Salmon maki roll

I learnt about sushi and sashimi by the simple expedient of spending a lot of time, and money, sitting at the bar in Ajimura and a long-defunct restaurant in Brewer Street. The chef at the latter showed me how to make this with grilled salmon skin; when I started to serve it at Frith Street, I used some of the salmon flesh as well, possibly to cover the deficiencies in my rice-cooking technique. The then Japanese ambassador visited my restaurant several times in the early 1990s, and was less than impressed with the rice, commenting ‘great fish, lousy rice’ with disarming candour. I have subsequently improved my understanding of the subject.

Ingredients

Rice

  • 450 g Japanese short-grain rice
  • 800 ml water

Dressing

  • 120 ml Japanese rice vinegar (Mitsukan is the best brand)
  • 6 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt

Nori Rolls

  • 8 sheets nori (dried laver seaweed, sold in paper-thin sheets; buy the best grade which comes ready toasted. Keep what you don’t use in a tin)
  • ½ cucumber, half peeled in strips, cut into 8 cm lengths, cored and cut into matchstick thin batons
  • wasabi (horseradish), available ready-mixed in tubes or in powder (mix exactly like mustard powder with the same volume of water)
  • 250 g salmon fillet with skin
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, stoned and cut into 3 mm thick strips (do at the last minute and sprinkle with a little lemon juice)

Hand Vinegar

  • 250 ml water mixed with 2 tbsp rice vinegar

Method

Make the rice and prepare all the other ingredients as for Lobster Maki Roll, except for the lobster, which is replaced by the salmon, and the nori sheets, which should be left whole. Heat the grill pan and generously salt the salmon on the skin side only. Grill the salmon on the skin side only for a minute or so until the skin is crisp. Allow to cool for a few moments then cut into strips of approximately 1 cm width each with its own piece of the crisp, salty skin. Lay a sheet of nori on the rolling mat and, having moistened your fingers with the ‘hand vinegar’, spread a thin layer of rice over it, leaving 2 cm of the seaweed exposed at the top and bottom of the sheet. The rice should be no more than 5 mm thick. One third of the way up, place a line of cucumber strips, a line of avocado strips, and a line of salmon. These should be laid side by side. Just above these lines dab a stripe of wasabi. Roll the whole lot up using the mat, squeeze to compress, and unwrap.

Serving

Cut into 2 cm rounds and feed to your guests while you get on with the next roll.