Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The best of A Greedy Piglet - Gomokuzushi - a scattering of flavours & colours

The last of the series of rice posts from 2010 and 2011. This is such a useful dish to make, it seems long and complicated but it really isn't. And you can adjust what you use to what you have in the fridge, so really useful at the end of the week, when the wallet is a little dry.

Sushi.. say that to a lot of people and you will get the comment.. "oh, I don't like raw fish.." Well that is a shame, but it shouldn't stop you from enjoying sushi. The point of sushi is the vinegared rice which can be topped with lots of things, not just fish. And even if they DO know that sushi is about the rice, not the fish, most people in England will think of nigiri or maki, the rolled or shaped rice, as being "real" sushi.

Well, I am here to tell you, good people of the West, that in Japan there are more kinds of sushi than that. And among them is my personal favourite to make at home, Scattered Sushi.

Scattered sushi comes in two main styles, chirashizushi (Edo style) is usually sushi rice with uncooked ingredients (usually fish) arranged skilfully and artistically on the top.

My favourite, and a very common style for serving at home in Japan, is Gomokuzushi (Kansai style) which has both cooked and uncooked ingredients - the cooked vegetables are mixed into the rice, and the uncooked vegetables and some larger protein pieces arranged on top. It is immensely variable, and with just a few Japanese ingredients, will work with lots of different things that you may have in the fridge or freezer. Gomoku means "five" so traditionally this would have five different flavours or colours added, but really what and how many is up to you. My version uses largely western ingredients, that you will find easily in any supermarket, but there are some oriental ingredients that make it special.

Let's look at the Japanese ingredients first.

Rice. This is the most important ingredient, and the one you can't substitute with anything else. It must be proper sushi rice. Don't attempt this with any other rice. If you only have long grain rice, make a pilaff, if you only have risotto or paella rice, make risotto or paella. But if you want to make sushi, get sushi rice. I get mine in Sainsbury's it is easily found in most supermarkets, and from the oriental suppliers online, so there is no excuse!

Seasoned Rice Vinegar. Again, very important, though if you can't get Seasoned Vinegar (and the Mizkan brand is widely available in supermarkets) you can easily make your own with rice vinegar, salt and sugar, (3 tbs vinegar, 1 tbs sugar, half teaspoon salt, mix together til sugar dissolved) but I am lazy and the seasoned version isn't much more expensive than the plain. (It is delicious sprinkled on salads too in place of vinaigrette). You can use wine vinegar, though I wouldn't recommend it, and if you do then dilute it half and half with water, as it is much stronger.

Sesame seeds: I like to use both black unhulled sesame and sea salt mixed together as gomashio, very easy to make, though it can be bought ready made at oriental supermarkets. Also white sesame seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan give a lovely flavour.

Furikake: A mixture of dry seeds, spices and herbs, and made for sprinkling on cooked rice,  furikake comes in all kinds of flavours, I like the Sanchi brand one, which I buy online. If you want to try some other Japanese varieties, online oriental suppliers are the easiest way to try things if you don't have an oriental grocer to hand. Try Japan Centre or Japanese Kitchen. If you don't have this it isn't the end of the world, but it does add a lovely flavour.

Seaweed Salad: Not an essential by any means, but I do like it. I buy mine in little packets by Clearspring from Sainsbury's but the Japanese suppliers mentioned above will have all kinds of seaweed to try. It is really easy to use, don't be discouraged by the little black shrivelled up bits in the pack, 10 mins in lukewarm water and you will have a bowlful of lovely crunchy slithery seaweed.

The actual method is really an assembly job. You will need the following equipment:

2 saucepans , medium size, one must have a tight fitting lid
A plastic scraper or spatula to turn the rice - I made mine from an icecream carton lid :)
A tray or baking sheet with low sides to cool and turn the rice. You want it quite large and shallow so the rice cools quickly.
Bowls to serve the sushi in

Cook and season the rice, (you can do this a bit in advance, but don't put the rice in the fridge, you want it no cooler than room temperature). Decide on the cooked vegetable element that you want, then the raw salad element, then the protein topping.

For the cooked vegetables I can suggest using up to 4 or 5 of the following:
julienned carrots
Finely sliced runner beans
French beans
edamame (soy) beans
thinly sliced mushrooms
finely sliced asparagus (when it is in season - it is a bit late for this now, but next Spring...:) )
chopped broccoli

for the raw salad part you are looking for things with a nice crunch, so you might like one or two of these:
julienned radish (either English or oriental Daikon/Mouli radish)
julienned cucumber
sliced spring onions
shredded pickled ginger
finely sliced chicory
sweetcorn kernels
raw sliced mushrooms
seaweed salad or shredded nori seaweed

The protein element on top can be either fish or vegetarian, I have never used meat, somehow it just doesn't seem right to me, but there is no reason not to try it if you fancy the flavour. I would suggest two or three of these:

Smoked mackerel
Smoked salmon - both cold and hot smoked are nice
Prawns or shrimps
Fresh raw fish (make sure it is REALLY fresh, here in the city I prefer to leave it alone and use smoked raw fish rather than risk having stale fish)
Shredded crabsticks
Sliced avocado
Sliced thin rolled omelette
Sliced tofu - deepfried or plain

Slice all your vegetables, salad and protein elements first and have them ready.

Cooking the rice:

You should find instructions on the side of the pack of rice. I find it easier to work by volume with rice, so I use a mug full of rice for two large portions (or probably 3-4 ordinary ones.. I am a real pig where sushi is concerned). In a perfect world you would soak this in plenty of water for an hour, and then drain. To be honest, I am often not well prepared in advance, and so usually miss this step.

Put the rice in a medium saucepan, and cover with one mug of water if you have soaked and drained the rice, and one and a half if the rice is dry. NO SALT. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a slow simmer and cook with the lid tightly on for 10 minutes. Then turn the heat off completely and leave the rice for another 10 minutes. You are looking for a lightly sticky rice that will turn out in one piece, but will fall apart into separate sticky grains, you don't want a light fluffy rice like basmati, nor do you want a porridge. Turn it onto a tray it should look like this:

Using a scraper or a spatula spread the rice out by chopping it - you don't want to stir, it will break the grains. Sprinkle about 4-6 tablespoons of the seasoned vinegar over - this will depend on your taste, sprinkle 4tbs it over, chop and fold it in, then taste to see if might need any more. (If you have good coordination or a handy sous-chef, you can fan the rice as you turn it to cook it down faster. You have to be able to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time, so do check that first.) Then sprinkle the sesame seeds or furikake if you are using it over and chop and fold again.

Cover the rice lightly with a damp teatowel and put to one side.

Cooked Vegetables:

Put your selection into a saucepan, and just cover with boiling water, NO SALT, and blanch for a couple of minutes. Drain, and immediately dress with a couple of shakes of soy sauce. Put to one side to cool slightly.

To Serve:

Put each portion of rice into a large bowl - I use a pasta bowl.

Top with a portion of cooked vegetables (this has carrot, runner beans, peas, edamame, and broccoli) and mix these in.

Top with your salad selection (I just used the seaweed salad here)

Then arrange your protein (smoked mackerel, hot smoked salmon, tiger prawns) neatly on the top.

And that is it!

And if like me, you are trying to lose weight with Slimming World, you will be delighted to know that with careful selecting of the protein (there are a few syns in smoked mackerel) and allowing a syn for the sugar in the rice, everything else is FREE FOOD!

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