On a roll: Step-by-step Sushi Making
Chef Inaka Weerasinghe creating fresh salmon nigiri
What the secret to sushi? 'There's no secret' says Inaka. 'It's simple, but you need to get a few things right. Getting the rice perfect is key. And then make sure the rice is at room temperature before you start working with it.'
Inaka recommends making sushi rice using a rice cooker (equal quantities of rice and water). Next warm 200ml of rice wine vinegar in a saucepan and add sugar (4tbsp) and salt (4 teaspoons) and let it dissolve. You can add a small piece of kombu seaweed to flavour the dressing if you want to make it even more authentic. Turn the rice out onto a tray and then gently fold in the dressing while it's still warm. Continue until every grain of rice has a slight gloss.
'Inside out' sushi
Put a nori seaweed sheet on your bamboo rolling mat. Tip: Inaka covers his bamboo rolling mat with clingfilm to ensure it doesn't stick. Working with slightly wet hands (this rice is sticky!) take a ball of rice and press it down firmly but gently to give an even coating across the whole seaweed sheet.
Then turn it over so the rice is on the bottom of the sheet, next to the rolling mat. Down the middle, line up your strips of filling - a popular combination is avocado and cooked prawns and lettuce. Try and aim for a contrast of textures, but don't put too much! The key is not to overfill. Add a squeeze of mayonnaise and a pinch of Japanese seven spice powder.
Roll the mat away from you, catching the filling into the roll, and squeeze into shape. For this one, Inaka prefers to form it into a square shape, but you could work with a round shape too.
Unroll, and use a knife with a damp blade to cut into bite-size pieces. Add a sprinkle of fish roe if you like.
Inaka says: 'I'm using a hot and sour crispy salmon mix inside this Maki-style roll, with some cooling cucumber, red pepper and a hit of ginger - think of the interplay of flavours when you're creating sushi. It's all about balance.'
Roll it up carefully, and slice with a sharp and slightly-wet knife.
Create a walnut-size rice ball in your hands and flatten it slightly. Cut your chosen fresh fish very carefully into strips. Make a single long stroke through the fish at an angle, without sawing the knife back and forth, so you retain the smooth 'grain' of the fish. Put a dab of wasabi paste on the rice ball, and then place your slice of fish on top.
'The beauty about preparing sushi at home is that you can really take your time to create something visually beautiful' says Inaka.
Sushi is just one element of Cafe Zephyr's Tasting Platter, served every afternoon. This bento box-style dish contains sweet chilli squid, crispy chilli beef, satay skewers, and Thai-style chicken salad along with the sushi, to create a grazing plate that takes you on a culinary tour. It's one of Inaka's favourite dishes:'There's a Malaysian dish, Japanese, Chinese and two Thai dishes - it's a real mix of flavours but they all complement each other'. Delicious and best enjoyed on Café Zephyr's sunny terrace. (Café Zephyr tasting platter for two, £26)