Monday, December 05, 2011

Making Sushi at Home: Yes, at Home!

Karavala Jell/Lumiris, Nori, Sushi Rice Roll - Home made (i)
Karavala Terrine Maki Rolls; Home Made
Sushi isn’t about raw fish; it is really about vinegar infused rice, which is then combined with fish, vegetables and a number of other ingredients. This can be done by placing the raw fish over a small cake of sushi rice, or wrapping the rice with a sheet of nori, seaweed beaten into a sheet, with the fish or vegetables or other goodies in the center. This is called maki sushi, and the California roll, invented by a Japanese cook in that sunny state, early in the 20th century, when he was faced with a clientele who didn’t like raw fish, is one of its famous and distinctive variations.
So what kinds of sushi rolls can you make at home? Tuna is tempting, but I wouldn’t recommend it, since you just cannot get the flavorful, fatty belly tuna you need for that burst-in-your-mouth taste. Of raw fish, inexpensive shark works well, but then that’s not everyone’s favorite. So my recommendations are crab sticks (a processed, flavored fish product) you buy off the shelf at Food City, smoked salmon, expensive but buttery and amazing, like cold, semi cooked fish bacon, and my own little innovation home made karavala terrine sushi rolls.
California Rolls (crab stick)-1 home made
Crab Stick Maki Rolls; Home Made
But before we get to the good stuff, you’ll need to do some ground work to get your sushi roll preparation kit together. The only special things you need are a bamboo sushi rolling mat, and pressed seaweed (nori) sheets, both available from Brana’s (3rd floor, Kollupitiya Super Market, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 3, 011-242-1675). The mat is Rs. 375/= and 10 sheets of nori are Rs. 800 or so. Japanese sushi vinegar, and Mirin, a sweetish wine is also available and inexpensive, but not essential; I’ve managed to produce great tasting sushi with substitutes.
 Next, you need to cook your rice and flavor it. There is a special kind of ‘sushi rice,’ but I’ve not found it yet in Colombo; no doubt its available, but I think any long grained rice will do. I’ve made all my sushi rolls with regular Basmathi, so that would be fine for a beginner. 

Sushi Rice: Ingredients
2 cups (that’s a 250 ml measure) | uncooked rice | 4.5 cups water | 4 tablespoons (60 ml rice vinegar) | 3 tablespoons sugar | 2 tablespoons Mirin | (or any other sweet wine, optional) | 2 teaspoons salt
Sushi Rice: Method
 Cook the rice the usual way, until it’s soft. The little extra water will make it a little mushy, which is good. Mix the other ingredients and add it to the rice. Let it cool, mixing well, with a fork.

You are ready to roll your sushi. For the simplest first attempt, lay out your bamboo mat, place a sheet of plastic wrap on it, or encase it in a large ziploc bag, then place a sheet of Nori on it and smoothen a layer of rice over the nori sheet, leaving half an inch free at the far end. Two pre-made crabsticks will work great for the filling or smoked salmon, with finger cucumbers sliced length ways. Rolling your sushi is a bit of an art, but it’s not hard: I managed fine at my second attempt and I’ve got paws! You’ve got to press in the first edge carefully, make sure it sits well, and roll the whole thing, and flip it. Check out this clip on youtube ( first; there are many uploads there which are very helpful. Now, all this is very regular, and it’s great – but while I was doing this, I had an idea that took me further, helping me to adapt sushi rolls to Sri Lankan food habits. It seems to me that a sushi roll is rice sandwich, or put another way, it is a bath gulliya. A kneaded mouthful of rice, which for a rice eating Sri Lankan, is as old as solid food, that first meal a baby eats after s/he is weaned. Karavala, I thought, is an inexpensive, yet intensely flavored substitute for the artificially flavored, expensive crabstick; with a little home processing it works amazingly well with lunu miris (chillie onion sambol) added as an optional extra. TasteFusion!
To process the Karavala for your sushi rolls, you need to make it into a terrine. No, again, this is not hard, but does require a little bit of work – and an overnight wait.

Karavala Terrine: Ingredients | 100 g Karavala (your favorite kind) | 100 g Coconut milk powder | 100 g unsalted butter | 1 table spoon chillie pieces (optional)

 Karavala Terrine: Method

Nori sheet, spread with rice, jelled karavala and lunu-mirisPressure cook the Karavala in three times the water for 30 mins. Drain, reverse the liquid, and de-bone. The bones will be soft now, and this will be easy. Discard the bones, and add the coconut milk powder and butter, and grind down to a fine mush with a barmix blender or table top food processor. Taste, and adjust the ingredients. It should be quite strong, too strong to simply eat, but not killer salty. Add a tiny bit of sugar, chillie pieces, and more butter or coconut if it is too salty, or some of the reserved Karavala essence if it does not have enough kick. All this depends on taste, so you’ll get what you like with practice. And you should have now roughly, 250 ml or one cup of puree, after whatever is stuck to the mixer is factored out.
Jelled Karavala - for rolls
Karavala Terrine (Cut Strips)

Add two teaspoons of dissolved gelatin into this and pour it into a small, square plastic storage box and refrigerate for four hours, in a cold fridge. Yes, you should be done. 

Cut long strips out with a small, sharp knife, and lay it on your sushi rice, which you should remake without salt, with a little line of lunu miris. Roll. Cut, and plate it with little clumps of lunu miris.

Karavala Lunu-Miris Rolls (vii)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Review: Sushi About Town

Maki Rolls, Tuna, Cumber, and Crab Stick, Spinach and pickled radishSushi Ashai Nihonbashi@ODEL Nihonbashi, which means, I believe, a bridge to Japan, has a reputation for quality Japanese food in Colombo. I tried the compact, well serviced outlet at Odel (Alexandra Place), for a quick lunch. Sushi Ashai, an assortment of rolls, 10 in all, three salmon, three cucumber and three tuna, all quite small, with a larger California roll was on my Rs. 880/= platter. The experience of Sushi rolls is about texture as much as taste on the tongue; in a basic roll there are three textures – the outer wrap of seaweed which is like melting paper on the tongue, the soft, mushy rice – which is sweet and sour, and then the filling, say fish or cucumber. If it’s raw fish, then it’s the sushi rice, and the hot and salty wasabi-soy sauce dip you make in the little bowl that brings out the flavor of the fish, because raw fish can be so subtle and delicate in flavor you can miss it altogether. I worked hard at this at the Hilton’s Spices Buffet (Rs. 2,250/=, reservations recommended), where I tasted, and then blind tasted with the help of my lunch partners, repeated helpings of the tuna and modha, which were on offer. The modha on offer had a firmer, much firmer texture than the tuna, which was softer on the tongue, but more tart. They both had a fish flesh taste, which is quite different, being far more delicate than the cooked product. Neither was fatty or buttery; high grade tuna, cut from the belly of the fish will be fattier and have a more robust taste. Certainly as advertised, the tuna in the Nihonbashi rolls was richer and fattier in taste, but it is the salmon in both places, that is really worth your while – which I found a taste treat. The salmon in the Nihonbashi rolls was raw. At the Hilton, they served marinated, raw salmon. The fattiness of raw salmon is a cross between butter and bacon on the tongue, and the sweet-sour marinade just made it extra-ordinary. Something like a slice of bacon fat, lightly cooked, with a sweet sour sauce. You don’t really need wasabi or soy with this; the chef recommended a dill mayonnaise sauce which was soothing, but added little else. Also on offer at the Hilton was smoked seer, with a light touch of chille coriander on it. Seer, actually has a little bit of flavorful fattiness, underlined by the smoking; the coriander highlights were welcome, but the salmon was best. There was also a roll on offer with tuna, cucumber, crab stick, pickled radish and spinach. Again, even though smaller and much more expensive, the rolls at Nihonbashi were better, the tuna was fattier and much richer, and the marinated cucumber was more complex, with a slightly bitter after taste and a more pronounced crunch. IMG_5552

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Sushi Bar at Cinnamon Lakeside

Cheft's Assorted Sushi Platter, Sushi Bar, Cinnamon Lakeside 

The Sushi Bar at Cinnamon Lakeside (135, Chitt. Gardiner Mawatha) is so modestly and unpretentiously announced, you may miss it all together, if you’ve weren’t really looking for it. That would be a pity: a competitively priced, extensive selection of beautifully plated sushi – of above average quality awaits you at the Sushi Bar.
            We opted, as you should, for the Chef’s assorted Sushi platter, which promised 5 fish offerings for the Nigiri (Tuna, Modha, Salmon, Cuttlefish, and Prawn) and three for the maki rolls (Tuna, Salmon & Cumber)– quite a good deal for Rs. 800. This with tea, makes a great lunch. But we added a separate potion Smoked Salmon Nigiri (Rs. 580), was well as two made to order pure vegetarian options – the Spring rolls and the California Rolls (Rs. 400).
            The star turn was the assorted platter; the tuna always the variable in different places, had great fatty flavor, and wasn’t sour. The Modha was good as well, the cuttle fish was buttery, the prawn, marinated sweet sour, was a lovely change, the Salmon was soft, fatty and rich. The tuna, it must be said approached Nihonbashi quality, at a lower price point, and the presentation was really pretty. The smoked salmon was also marvelous, with the added melt in your mouth cold bacon flavor, that comes with that delicacy. In general, you really can’t go wrong with Salmon, which is air freighted from Norway – with Tuna and Modha, quality will vary—depending on the catch of the day, and the nearness to the belly of the cut, but Lakeside did well.
            The vegetarian options though outstandingly plated, didn’t have enough flavor – these maki rolls are really built around crab sticks, and if you do leave them out – a really intensely flavored cumber or radish must take its place, I feel. To be fair, these pure vegetarian options are not on the menu, and were created for us – perhaps they need more work for vegetarian sushi lovers.
            Our dessert was the green tea ice-cream, which was creamer than what we expected, and sweeter – some scoops had an amazing after taste of tea, but that was a little uneven. But the cold Sake (Rs. 800 for 150 ml) , and the hot green tea (Rs. 220) we had with the meal were great.
            The service was amazing, with Sunil Perera (lounge manager) and Nadiyah Akram (marketing) making us feel like we were king and queens of the castle. If you’d like to take a visitor out to lunch, you really can’t go wrong at the Sushi Bar at the Cinnamon Lakeside.

Assorted Sushi, Sushi Bar, Cinnamon Lakeside, Colombo Vegi-Spring Rolls, SB, CLS Green Tea Ice Cream, Sushi Bar, CLS, Californina Rolls, SB, CLS

Monday, April 04, 2011

Strawberry Tarts

Strawberry Tart, again.
The strawberries were really sweet, and succulent, so I took a giant step (for me), and tried what I've admired in cookbooks for years. A tart, with my own pastry. Pate Sucre, which is a sweet dough, isn't all that easy to make. I've tried it twice now, and I think I'm getting it. The basic ingredients are easy to find, and proportions are straightforward, what's harder is getting it malleable, which takes a lot of cooling, and what is called 'resting.'

1.5 cups wheat flour | 0.5 unsalted butter | 0.25 cup sugar | 1 egg or 1 egg york and little cold water | two pinches of salt make a difference.

Mix the ingredients, (and I'm not yet clear, if the order matters -- some say add the eggs last, some don't), make it into a ball of dough, and wrap in clingfilm, and let 'rest' in the fridge for an hour or longer. I think this makes it is stringy, and malleable because the gluten in the wheat, get activated. (I have to read up more about this. Then roll it out, under cling wrap, some say -- and lay it in a buttered pan. Now, I have muffin pan, so I used that, the first time, worked better than the second, where the pastry was crumbly. But I figured out a work around, just laying a ball of dough in the little muffin well, and working it into the shape. Yes, that worked!

I used an egg wash, one yolk, with a little water, brushed on the surface of the pastry, and put it in the oven, (pre heated) at 350 for 20 mins.

It has of course, a crumbly, buttery shortbread like texture and taste, and is amazing with strawberries, to which i added a reduction. One time, I did add some cream too!
Strawberry Tart

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kurakkan Roti, with Lunu Miris + Butter

This is one of my favorite breakfasts, and this photo is from a few of days ago. I didn't make it though -- the kind person who comes in to help did. Chandra is a great cook; and she has her own way of doing things, but this recipe taken from Sri Lankan Recipes -- has the general idea: Kurakkan, which is super good for you, is finger millet, in English.

250g of flour
250g of Kurakkan flour (If you want you can add more kurakkan flour and reduce normal flour - Then it Roti will be little hard)
1/2 a coconut scraped (If you can put a whole coconut it is tastier)
2 teaspoon salt
50g margerine/butter
1 egg (not a must)
1 teaspoon baking powder (not a must)

some curry leaves (Karapincha)
1-2 big onions
2 table spoons chilli pieces (grinded) - kaali miris
1 teaspoon pepper
3-4 green chillis (amu miris)

Put the scraped coconut into a larcge bowl and add flour, Kurakkan flour, salt, baking powder and mix for about a minute.
Then add butter and egg and mix. Then add water little by little and mix well until it makes a whole dough (This takes about 5 minutes)

Optional - to taste better
Chop the big onions and green chillis into small pieces.
Put a pan on heat and put about 2 table spoons of oil and then add the chopped items, pepper, clilli pieces, salt (to taste)and curry leaves on to it and fry for some time until it is brown.

Now pour this mixture into the dough and mix well

Make small balls out of the dough from hand and flat it on a plate or a board (make it thin using hand).
Tip - Make the plate and hands wet, so that the dough won't get stick to your hand or plate (No need to put oil)

Heat a nonstick pan or (Roti thatiya) and and add the roti on to it and burn both sides (for about 2-3 minutes).
 Coconut makes all the difference!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chocolate Coated Meringue, with Ganache & Cream

Chocolate Coated Meringues, with Ganache and Cream-iv

It worked! I'm very excited. I made my own meringues. No, I would not say it is as easy as making chocolate coating -- but it worked. The main point, which I took my one failed attempt to get, is to use twice (2x) the weight of  sugar to eggwhites. I crushed the sugar in a mixer starting with regular sugar, weighed my eggs whites after separating and straining them, and then added the sugar slowly, after beating them to peaks. Bake at 120-100 C, for 80-90 mins. Make the chocolate coating as before, dip the meringues in, set aside, add some hot cream into the left over chocolate for the ganache, pour into the ramkin, place the coated meringue in, and then pour a little cream around. 10 mins in the fridge sets it all.
Chocolate Coated Meringues, with Ganache and Cream-iiiChocolate Coated Meringues, with Ganache and Cream-ii
Its just chocolate indulgence, but the crumble of the meringue makes it special.

Please do ask if you have questions about making this at home. Or make suggestions. I did try the Kandos cooking chocolate ( as suggested in a comment)-- and I think I didn't get the really fancy one yet -- but the regular Kandos cooking, isn't really better than the Ritzbury, in my opinion.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pad Thai

Pad Thai
I thought I knew how to do this, and did. And it was good. But having a blog helps me learn -- when I started trying to write out my method, I thought I should look around the web for how its done by others. And now I feel my way wasn't 'right.' Not that I'm against changing things around, I just feel I've been missing what's what about this dish. So here is a promise to work it out, and write out a proper Pad Thai in Sri Lanka recipe and method soon!

Until then I think Pim's blog, which has a really detailed account, is the best guide.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chocolate Coated Meringues or Kisses

Chocolate coated Meringues (kisses) -2
Yes, I've dipped my paw in chocolate. I am so pleased! Another first for my little food blog -- since I've never made any thing chocolate before. How did that happen? Well, I've read about it, and it seemed complicated, so I left it to the experts. But its not -- well, some thing may be, but just coating some thing with a googy layer of chocolate, and then letting it set -- well, its almost easier than eating the said thing, I tell you.
The kisses in the picture are supermarket ones (Edmunds, many in a bag! all gone now (:) -- the coating is home made. To do it, you get cooking chocolate (available every where -- I used Ritzbury caterer's superfine (Rs.250 for 400g) here, but Kandos has one also) and you melt it. You can melt it in a bowl over hot water, and I you need a pyrex bowl for this -- but you are also do it the microwave, 1 min at a time 2-3 times at half power, and its melted. My. Then just dip the little critter in -- and it sets. So easy. Gives awhole another dimension of texture, soft, bitter, sweet to the soft, airy crunch of the kiss. And when it all mixes up in your mouth, the chocolate coats each granule. Marvelous.
Chocolate coated Meringues (kisses) -1

My sense is that there will be a lot more chocolate in my halflife now.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chicken Pate

Chicken Pate & Onion Marmalade(1)
Again, I had never thought this was some thing to even consider making at home, but hey, its really easy. It was good the first time I made it, and I was so almost shocked it was so easy. Chicken pate is basically pureed chicken liver, cooked, with about half as much of butter or/and cream cheese mixed in. Shallots/Onions and garlic are really good also in the mix, as are cloves, cardamons, and my secret ingredient mace, which is covering of the nutmeg seed.
I'd rather, as you dear readers may have noticed, go recipe free at times-- opting for a intuitive, weighted description of the basics of the method. I think that helps a cook innovate on their own, so here goes:
Start by heating some butter, a large pat or 15g (one table sp), with large diced shallot and 4 cloves of chopped garlic. Add 2-3 cloves, cardamon pods, two pinches of shredded mace, 10 black pepper corns and two pinches of salt. When the shallots are translucent, add 250g of chicken liver. No, it doesn't have to be chopped. Just stir it around, for ten mins or so, and you are done. Puree this, with a hand held blender if you have one, and add more butter and/or cream cheese about half of the liver weight, total -- in this example, that would be 125g of butter. In the batch in the pic, I used about 70g of butter, and may be 75g of cream cheese. You can do it with out cream cheese, it just comes out thicker!
I added a teaspoon of gelatin, and poured it into a butter cake tray, and refrigerated it overnight. This helps set it, so that you can turn it out for a nice photo, but I've refrigerated this with out gelatin also -- and got a very spreadable pate.
Spread on a cracker, this has a rich, meaty taste -- and spices really gives its a very warm, rich flavor -- and goes very well, with the tart, chewy, fragrant, onion marmalade, with its lingering sweet kithul after taste.
I kid you not, you can keep eating this, until you've had too much!
Chicken Pate & Onion Marmalade(2)

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Bombay Onion Marmalade

I started making pates recently, and surprisingly it went well. Again, its some thing I thought was beyond me, but its not, its way easy. But we finished all the nice pate I made -- so I'll come back to that with some photographs. Today, I just wanted to blog its lovely complement, Onion marmalade which is as easy.
 Onion Marmalade
(My recipes is from Kuntz & Kaminsky's Elements of Taste)
I use Bombay onions, which are also called big onions, which are a kind of shallot. They are as everyone knows, super tasty, but this marmalade changes their texture to a softness that's rare. So slice two large onions, and boil it down with two cups of red wine, and half a cup of red wine vinegar. Or cider or a subtle Chinese vinegar. I've never tried this with regular coconut vinegar, I suspect this will be too strong and crude for a complex taste in the end. Just boil it down in a heavy bottomed pan. Keep add little bits of Kithul treacle -- (or maple syrup) -- one table spoon at a time, as it boils down. When the liquid is nearly done -- add salt and pepper, fresh ground is best -- if you have a grinder, white pepper will give it a subtler heat than black--and you are ready to serve this on crackers. Pate or cold vegetables are great with this. It is the aroma of the vinigar that hits you first, and the tartness of the vinegar, on the tongue. Its soft, but there may be tiny crunch, and then the sweetness of onion lingers with the kithul. Yes, you'd want another bit.
Onion Marmalade & on Karapincha crackers, with Chicken Pate
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