As the heat of the day really starts to kick in over summer, there is nothing I crave more than a plate of fresh sushi and a cold glass of white wine. Sadly, during the week it is unlikely I can snaffle a glass of wine on my office lunch break. Nor was there anywhere in the vicinity of the office that sold sushi.
But with the introduction of international food aisles to the likes of Sainsbury’s and Tesco, supermarkets have really stepped up the range of Asian food staples on offer. Although this doesn’t yet include fresh sushi grade fish, it does mean that packets of Nori seaweed sheets and sushi rice are readily available.
Here’s a refreshing change to your packed lunch. Give it a try.
Nori seaweed sheets (1 large sheet for 2 rolls)
400g Sushi rice
Smoked salmon slices, cooked prawns, ocean sticks or cold chicken strips.
Salad (soft rocket leaves or lambs lettuce)
Sushi rolling mat or baking paper.
Wash the sushi rice gently in a sieve using cold water, rinsing out any lose starch and dirt. Place in a saucepan filling with cold water (about half a pint) no further than 2/3 of the pot. Bring the pot to the boil and then immediately turn the heat down to simmer gently for 15 minutes with a lid. Remove from the heat and leave to stand and cool completely.
Lay out the Nori seaweed sheet onto your rolling mat or baking paper. Following one edge of the sheet, spread and flatten out a line of rice just over an inch wide, before making a shallow trough along the centre of your rice. If you find the rice is sticking too much to you as you do this, use wet fingers dipped in rice wine vinegar. Into the trough lay the main filling – salmon, chicken, prawns or even a mix. Then top with a light helping of salad and a drizzle of mayonnaise. Now with dry hands lift the seaweed sheet using the sushi roll mat or baking paper to help, and roll to make a tight cylinder of rice and filling in a seaweed outer shell. Place fold side down on chopping board and slice the roll to your desired length. Cut into inches for bite sized party aperitifs or longer for single snacks.
Braver sushi aficionados can spread a little wasabi paste on to the nori which will act like glue and keep the roll from unravelling.
Three rum based summer cocktails to bring a tropical burst to your back garden evenings.
The weather man was finally predicting a heatwave this weekend, heralding the optimistic rush to ready our gardens, bikes or barbecues to make the most of the British sunshine. I spent Saturday evening watching the sun dip over the garden wall, contemplating the merits of cocktails and drinks that extend those summer evenings late in to the night.
So in the first post of a summer series on cocktails, here’s some interesting tipples for your taste buds to try:
4 parts white rum (Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum)
2 parts dark rum (Havana Club or Barcardi)
1 part curaçao
1 part orgeat syrup (optional)
1 part fresh lime juice
Mix together the white rum, curaçao, syrup and lime juice with a hand full of ice. Strain into a tall chilled glass. Then, if you can, float the dark rum over the top of the drink by pouring slowly over the back of a spoon. The traditional garnish is usually a slice of pineapple, and a some lime peel gently twisted to release the citrus oils. But an orange slice or two would do just fine.
3/4 – 1 whole lime per glass (depending on how sour you like things)
2 tsps soft brown sugar
White rum to top (Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum)
Slice the limes into segments, and with the brown sugar gently mash into the bottom of a tumbler glass until the sugar dissolves into the lime juices. Fill with crushed ice and top with white rum.
For more fruity variations, you can substitute the lime with skinned, seedless grapes, kiwi fruit or mango. For an entirely oriental twist try strawberries and a peach slice topped with 1 part sake and 1 part white rum.
Hot Cola Cube Mixer – a spicy take on the Cuba Libre
1 part dark rum
1 part white rum (Bacardi 151)
2 parts cola
1 part soda cream
1 inch fresh ginger (sliced) or 2 tsps ground ginger
Drop the ginger slices (or powder) into a large jug or decanter with plenty of ice cubes. Pour in both rums and stir really well. Top off with the cola and soda and serve.
Wednesday afternoon. Time to kick back, a moment of time to myself amidst a busy week, to catch my breath. I stare out of the kitchen window into clear skies and my thoughts turn to dinner. What happy morsel can I plate up and fit into a busy evening, without succumbing to an on-the-go fast food alternative or wasting what is still left to use in the refrigerator?
With just two of us living together there is usually a substantial amount of cold roasted meat in my fridge left over from a large chicken or an oversized leg of lamb. Couple this with some kitchen staples, and I can breathe life back into those busily overlooked midweek supper slots.
A handful of dried raisins that I always store in a Kilner jar for baking scones or fruitcake, pep up a salad of watercress and Chinese leafs. A dollop mint sauce (for lamb, or cranberry jelly for cold chicken, or honey for ham) stirred into some cold natural yoghurt makes a lovely dip or dressing.
Then it’s just a matter of pulling it all together on a slice of bread, deposited into a warm pitta or even with a helping of couscous or pasta.
Keeping food simple and fresh, I feel is really important during a busy week. Stay inspired and there will never be any need to sacrifice taste for time.
It’s pretty overwhelming sometimes, standing in the meat aisle in the supermarket when you don’t entirely know what to do with some of the cuts that you are presented with. You’re not alone. I know many people that don’t know their neck fillets from their lamb shoulder, and it’s not shameful – it just means you’re missing out. I was one of them, and even now I pass over cuts of meat that I have no frame of reference for – even if they are cheaper, or meatier than what I end up with.
So let’s start simple. Here’s how to roast a leg of lamb to perfection in three easy steps. And if you think that it’s too much hassle or too expensive, a cut weighing about 1.75 kg (bone included) like the one above will feed six people easily and consider the extra two or three meals of cold cuts you could get afterwards for picnics, packed lunches or quick weekday dinners: couscous, risotto, tomato and mint salad on sour dough all with cold lamb cuts are fantastic.
Leg of lamb
5 cloves of garlic, each halved lengthways
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
20g unsalted butter
3 anchovy filets
Freshly milled black pepper
1 glass of white wine.
1) Insert the blade of a small sharp knife directly through the meat to create incisions, and use your finger to push a sprig of rosemary, slice of garlic and a quarter of a filet of anchovy. Do this 15 – 20 times all over and under the meat.
2) Rub the meat with butter, making sure to cover any edges without a layer of fat. Place the lamb leg in a large oven tray, then season with salt and pepper. The seasoning should stick to the butter. Gently pour the glass of wine over the meat.
3) Place the tray on the middle shelf of the oven on 180° for an hour and a half, taking out at the half way point to baste the lamb in its juices to keep it beautifully moist.
The lamb should be wonderfully tender, and not over cooked – filled with flavours of the rosemary. The anchovies will have melted away to nothing, permeating the meat with a subtle saltiness which works perfectly with the sweetly softened garlic.
Allow it to rest before carving and serving up with what ever vegetables takes your fancy! Roasted courgettes are my favourite, along with cauliflower cheese or steamed mange tout.
So that’s January completed! I feel like I need to give myself a well earned pat on the back. What is it about January that makes it just stretch out its icy fingers into the rest of the year and makes me feel as if I’m never getting any further away from winter? I’m quite impatient, but at least in the first week of February I glimpsed a slice of spring in the afternoon, when the sun hesitated for what felt like a little longer in the sky, before it sank away.
So after getting inspired by the possibility of the green colours of spring around the corner, and wanting something an energetic boost of vitamins and minerals (a good source of vitamins B and C as well as iron and potassium), here’s another fantastic soup recipe.
1 large head of broccoli
250g butter beans
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 pints vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup of cream
Chives to garnish
Slice and fry off the garlic and onion before adding the florets of broccoli. Add in the butter beans (softened and drained), pour in the stock and simmer until the florets are soft. Season with with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Blend to a smooth consistency (or with chunks if you prefer). Garnish with a little cream and chopped chives and serve with toasted fresh bread or sour dough.
2 medium sized avocados
1 large tomato
1 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground pepper
a pinch of salt
juice of half a lime
2 – 3 small garlic cloves
Peel the avocados and mash with a fork, adding the salt, pepper, oil, lime juice. Chop the tomato and mince the garlic cloves. Mix everything together well. If you chose to, mix in the coriander. That’s it! It’s ready to serve!
This simple dish is a clean and cooling starter to precede something like a family meal this summer, or a smart dinner party aperitif. Easy to make up in advance, and a lighter change to the every day barbecues that these hot days might tempt us with.
The refreshing taste is a lovely alternative to a prawn (drowning-in-mayonaise) salad, which I know is often a go-to favourite UK summer holidayers everywhere. A lovely accompaniment to a chilled glass of italian wine such as this.
Supermarkets are offering good quality smoked-salmon and great prices these days so there really is no need to worry about the cost. This could even be a great supplement to a Christmas or new year’s party smorgasbord platter.
250g smoked salmon slices
Vietnamese rice wrappers (avoid the ones made with tapioca)
Light dipping soy sauce
baby rocket leaves
A large bowl or roasting tray of cold water
Peel and slice the avocado into thin segments. Slice or tear the salmon into strips of similar length. Take one rice wrapper at a time and gently immerse in the tray of cold water. It does not take long for the wrapper to soften and become pliable. Lay on a clean tea-towel and place a segment of avocado, a couple of strips of salmon and a few rocket leaves in a horizontal line. Add a few drops of fresh lemon juice before folding over the bottom half of the wrapper, and then each side, and finally rolling the parcel up into a thick cylinder. Simply repeat until you have enough.
This is a great dish to prepare in advance. Simple refrigerate them until you are ready to serve them. Serve with a light dipping soy sauce – I love the salty taste against the slight oiliness of the avocado and salmon. But you could go all out and whip up a fantastic mayonaise, mary rose or gravadlax sauce.