Friday, 18 May 2012

Leith's Warm Sushi Salad

I lost my sushi virginity at the relatively ancient age of 23.  I was going through a difficult time and a good friend phoned me and told me he'd take me out for a swanky dinner in London to cheer me up.  I was cheered merely by his call because I had a little crush on him and the thought of dinner together made they dark day suddenly seem rosy.  He asked where I'd like to go and being completely indecisive and not knowing London very well, I said I'd leave it up to him.

He met me from the tube and walked me past many fabulous restuarants around Long Acre and Covent Garden before arriving at the doorway to a Japanese restaurant.  He asked if this was okay and not wanting to seem fussy/difficult/demanding I nodded a hesitant consent and stepped inside.

I'm not *that* old but I swear a decade ago, you couldn't buy Sushi in the local Tesco Express (did they even exist then??) so the concept was still novel to someone as green and naive as I was then.  He's a very traditional, slightly posh chap so I left the ordering up to him.  A nine course taster meal at £40 a head.  A lot of money in those days when you've not long left uni, have a huge student loan to pay off and can't actually afford to buy yourself a winter coat, let alone go Dutch on a meal (plus the drinks) like that.

I did at least know that I'd be expected to eat raw fish, but nothing prepared me for the arrival of caviar the size of Maltesers and something that looked remarkably like fish eyes.  I did manage to enjoy some bits like the gorgeous tempura prawns and the vegetarian sushi.  But it was spoiled by him betting me that I could eat the rather odd ball of pea-green paste on the side of one dish without my eyes watering.  The deal was that if I won, he'd pay for us both.  And if he won I'd settle up.

Of course, I lost (I just about held onto my dignity before I had to dash off to the ladies to fix my mascara) and whilst I was gone, he proceeded to order a rather expensive bottle of wine to toast my first foray into the world of Japanese food.

Needless to say, the bill hurt more than the wasabi and maxed my previously just-shy-of-the-limit credit card right out.  I spent the rest of the winter without a coat.

Luckily, it didn't put me totally off sushi and I'd love to have that meal over again so that I could appreciate it.  And in case you were wondering, we are still friends.  We don't speak often and see each other even less, but I count him as one of those people you can call on in a time of crisis or happiness.  Life and work just gets in the way far too often.  Last time I saw him I accidentally locked him outside of a meeting room in the snow.  It wasn't revenge, honestly!

Sharing that tale makes me wish I could go back in time and give that me a hug and tell her that things got better and a lot different and that she'll become a survivor.  What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger!

Anyway enough of the deep stuff!  The Nori, sushi rice and the wasabi I used when I made my own sushi back in January has been clogging up my store cupboard and so this recipe seemed like the perfect alternative to all the faff of trying to make perfect sushi shapes.

When I made it, it didn't look like much but it was really filling.  It's probably double the amount of sushi you'd get in one of those pre-packaged lunch boxes.  And I bet if you found it in a restaurant it would be called something trite like 'Deconstructed Sushi' and come with an astronomical price tag.

Serves 4 - Adapted from Leith's Simple Cookery
  • 225g/8oz sushi rice
  • 4 tbsp sushi rice seasoning (I used Clearspring)
  • Wasabi paste
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 225g/8oz smoked salmon, sliced (I used Waitrose Smoked Salmon Trimmings)
  • 1 avocado pear, diced
  • 2 sheets Nori - shredded
  • Japanese Pickled Ginger to serve (I didn't have any of this so decorated with bits of salmon)
  1. Cook the rice according to the package instructions.
  2. Mix the sushi seasoning with enough Wasabi paste for your taste and mix with the rice.
  3. Stir through the cucumber, avocado, smoked salmon and most of the shredded Nori.
  4. Divide between serving plates and garnish with the shredded Nori and ginger


  1. Yum. I love sushi and this looks divine. Can I recommend this recipe which is in a similar vein ? It's one of my favourites

  2. Oooh that looks yummy! Will pop it in my Good Food binder for another day :) Thanks!


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