP and there was never any doubt in my mind as to what I would make.  I love sushi, but have never really given it a go at home so this seemed like the perfect excuse to try.  Sushi seems to be quite popular over here as well, there are an awful lot of sushi bars around.  You can also buy the rice and nori sheets in the supermarket.  The one thing you can’t get though is rice vinegar, which is a little frustrating as sushi is vingared rice, the plain stuff just doesn’t cut it!

Before starting my sushi I took to the web looking for tips.  The one I found most useful was Ian & Sue Mitchell’s How to Make Sushi site.  It was their advice that I followed for the tricky part – cooking the rice!

I used a cup of rice (this made enough sushi for 2 with some spare) and washed the rice until the water ran clear.  I then placed the rice in a heavy pan with 1 and a half cups of cold water and brought everything to the boil.  Once the water was boiling the heat was turned down low, a lid put on the pan and everything was left for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes I turned the heat off  but didn’t take the lid off, leaving the pan for a further 10 nerve racking minutes.

Finally after this time as up I could look at the rice.  It was perfectly cooked.  The rice was soft and the grains separated easily.  It hadn’t caught to the bottom and it wasn’t too glutinous!  I was very relieved!

While the rice was cooking I had made my vinegar mixture.  For this quantity of rice I heated two tablespoons of white wine vinegar (instead of the proper rice vinegar) with two tablespoons of caster sugar and half a teaspoon of salt.  Once the sugar and salt has dissolved (and the room smelt of vinegar!) I turned off the heat and let the mix cool.

With the rice ready it went into a large plastic bowl along with the vinegar mix and I ‘fluffed’ and cooled the rice moving it around with a pair of chopsticks.  After about 5 minutes of fluffing and fanning the rice with some paper I then left it to cool by itself for an hour or so.With the rice cool I began to make my sushi.  I started off with some Nigiri.  This involved making some small sausages of rice which would then be topped with tuna or salmon.  On first picking up the rice I quickly discovered just how stick the vinegar/sugar mix had made it.  By wetting my hands first I was able to handle and shape the rice without the majority of it sticking to my palms.

I made 10 little sausages and then cut my toppings, 5 tuna and 5 salmon.  My fish was raw and so you have to be careful.  I’m quite lucky in that although I’m pretty far from the sea, salmon tartare is very popular in this region and so you can still get very fresh fish.  A Migros 15 minutes away from me has a very good fish counter where the quality is very high and so I felt confident enough in the fish I had to happily eat it uncooked.  I cut five slices each approximately 2 cm by 5cm from my salmon and my tuna and placed them on top of the rice along with a little wasabi.  I then cut some small strips of nori to secure the toppings to the rice.Next I had a go at  making maki rolls.  The amount of rice I had let me try two varieties and so I made some avocado and salmon ones and some tuna and fresh red and yellow pepper one.  To make the maki I placed a sheet of nori onto a bamboo place mat (you can get proper sushi mats, but my place mat worked just fine) and spread my rice over ¾ of a nori sheet.  I then placed my toppings along what would be the length of the roll and added some daubes of wasabi before proceeding to try and roll everything.  This is not as easy as it sounds and as when making a roulade or swiss roll, taking things slowly seemed the way forward.  I carefully rolled things trying to keep everything tucked in and tight and eventually I was left with a large green sausage of sushi.The next challenge was trying to cut the sushi.  I had a very sharp knife, but it obviously wasn’t sharp enough as it just pulled and torn the sushi.  In the end the best thing I found was a serrated bread knife.  This did flatten the circle slightly (something I could kind of fix one the sushi was in bits), but at least I was able to get bite size pieces.  From my two rolls of nori I made about 12 individual pieces (plus the ends which were just as tasty but not as pretty) and these went onto my plate with the nigiri.I finished things off by cutting some slices of salmon sashimi for my partner and I and then we were ready to tuck in.  I have to say I was pretty impressed.  For a first attempt everything looks pretty professional when it was all together on a plate.  When I tried the rice by itself I felt it was maybe a little sweet, but with the toppings/filings and the wasabi it was just right.  Aside from preparing the rice I was surprised how straight forward actually making the sushi was.  I had always thought that sushi must be quite difficult and, I’m not saying it was easy peasy, but I feel I could do this again once evening for tea rather than needing to set aside a whole afternoon to prepare everything.  All in all I was very pleased with how things went!

The race was a triumph for the two fastest men within it. The championship is really a two horse race, with Vettel needing one point in the rest of the season to clinch his second world title, while Jenson Button needs victories in every single race.

Button did his job but Vettel singly failed to read the script, driving the Red Bull home safely in third. Despite losing his momentary pole to Vettel who drove him off the track, Button came back using tire strategy and jumped the Red Bull in the pits stops. From there he was unstoppable, bring the car home with over two seconds in hand.


A lovely meal out with work at the Laguna Restaurant

November 19, 2010

Last week my department held a two day off site retreat at the Park Plaza Cardiff (not very far for me to travel I know :-p), and apart from two days out of the office the thing that excited me most was the prospect of eating in the hotels Laguna Restaurant.  I had been there previously as part of a day spa package at the hotel and really enjoyed the food and so was eager to try it again.

The restaurant is situated at the back of the hotel and overlooks the greenery of the old canal feeder and Cardiff’s civic centre.  It was very spacious and light with a high ceiling and modern feel. There’s a terrace for the summer days (and smokers), but what with it being November and rather chilly, we ate indoors.  This being a work event I didn’t have the nerve to bring along camera to capture the food and so, inspired by Ailbhe Phelan’s magnificent drawings on her Simply Splendiferous blog, I have attempted to recreate the meal through the medium of coloured pencil (unfortunately falling far short of her own skilled artistry).

The meal began with warm bread rolls.  Olive triangles, mini French loafs and rye buns were on offer and bowls of olive oil and balsamic vinegar were provided for dipping which proved to be a nice, lighter alternative to butter.  I had an olive triangle the first day and a rye bun the second.  Both were delicious and wonderfully soft, a lovely nibble while we waited for our starters.  Our meals were to be two courses, and the menu provided plenty of option with four starters, two “large or small” options you could choose as either starters or mains and four main choices.  There was also the option of dessert, but I ended up keeping it savoury both days.

The first day I went for a starter of prawn and brown shrimp cocktail which was served with granary bloomer bread and half a lemon wrapped in muslin to catch the pips.  The plate looked extremely elegant and appealing and I thought the lemon in muslin was a great touch.  The cocktail itself was succulent and full of flavour.  The lettuce was crisp and fresh and the rose marie has quite a kick in it which really lifted the dish.

My starter of prawn and brown shrimp cocktail

My main of seared salmon with squash sage and chilli risotto

For my main I chose the seared fillet of salmon which was accompanied by a squash, sage and chilli risotto.  The portion was enormous, a huge of fillet salmon with crisp skin and lovely soft flesh and a supreme quantity of autumnal orange risotto.  The sweetness of the squash was complemented by the sage and the subtle chilli heat which was much milder than that in the starter.  The combination of rich creamy risotto (I suspect there may have been a fair quantity of cream and butter involved!) and oily salmon was delicious, but far too much for lunchtime and I must admit to being unable to finish it all.

Having enjoyed my lunch so much on the first day I was excited to go to see what was on offer on the second.  About half the menu was the same as the first day, but there was still plenty I wanted to try from both the old and the new selections.  This time I went for a starter of seared spiced salmon with asian salad and pesto.  This was once again the picture of elegance, presented in clean straight lines.  I can’t say that I’m familiar with the concept of asian pesto, and on tasting it I would have to just say that it was just a mix of coriander and garlic.  Tasty, pretty, but not overly inspiring.  The tuna though was nicely flavoured and the salad had a great variety of flavour colour and textures including lambs lettuce, radish, carrot and sesame seeds.

My starter of seared spiced salmon salad with asian pesto

My main of confit belly pork apple sage risotto

For my main I decided to go for a risotto again (repetitive I know!).  This time I had a confit belly pork, sage and apple risotto from the “small or large” section.  Once again this was exceptionally rich and I dread to think juts how much dairy (and fat!) was involved.  The pork had been flaked so thst little nuggets of flavour were speckled throughout the dish as well as some large chunks of sweet red apple.  Overall this dish was rich, sweet and decadent.  This time I had eaten less for breakfast in preparation and was able to finish it all, but only just.

Overall I was impressed with the restaurant and I think I’ll be going back again.  The quality of the food was excellent and although the service was relaxed it wasn’t too slow.  It’s not too expensive either (£16.50 for a 3 course pre-theatre menu).  I wouldn’t normally consider the restaurant of a hotel chain when planning a meal out, but Laguna is a great lunch or early evening destination in a great city centre location.