I've been very busy lately! On the 12th of September Selene and I headed up to London on the train to meet Rachel from Rachel's Kitchen for a sushi masterclass. The venue was really easy to find, and so beautifully decorated! It was all white walls and glass and subtle lighting, setting a lovely relaxed atmosphere. On arrival we were greeted by Rachel and her husband, where we were immediately offered water or wine and shown where to put our bags and coats (we went for the wine, duh).
As more people arrived, we mingled in the lobby talking to Rachel and the other participants. I have to say, Rachel is definitely one of my favourite suppliers I've met so far, she was just so lovely! Really accommodating and friendly, making everyone relaxed and comfortable with each other.
Once we were acquainted, we took our seats at the table, which were laid out with fresh vegetables, chopping boards, snacks to nibble on as we worked, wine bottles, water to clean our hands and bamboo sushi rolling mats. Rachel introduced herself and what we would be doing during the class, then demonstrated how to chop the vegetables so they are the right size and shape for sushi rolls. Over to us, we were given time to cut, slice and dice mange tout, avocado, red and yellow pepper, spring onion, carrot, cucumber, asparagus and pickled daikon.
The first sushi we made was a maki roll. Rachel demonstrated (making it look very easy), then it was over to us! The rice used in sushi is quite special, it's unbelievably sticky, as in if you get some stuck to your fingers, flicking your hands around won't do anything. To make the roll, you place a sheet of seaweed on the rolling mat so it's lined up with the bottom edge. You then grab a handful of rice and spread it out over the seaweed, leaving a centimetre gap at the top. Spreading the rice is the tricky bit, you can't press it or smooth it because then it turns to glue, but you have to get a nice even layer across the seaweed - there's a fine line! Rachel told us to make your fingers 'as quick as ants', so we all quickly picked up pieces of rice and dropped them down again, spreading it out without smoothing it down, which was quite funny to watch when everyone's doing it simultaneously.
Our pre-chopped vegetables were next to go in the roll. We were free to experiment with different combinations, so I went for asparagus, spring onion and mange tout, there was also wasabi paste if we wanted a bit of heat, but I was happy with mine the way it was! The vegetables are placed near the bottom edge of the rice, then you carefully roll the mat/seaweed/rice/vegetable layers upwards, squeezing as you go to make sure it all stays together. My first attempt actually looked quite good! It held together and the filling was nestled nicely in the rice. It was only when I cut up the roll into six pieces that things started to fall apart, literally...
Luckily, our first attempts were to be eaten straight away, so I could hide my failure in my stomach - it still tasted good! We were given little dipping pots of soy sauce, which really added to the experience, as well as the endless bottles of wine we could help ourselves to.
Up next we made inside-out maki rolls, or 'ura maki'. This was slightly more complicated as it involved placing the rice so it had a slight over-hang on the edge of the seaweed, then flipping it over to place the filling and roll it up. We also used sesame seeds to decorate the outside, giving it a traditional finish. Again, the rolling went fine, but it all collapsed when I cut it! Obviously I need to practise my knife skills a bit more...
Having already eaten a whole maki roll, from here on we placed everything we made onto big dishes, ready for a feast at the end. I felt a bit bad inflicting my poor show on other people, but never mind!
Once we'd learned the basics, we had the rest of the session to get creative. Rachel brought out the fish we'd be using, fresh salmon, mackerel, octopus and seafood sticks, as well as all the vegetables, and some tamago, which is a delicious Japanese omelette cut into small pieces. We made nigiri, which involved rolling a handful of rice around our hands and topping it with fish or vegetables, then tying it up with a strand of seaweed. We also made giant maki rolls where we could really go nuts with the filling, making them burst with colour and flavour.
Selene showing off her finished product (hers were a lot better than mine)
Once we'd used up all the ingredients, everything was plated up and we got to help ourselves, buffet style. The wine was still flowing, and Rachel also treated us to hot saki - which was pleasant but very strong! Getting to relax and eat our wares in good company was thoroughly enjoyable, there were some very interesting people to talk to and everyone was in high spirits. For dessert, Rachel presented her home-made ice cream in two unusual flavours; wasabi and green tea! The green tea ice cream was delicious, it really complemented the saki. The wasabi ice cream still tasted good, but was very unusual! I'd definitely recommend trying it, the notion of a spicy ice cream may be off-putting to some people, but it was certainly palatable.
At the end of the experience we were given the opportunity to take leftover sushi home, and Rachel also emailed all the recipes over to us so we could try them again at home. It was a great evening made extra special with little touches like the wine and the relaxing ambience, I'm a full-blown sushi advocate now! A great gift for a creative foodie looking to try something new.