Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sushi For Beginners

Having had my first trip to Ballymaloe Cookery School for a Sushi course, I’m super excited to tell all. Having never made sushi before, the whole experience was very exciting. For those of you interested in going to a cookery course in Ballymaloe, and wondering should they or not…… it! Our course was merely an afternoon demonstration, 1pm – 5pm, but in that time I’ve added a new cuisine to my repertoire, and learnt a whole bunch about sushi, from etiquette to styles.

I brought my sister along for moral support. The courses in Ballymaloe do not come cheap, but with two vouchers from lots of friends from my birthdays, I decided to treat Tracy who has a keen interest in cooking and learning sushi. We were greeted with welcome packs and name badges and shown to beautifully decorated table for a ‘light lunch’. Lets put it this way, if that was a light lunch…….then what would be a full-on lunch, or even just a regular lunch!!!! We were given bowls of pea and mint soup to start. Wowzers. De-vine!!! I’m definitely giving that one a try at home! The main course for lunch was buffet. There was amazing salad with courgette flowers, an array of potato salads, roast peppers, beetroot and a sweet sauce, fennel and orange, pickled cucumber to name a few. And the meats!!! Streaky turkey, streaky bacon and my personal favourite, tongue. I was in a brave mood, glad I was, because the tongue was melt in the mouth sublime. As if that feed wasn’t enough, once our plates were licked clean almost, we were ushered to the dessert table, where there was an array of stewed fruits, raspberry coulis, a nutty semifreddo, and what looked like a vanilla parfait. The gooseberry fruit in syrup was delicious, as were the stewed pears. So with our bellies full to the brim, off we went to the demonstration room for an afternoon of sushi. We were sitting in with approx 30 students who were in the middle of a 12 week full time cookery course. (approx €11,000 I saw on the brochure!!!). It wasn’t as intimidating as I imagined. In fact the students go out of their way to make the afternoon gatecrashers welcome, ushering us up to front of lines and just being extra friendly.

When one thinks of sushi, one thinks of raw fish in rolls. When I told my mom that I was going on a sushi course, her reaction was ‘yuk, raw fish?! Disgusting!’ For many people this is a common misconception. It’s not all raw, there doesn’t even have to be fish at all for that matter. This is where my own misconceptions were disregarded. Apparently, sushi isn’t even all about the seaweed rolls. The most important thing about sushi is the rice. The special sushi rice, is what makes sushi, sushi.  Once the rice is mastered, you can pretty much do anything with it. Darina Allen demonstrated this by doing Scattered Sushi. Basically sushi rice scattered on a plate, and a vinegar water mixed through with spring onions and soy, and unconventionally but tasty, mozerella and sundried tomato and basil scattered sushi.

The course was presented by Shermin  Mustafa with Darina Allen. Shermin has a Turkish/Cypriot background, so we were very fortunate to get a taster of a few Turkish dishes also. She made dolma, which is rice and mince beef and spices, stuffed into vine leaves, peppers, onions and aubergines. I’ll definitely be making them. They are my type of food. She also showed a bulgar wheat, and a Turkish flat bread pizza, with the dough made only with flour and natural yogurt.
For  the sushi, we learned that the rice is crucial, and there is a science behind it. The steps need  to be followed to the ‘T’. The rice is the most difficult part to master. Once you perfect the rice making, the rest of sushi make is quite easy really. I’ll try my hand at this rice for the blog, and I think then a sushi dinner party, where guests roll their own is on the cards.

Between herself and Darina, they made a host of sushi dishes, I never saw or heard of, but were actually very easy to make once the rice is correct. Apparently it takes years to perfect the art of sushi making. 7-9 years to become a sushi master, where the skill involved is to get each grain of rice pointing in the same direction. The thought of it really is a mad one, and seems like an impossible task. And having experienced the art of sushi making now, I give totally respect to sushi masters.

During the break of the course, students were invited to come to the top of the class to have a go at rolling the sushi with different ingredients. Myself and Tracy only jumped at the chance to give it a try. Shermin came over to watch we were doing it correctly, and we didn’t do half bad for first time rollers. I’ll definitely but scooting to Tesco to by my seeweed and rolling mat.

At the end of the course, we all queued up with our chop sticks and plates to sample all the yummy dishes made during the afternoon. It was definitely a day of firsts, with me trying raw tuna and raw salmon in rolls as well. So glad again that I did because they were fab, and so healthy. Though I did take a little too much wasabi at one point and nearly choked on the heat of it.

All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, and great to learn a new skill too. I’ll definitely be tring them out sooner rather than later, I’ll keep ye posted!

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