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.

Ingredients
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.

Method
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.

~

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Sweet Potato Lunches

It’s time for a healthy post, after that last one…

Higher in vitamins A and C than a white potato varieties and slightly lower in calories, the sweet potato could potentially revamp that classic baked potato favourite. If you’ve never tried it it’s a great tasting, and highly versatile alternative to the average potato. Sweet potato pie for desert is a fantastic tasty treat for late summer to autumn evenings. Sweet potato wedges with Cajun seasoning (or even just paprika) with a sour cream dip are a lovely social snack or to accompany steak nights, fajitas, barbecues or even a bowl of chilli.

But I love sweet potatoes for lunch, under a fresh salad of Cos lettuce with my favourite sweet and salty combination of goats’ cheese and pineapple chunks. What you fill a potato with is really down to preference, but is my favourite and gets my taste buds jumping for joy. What’s more is the fact that, they taste great cold too – so it’s this fantastic packed lunch-able for the school of office.

TipRun a metal skewer through the sweet potato from top to bottom. This will help to conduct the heat through the centre of the potato. Place it on a tray and rub it with olive oil and a bit of salt, before placing it in a hot oven on about 200º for around 40 minutes (depending on the size of the potato). If the metal skewer gives easily as you try to remove it, the potato is done. It will feel softer than a normal potato.

Slice it open and mash a little more olive oil (or butter if you fancy) and a crumble of goat’s cheese into the centre. Cover with your favourite salad veg – I used spring onions and celery for a peppery undertone, really sweet tomatoes, lettuce and some cucumber and radish for added crunch. Top it off with more pineapple and finally plenty of goats’ cheese.

Other great fillings that I love for a baked sweet potato are:

  • Beetroot, shallot and Emmental and watercress
  • Extra strong Cheddar, sour cream and guacamole
  • Tuna, red onion, Mozzarella and rocket

What do you like on yours? ~

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.

Ingredients:
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

Method:
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.

Green Summer Salad with Chicory

Unfamiliar fruit and vegetables: you know the ones. You might have seen a foreign fruit on a supermarket shelf but never bought it yourself. You might have tasted an unusual vegetable in a restaurant but haven’t the foggiest idea how to prepare it. If this is you, don’t worry. To be honest I think there are a lot more of us than we’d care to admit.

Should this sound familiar, how about picking one of those packs of fruit or veg at you local grocers that you wouldn’t normally buy? You might even be surprised. Give yourself a little challenge this summer. Over the next few weeks I want to highlight some of those not-your-every-day-veg, with interesting facts about them and hopefully some good recipes to boot!

So I will start on the topic of Chicory (aka. Endive):

If you have never used it before, Chicory tips are a lovely salad leaf with a slightly bitter flavour. Because of this bitterness, it makes an interesting addition to a salad. It is also high in vitamin C.

So this salad green salad with chicory should mean no more generic Iceberg lettuce or salad-in-a-bag for you next time!

My Grandmother loved a chicory salad, often adding lengths of celery for crunch and apple slices for a contrasting sweetness. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:
3 tips of chicory (red or green)
1 large head of celery
1 apple (Cox variety is a nice choice or any other eating apple)
1/2 a cup of walnuts
Parsley to garnish

For a very simple French dressing (optional)

2 parts good olive oil to 1 part white wine vinegar.
You may add a teaspoon of whole grain mustard to every cup of French dressing made if you fancy an extra kick, a splash of apple juice to sweeten or even both.

Method:
Split off the chicory leaves and place in a bowl along with thin slices of apple and similar sized lengths of celery. Then if you wish, toss through a little French dressing (nothing too strong). Garnish with walnuts and parsley.

Serve immediately. Preparing this salad beforehand will result in the chicory and apples browning in the open air.

I love this recipe because it is so versatile. It goes well with barbecued chicken kebabs and flat breads, or a cold roast beef platter. Chicory is also a great braised. Slice the tips roughly in half at an angle and brush with a bit of oil, before placing on a griddle briefly with a bit of onion or under a direct flame in grill or over a barbecue. Like this, chicory tips are a fantastic accompaniment with a chunky bit of pan-fried fish steak or fish en papillote.

So think about giving your self a challenge one day next week with a fruit or vegetable that you’ve always wondered about, but hesitated to buy at the supermarket. You never know what you might enjoy.    ~

Minted Melon Salad

Here’s a gorgeously fresh salad idea for your summer barbecues or garden suppers. Best served ice cold, with fresh mint, it goes really well with full flavoured cold meats such as duck or lamb. Savoury fruit salad? Yes – have a go, you won’t be disappointed.

Ingredients:

Melon (1 per every two people)
1/2 a stalk of grapes (try to buy seedless unless you are wiling to deseed them before serving)
Mint (6 sprigs)
Crushed Roasted Almonds (optional)

For the dressing:
White Wine Vinegar
Extra Virgin olive oil
Lemon juice
Pinch of Salt
Ground white pepper
1 tsp sugar

Prepare the dressing by mixing two parts extra virgin olive oil (the nicest you can find) to one part white wine vinegar. Then squeeze in some lemon juice and add a pinch of salt, white pepper and sugar to taste. I use white pepper, just for aesthetics. That way, there are no questionable specks of black pepper across the salad. If you do not want to be fussy – by all means use ground black pepper. Segment the ice-cold melon and remove the seeds. Proceed to cut the crescents into thin slices. Arrange the melon on a serving platter. Scatter over the de-seeded halves of red grapes.

Drizzle a little dressing over the salad, and garnish with torn sprigs of mint (Moroccan mint or apple mint provide refreshing contrasts to the sweet melon) and some crushed almonds for crunch.

If you are serving a few people, mix it up with a variety of melons – a cantaloupe, galia, and honeydew for an assortment of colour.

Salmon and Crab Cakes

Making fish cakes with a home made tartare sauce is as easy as mashed potato. Prepared in advance summer starter for a dinner party, lunch time snack, or quick and easy main course – these little ocean beauties will give you a healthy little dose of Omega 3 and are a darn site healthier than cardboard fish pockets you get down the local chippy.

Ingredients:
New Potatoes (half a small bag or about 1kg)
Crab meat (2 dressed crabs fresh or 1 tin – white and/or brown meat)
1 tin of salmon (tinned often works better in this case – holding the cake together.)
Small bunch of coriander
1 spring onion

2 slices of stale white bread
1 beaten egg

In a pot of salted water, boil the potatoes to a soft mash-able texture. Leave the skins on – they contain plenty of nutrients. Drain.

Finely slice the coriander and spring onion and mash these into the potato.  Add the salmon and crab meat and mix through. Leave to cool.

When the potato mix is cool make small patties; the size that fits comfortably in your hand. Or fill the inside space of a 2-inch diameter cookie cutter and push out carefully onto a plate. Do this until all your mix are in cake form. Cover with cling-film and leave to firm up and chill in the fridge for at least half and hour. (You can, at this point, freeze the patties for a later date – just make sure they are fully defrosted when it comes to cooking)

Reduce the stale bread to breadcrumbs in what ever way you please. Blitz them in a blender or freeze them and bash them out in advance. Place in a shallow dish, next to a beaten egg on a plate.

When slightly firmer, the fishcakes are ready to fry. Roll each side gently in the beaten egg and then turn them through the breadcrumbs to coat them evenly. Fry each side in a little oil for five minutes or until a nice brown, turning gently with a spatula or palette knife.

Set the cakes aside on a baking tray and keep warm in the oven on a low heat (120º) until they are ready to eat.

Serve with home made tartare sauce which is just 3:1:10 ratio of chopped capers to chopped parsley to mayonaise accordingly. Or some Thai sweet chilli sauce is great too.

~

Red Cabbage & Sweet Pomegranate Coleslaw

I fancied making something fresh this evening, to round the week off. Something that would go with steak, that isn’t starchy and doesn’t make you feel lethargic after eating. A coleslaw I thought would be suitably healthy, full of crunch and would wake up any hibernating tastebuds.

Ingredients
2 Pomegranates
1/2 red cabbage head
2 heads of baby gem lettuce
2 small shallots
Salt, Pepper and Sugar
2 tbsp fresh mayonaise
Juice of an orange
Parsley

Slice the red cabbage, lettuce and shallots as finely as possible and toss together in a bowl. Empty the shells of two pomegranates and tear up some fresh parsley.  Add the mayonaise, squeeze in the juice of an orange and coat the sliced vegetables well. Add a grind of pepper, pinch of salt and teaspoon of sugar for seasoning. Have a taste before you serve it – people’s opinion of seasoning can vary widely when it comes to something like coleslaw. Some like a peppery coleslaw, so go heavy on the parsley, onions and ground black pepper . Some prefer it creamier, in which case add more mayo. I prefer it sharp and tangy, so I am liberal with the shallots, orange and pomegranate seeds.

Coleslaw is something best served freshly made. Even after a few hours the ingredients in the dressing can pull out the water from the lettuce and cabbage and make them lose their crispness.

A different twist: if serving with lamb, add grated apple and exchange the parsley for mint. A different twist. ~