On most mornings when I open my email, I have about ten Groupon messages waiting to be deleted. While this can be rather annoying, I've not disabled this because once in a while, something does catch my eye.
Recently, I spied a deal for a two hour sushi-making class at Suzu in Hammersmith, with a glass of plum wine and a complete sushi-making kit to take home for £35 and promptly purchased the deal.
It was my first Japanese cooking class and as I've been wanting to incorporate more sushi into my canapé menus, I had the perfect excuse.
A quick google search showed that Suzu is a small but lovely Japanese tapas bar that offers high quality, fresh and delicious food which is valued by customers in many positive reviews.
I arrived quite early and was happy to see that I wasn't the only one who had showed up alone, and settled in with a delicious glass of plum wine.
The Japanese-born Makiko Matthews led the class and taught us how to make Kappa Maki (cucumber sushi rolls), salmon nigiri and westernised inside-out 'California' rolls with avocado and salmon. She also explained and gave us a guideline sheet about how to cook perfect sushi rice (which we were told is very different from cooking normal rice!) and where to buy the freshest sushi-grade fish.
I will review Makiko's sushi rice making on this blog soon and include all her invaluable tips.
To make the Kappa Maki you need to begin with a sushi mat that has been wrapped in clingfilm and have either slightly damp hands or wear gloves that you cover with a dab of oil, so the rice doesn't stick to your hands.
You align the nori seaweed sheet (rough side up, shiny side down!) with the bottom of the rolling mat and take an egg-shaped ball of rice, around 130g and place it on the bottom middle of the seaweed. Then press the rice from there towards all the sides evenly, making sure to leave a strip free of rice at the top, in order to seal the roll later. We were also told not to press the rice too firmly.
Once the rice is pressed into an even layer, you place two cucumber strips in the middle of the rice, and then take the bottom of the map and tightly roll it to end where the strip that is free of rice begins. Then, with your left hand pressing down the roll and moving it forward, you pull back the mat with your right hand. Leave the rolls to rest for a minute and the moisture from the rice will naturally seal the seaweed. You can then cut your roll in half and then cut each of these in 3 pieces in order to have 6 portions. Use the sharpest knife you can find, cut gently and ideally wipe your knife with a damp cloth after every cut for best results!
The rolls look something like this.
For the salmon nigiri, you will need the best fish you can find in order to avoid food poisoning. Makiko has recommended Atari-Ya, who have several shops in London and have been supplying Suzu for over five years. If you tell them what kind of sushi you want to make, they'll even cut your fish so you have the correct portions!
If you are slicing your salmon yourself, you should cut them into pieces that are about 5 cm long, 3 cm wide and 1 cm thick. To form the nigiri, put the piece of salmon on your left hand and press an oval shaped ball of sushi rice weighing between 10-15g on the middle. Then press your right index finger on the rice and clamp your left hand together. After that, try and form your nigiri so there is a nice height, shaped like a curve in the middle, and make sure the salmon covers the head and tail of the rice and that no rice is peeking out of the sides.
My first attempt at nigiri looked something like this (the one at the back is probably the best!)
To make the inside-out california rolls, start in the same way as if you were making the Kappa Maki, but use 150g of rice and spread the rice over the whole sheet of seaweed and don't leave a strip free! It's especially important for the rice not to be pressed down too firmly as the roll will look unappealing if the rice looks squished.
Then flip over your seaweed sheet, and place two pieces of avocado and two thin strips of fresh salmon in the middle of the sheet and roll in the same way as described for the Kappa Maki.
This is what my roll looked like. If you cut it into 6 pieces, it looks beautifully colourful!
You can also play around with what ingredients you use and the way you roll your sushi - Makiko, who is originally from Tokyo, informed us that the sushi there are usually rectangular shaped, while in other places sushi rolls are round.
In my opinion, the class was very well structured and ideal if you are new to making sushi and want to learn the basics in order to get your creativity flowing. Makiko makes sushi with her children on a weekly basis and encouraged us to experiment with ingredients when we make sushi at home - apparently her house has seen the birth of a unappealing Full English Breakfast sushi roll as well as a divine-sounding sushi roll with wasabi, cream cheese and blue cheese filling with dried dates, chives and cucumber! Yum!
At the end of the class, I received this sushi-making set including rolling mats, sushi rice, rice vinegar, nori seaweed sheets and wasabi. I will be making sushi with it very soon!
I highly recommend anyone to give sushi making a go, and if you're in London, definitely check out Makiko's classes - she not only teaches sushi classes but also runs classes on how to make katsu curry, dumplings, tempura and okonomiyaki.
172 Hammersmith Road
London W6 7JP
Makiko's blog: www.blog.helloonline.com/eatjapanese/