I’m navigating a rocky, erratic path through the #100HappyDays project. If you don’t know about #100HappyDays – you can read about it here.
Maybe it’s the loss of light and the long dark nights. Maybe it’s the cold seeping in under the doors and through the walls, and into my bones. Perhaps it’s just the small tragedies of everyday life but I’m oscillating somewhere between fatigue, lethargy and depression.
Someone I know told me lately that basically I hadn’t been there for them – that we’d lost the thread of conversation or rather, that we were in danger of losing it – essentially that I hadn’t been a very good friend (at least, that’s how I heard it). It was a tough year. It’s true. It was a year in which I’d moved three times (sold the family house, moved into a temporary place while we house hunted, and then renovated and moved into a new home), dealt with health issues, wrote and submitted a manuscript, worked at my day job, spent time with my family, and drove a thousand kilometres every other month to visit my elderly mother. And during all this, I’d tried to be there for my friends as best I could in between walking the dog and eating and cleaning and trying to keep my life on track.
This friend – the one I’d dropped the conversation with – mattered to me. I’d made the effort to have her over to all three of the homes I lived in during the past year. I apologized of course but the more I thought about it – the sadder I became. Because sometimes you are just simply not enough. You can only divide yourself into so many pieces. And even though you try your level best to be decent, to be caring, to make time for all the things happening in your life – you are still not enough for some people. I didn’t even bother to mention that I really could have used a friend during this time too. Conversation is a two-way thing. And that sometimes, with the people who really understand you, the thread is never dropped no matter the time or space between you. Still, this is what happens when sensitive souls collide.
It’s interesting how deeply it hurts. The feeling of accusation. The sense I have that I let someone down in a time when my own life was spinning out of control.
Time to move on. Time to find joy again. Book a trip to Mexico. To England. To France. Walk the Camino (I know – it’s becoming a cliché but I’m still going to do it). More walking my dog. More running. More reading. More yoga. More love. More time with people who love me back. More time in my kitchen. More sushi. Less sorrow.
Sushi is the catchword for Japanese food made with cooked, vinegar-ed rice combined with a variety of ingredients including vegetables and/or seafood, and even fruit. There are a multitude of presentations but the thing the western world commonly refers to as “sushi” is makizushi – or just maki for short – and this refers to the rolls usually made using nori – black seaweed wrappers. Nori is a type of algae, traditionally cultivated in the harbors of Japan. Don’t let this put you off – nori is incredibly healthy – a superfood in fact. Uramaki is the term for sushi rolls made inside out – that is the nori is on the inside and the rice is on the outside.
If you haven’t made sushi before – you can actually attempt this at home! It is do-able. It’s time-consuming but actually rather fun and you will get better as you go but your mistakes will taste just as good as the perfect rolls you manage to make as you progress. This is where life and sushi differ – mistakes in life rarely taste so good. I try to make the rice the night before and refrigerate it but that’s not necessary. Just give yourself adequate time for making sushi – it’s not a process you can rush through unless you’re a trained Japanese sushi chef.
Sushi rice works best. It’s short grain and gets sticky when cooked. You can also use any short grain rice but the texture will not be exactly the same and it will be slightly more difficult to work with.
Sushi is the perfect party food because it’s special, it’s bite-sized, it’s gluten-free and dairy-free. It’s healthy and mostly – it’s just so fabulously tasty. It’s easily made vegan or vegetarian. (Though to be fair – there’s some controversy about whether nori is actually vegan – but it is sea weed and there are brands that specifically state vegan on the package.)
For the rice:
- 3 cups sushi rice
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 3 tbsp sugar (don’t skip this)
- 1 tsp salt
For the sushi:
- I package nori sushi wrappers (about 10-12)
- various fillings including thinly sliced cucumber, peeled, sliced avocado dipped in lemon juice, thinly sliced blanched carrots, smoked salmon, raw sushi-grade fish (salmon and tuna are pretty straight forward), cooked shrimp or crab meat, cooked salmon, shittake mushrooms, sliced mango, sliced cooked sweet potato, etc.
- pickled ginger, wasabi, and soya sauce for serving
To begin with rinse the rice. Place the rice ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir well. Turn the heat off – cover the rice and walk away for 20 minutes. Setting the time is a good idea because you will need to come back and give the rice a stir (or it will end up as one solid lump in the bottom of your pan). Refrigerate until well chilled.
Once my rice is chilled I set up a work station with all my ingredients finely slivered in small bowls – my saucepan of rice – the nori wrappers – and a bowl of water for dipping my fingers in to seal the nori as I go.
The first step once you are prepped with cold rice, fillings, and bowl of cold water – is to lay out a sheet of sushi – and working with your hands – take a handful of rice and begin packing it on the nori. You want to get a thin layer covering most of the surface of the nori. Take the time to get the rice all the way to the side edges but leave about an inch rice free at the top to make sealing your rolls easier.
Once the rice is packed onto the nori, you can start to add toppings. The picture below is an Avo-Q roll – avocado and cucumber. This is a classic and favourite vegetarian roll. The crisp cucumber and creamy avocado are perfect texture companions. Don’t overload your sushi. It will be messy and too hard to roll neatly. Some people use a bamboo mat for rolling but I find I have more control if I just roll it up by hand.
To finish the rolls – dip your fingers in the water and run your wet fingers along the one inch empty space at the top of the roll. Begin rolling from the bottom – wrapping the last inch around the roll neatly. Try to keep your rolls nice and tight as you go.
To cut the rolls – first take a sharp knife and run it under cold water. Slice the rolls in uniform bite-sized pieces – chopping the ends off first so that your rolls are neat (proper sushi chefs don’t need to do this). Set the ends aside for samples.
If you are going to serve the sushi much later – don’t cut the rolls before serving. Instead wrap them individually in cling wrap and refrigerate. Remove the sushi from the refrigerator 10 minutes before serving. Slice – and serve with wasabi, pickled ginger, and soya sauce.
A small glass of sake wouldn’t go astray either. Kanpai!