Quick Fix Sushi Lunches

Sushi rolls

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.
Avocado (sliced)
Cucumber (julienned)
Salad (soft rocket leaves or lambs lettuce)
Mayonnaise (optional)
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.



Toffee Crisps

I remember when sticky toffee rice puff bars first appeared in the shops, complete with cereal branding to grab your attention. At least half the kids in my class had them in their lunch boxes at school. I was about nine years old and no doubt one of many kids who nagged their mothers for this sugary block on the supermarket shelf.

I don’t know why I was so amazed to find this recipe on the desert postcard my Grandmother had kept. It was as if I had assumed that crispy puffed rice cereal did not exist pre-1990’s, let alone without the slogan – snap, crackle and pop. But it did – and instead of referring to them by brand, they were just rice puffs or rice crisps. It is with these that this ridiculously high-sugar, but kids’ delight, snack is made.

My grandmother starts this recipe with ‘a shilling slab of toffee’, which is not the most helpful of measurements in 2012, I have to say. After some reckoning and experimenting, these are the modern measurements I now use.

175g toffee (a slab broken up, or just a bag of toffee pieces)
100g butter (unsalted)
100g caster sugar
150g rice puffs

Melt the toffee with butter and sugar gently in a pan over a low heat. Keep stirring to avoid any sugar burning or catching at the bottom of the pan. Once you have a smooth thick syrupy mixture, pour over the rice puffs in a large bowl and stir, carefully folding the liquid through the rice until everything is coated evenly. Pack it down flat into tin lined with greaseproof paper and chill.

Once set, cut the square into blocks small enough for small hands not to make too much of a mess when eating.

Sweet and Sour Pork & Egg Fried Rice

When it comes to my Mother’s culinary repertoire, this is one of her crowning dishes (and the one my Dad goes on about the most). It’s a much loved family favourite and it always seems to be this special meal that gets cooked whenever there are a million family guests visiting. I won’t deny that it is a timely and excessive recipe but with a bit of easy preparation anyone can get it tasting delicious. Don’t be deterred by the ingredients list – I promise there will be full and happy bellies all round.

Ingredients: (Serves 4)
Pork tenderloin (cut into ½ inch chunks)
1/2 cucumber
2 carrot
2 peppers
4 chestnut mushrooms
1 large onion
1 inch of ginger
Whole bulb of garlic
Pineapple chunks
Pineapple juice (if from tin)
1 cup of corn flour
Tomato sauce
Vinegar to taste
Lemon zest
Juice of half a lemon
5 small chillis
Salt and pepper to taste
2 spoons soy sauce
2 spoons of sugar
1 tbsp. five spice

Marinate the pork chunks in the fivespice, sherry, soy sauce, lemon zest and lemon juice and corn flour and pepper. Make sure the meat is coated well in the mix to ensure good cornflower coverage. Leave for at least an hour in the fridge but overnight is best.

After the marinating, give it a stir to make sure everything is coated evenly and fry in a pan with 1/2 inch of hot veg oil, carefully turning the chunks only when the underside is browned and the thin corn flour coat has crisped at the edges. Do not over cook the meat.

Drain on some kitchen towel.

Use the left over marinade to make the sauce base. To this add half a cup of tomato sauce, sugar and the pineapple juice (if using tinned pineapple).

In a large wok – fry off the onions, garlic, chills, ginger in a little oil.  To the pan, add all the veg and pineapple, stir-fry briefly then add the left over marinade sauce. As the cornflower begins to thicken the sauce, add a generous glug of vinegar. Give it a taste to make sure the sweet/sour balance is as you like it. Lastly stir in the meat and add chives and parsley chopped to season.

Serve with rice and top with finely sliced spring onions. A chilled Rosé stands up refreshingly well to the sweet and sour without overpowering (like a fuller bodied red) or skewing the flavours (like a dry white).

Steamed rice (let it dry and cool with the lid off before frying)
A dash of Shaoxing rice wine or sherry
1/2 tbsp. light soy sauce
1/2 cup of peas
2 eggs – fried like an omelette, rolled and sliced

Chop the ½ inch of ginger as finely as possible and fry in a pan with some light oil. Add an egg – breaking the yolk into the white. Fry until you have a set omelette that you can roll out and slice into thin strips.

Place the empty pan back over a hot flame, add a little more oil and add your cooked rice. Turning the rice as you go so that it does not stick, add a dash of soy sauce and an equal dash of rice wine or sherry.

When the stain of the soy sauce is mixed through all the rice – add some peas (or any other small veg pieces you’d prefer) and the egg back into the mix. Turn constantly so that the rice does not burn to the pan. When the peas are cooked (which does not take long) the rice is ready to serve.

Grandma’s Rice Doodle

The sun is beating down swift rays with highs of thirty degrees this week. So I hope to be creating and introducing quite a few beautiful dishes for lunches, dinners, sides and snacks – ideal for any more heat waves over the summer months.

This is a lovely rice salad from my Grandmother’s repertoire that I found handwritten on a little slip of paper tucked away in the back of a book about French provincial cookery. Almost like a simple salad-version of a special fried rice dish, this little plate looks so pretty and has such subtle flavouring it’s lovely hot or cold.

A cup of rice (long grain is better for this recipe)
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 spring onion
Leftover roast chicken (or cooked prawns are a nice alternative)
1 Green pepper
½ cup of raisins
Chopped walnuts
A handful of grapes
Fresh parsley

Steam the rice until cooked and allow to cool a little before tossing the turmeric powder to stain the rice a soft yellow colour.  Finely chop the spring onion and pepper and toss into the rice along with the raisins and pieces of roasted chicken.

Garnish with halves of grapes, fresh parsley and the chopped walnuts.

Carribbean Carnival

It rained a little, but the sun broke through in the afternoon in time for the carnival parade. For lunch: Jerk Chicken and Curried Goat galore.

Risotto ai Funghi

It was a quiet night in tonight with just me, which means a little time for some experimentation! This evening’s ingredients pointed towards a vegetable risotto. In fact, due to the vast amounts of mushrooms that I have absent-mindedly bought this week the result was a mushroom risotto with a broccoli and beetroot topping.

INGREDIENTS: 2 cups of  risotto rice, a punnet mushrooms, 1 onion and two garlic cloves (finely chopped) 1 cup of white wine, 1 pt chicken stock, salt and pepper for seasoning. For the salad topping: lightly stir fried broccoli, spring onions and beetroot (chopped).

Fry together the onion and garlic in some olive oil until soft but not brown. Drop in to this the mushrooms and toss lightly before adding the rice. Stir to cover the rice in the mixture, then add the wine and stock. Stir, cover with a lid and allow to simmer for 20mins occasionally giving the mixture an extra turn to make sure the rice grains do not stick to the pan.

Serve with any sort of salad you fancy really.  Tonight I garnished the rice with diced beetroot, broccoli and spring onions for a fresh taste that complimented the earthy mushrooms.