Thursday, November 26, 2009

Daring Bakers' Cannoli Challenge

Daring Bakers' Cannoli Challenge


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The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book..


Cannoli are known as Italian-American pastries, although the origin of cannoli dates back to Sicily, specifically Palermo, where it was prepared during Carnevale season, and according to lore, as a symbol of fertility. The cannoli is a fried, tube-shaped pastry shell (usually containing wine) filled with a creamy amalgamation of sweetened ricotta cheese, chocolate, candied fruit or zest, and sometimes nuts. Although not traditional, mascarpone cheese is also widely used, and in fact, makes for an even creamier filling when substituted for part of the ricotta, or by itself. However, cannoli can also be filled with pastry creams, mousses, whipped cream, ice cream etc. You could also add your choice of herbs, zests or spices to the dough, if desired. Marsala is the traditional wine used in cannoli dough, but any red or white wine will work fine, as it’s not only added for flavor or color, but to relax the gluten in the dough since it can be a stiff dough to work with. By the way, the name ‘Lidisano’ is a combination of Lidia, Lisa and Sopranos..LOL

When I first saw the challenge recipe I thought 'it's deep frying not baking' great I have so little experience with frying wonderful to have an opportunity to gain some experience in this skill.

The dough from the recipe claimed to be very tough and resisted rolling out I didn't find this at all I use red wine instead of marsala maybe that made a difference. I used both cut-up broom handle and pasta shells as my cannoli forms and these worked really well there is no need to buy the fancy metal forms. Also we had the choice to bake them though everybody said the deep fried version was the tastiest.

MY VERDICT – these are excellent and simple to make and are the most delightful dessert but be warned they are very rich and I could only eat one.

A big thank you to Lisa for choosing cannoli. I made 2 dozen large cannoli and 2 dozen mini cannoli for the Melbourne Cup BBQ I'm having. I cut up an old broom handle and an old wooden spoon handle to make the cannoli forms. The dough is very stiff (it feels very odd when you start kneading it) I added a lot of acid to relax the gluten and I found resting the dough for a few hours really helped a lot in rolling and cutting it when I was ready to use it. After the resting the dough is nice and silky. A fairly easy recipe to follow.

Large and small cannoli

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Close up of large cannoli

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For the Melbourne Cup BBQ I filled each end of with a different filling. So that is ten combinations. I had plenty of nut meal from the last challenge so I used it in the fillings it really adds a lovely depth of flavour and a richness that is unbelievable. These are a very rich dessert. I could only have one (the chocolate hazelnut was absolutely delicious) luckily some friends came over to finish the lot off.

Top row going from left to right - Sour cherry and almond meal and gin in yoghurt curd, lime and cherry with walnut meal and mint in cream cheese.

Bottom row going from left to right - passionfruit with coconut meal and pandan and saffron in sweet feta cheese, chocolate with hazelnut meal, lime and lemon and mint pastry cream. The sour cherry/almond/gin in yoghurt curb was so so so good.

I played around with these flavours for the other end of the cannolo. I think it is good to have a little tartness or tang with these desserts they are so incredibly rich - one is enough. It was nice to have two flavours in one cannolo. I think one end chocolate/walnut and the other end sour cherry/coconut/mint was particularly good.

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Passionfruit with coconut meal and pandan and saffron in sweet feta cheese

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Lisa Michele these treats are wonderful I can see why so many people rave about them. These are not that common in Australia (I have never seen them in the shops around my area but I'm sure you can get them somewhere) this is one of the more stimulating challenges for me very interesting on many levels (no baking and any filling).



I made some more shells I made two half batches. One batch was made with red wine, and the other batch was made with 25% cocoa. If you make the cocoa shells you will have to deep-fry them at a much lower temperature.
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The savoury cannoli I did for the Melbourne Cup BBQ OBTW "Shocking" won.

The fillings are as follows:-

Top – intimation crab and bamboo charred sesame seeds in wasabi leaf cream cheese. You can get real wasabi leaf in my local area!!!!

Middle – (L to R) BBQ octopus in Catalan alloli (made only from garlic, oil and salt), quail egg salad with taramasalata.

Bottom – (L to R) Quail egg/ fish roe with wasabi sesame seeds in yoghurt filling, intimation crab in an oyster cottage cheese filling, mixed seafood salad in ketchup manis with mint and coriander.

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Six was an excellent number wow it was tasty, cannoli goes really well with eggs and/or seafood.



Sweet Feta Cheese Recipe
I make it at home I crumble marinated feta cheese (feta cheese in olive oil) and let it seep in a sugar syrup overnight this causes the feta to have a sugary coating with a salty interior, the finer the crumble the better the contrast between sweet and salty. It's an old trick I learnt when I was BBQing watermelon for "Balsamic vinegar BBQed watermelon and feta salad" one of my favourites for a picnic meal. I use it because sweet feta cheese is a taste dilemma for the palate it fools the tongue into believing it is tasting an oscillating contrast between sweet and salty at the same time and of course with the Balsamic vinegar (sour and umami taste sensations) and olive oil (fatty acid taste sensation) makes the picnic salad well balanced in all the taste sensations. Food flavouring is my speciality as you can guess I know a lot about the science and practice of balancing taste sensations in foods.

OBTW passion fruit has some of the same taste sensations as black tea/banana/white wine while coconut has some of the same taste sensations as saffron and pandan - I have found it is best to combine foods with the same taste sensations. There is a very good reason why I combine the flavours I do for the challenge fillings.

Taste sensations
There is a book called 'The flavor bible' which a lot of people rave about here is a typical quote it would be a great place to start
"Upon its own publication in 2008, THE FLAVOR BIBLE is being more readily embraced by fans of CULINARY ARTISTRY as well as others who can appreciate this groundbreaking reference of contemporary compatible flavors that is as useful to anyone who cooks as a thesaurus is to anyone who writes. In addition to being named a Finalist for the 2009 James Beard Book Award, THE FLAVOR BIBLE has appeared on numerous lists of the year's most outstanding culinary books, including those compiled by "Good Morning America" and People magazine as well as About.com, Austin Chronicle, Barbara-Jo's Books to Cooks, Chicago magazine, CoolHunting.com, Fresno Bee, Metroland, Restaurants & Institutions, San Francisco Chronicle, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, SheKnows.com, South Bend Tribune, StarChefs.com, Tucson Citizen, Vancouver Sun, What's Up Anapolis, and many others."
Also there is a great site called foodpairing that lists the taste sensations of food so you can see what food goes with what other food it is quite easy to use which can help you decide what flavour combinations go well . Just enter the food for example
Apple has some of the same taste sensations as Parmesan, Butter, Cheese blue, Tea black, Dominican Republic white chocolate, Tea green and Chardonnay and others
Cinnamon has some of the same taste sensations as Tea green, Tea black amongst others
So you can be sure that apples and cinnamon will work well because they share the same taste sensations of tea green and black tea.
I didn't learn this way I read a lot of scientific papers and worked it out that way and by doing a lot of reading and cooking and baking. Thanks for the kind words. *blushing*

As you know taste is made up of a basic spectrum of sensations so it is possible to reproduce a complex flavour by using other flavour combinations, there is a huge science on this and it has been discovered that Foods combine well with similar flavour sensations for example.

Passion fruit
can be replaced with with this combination apricot, black tea, banana, butter and Chardonnay so if I made a layer cake with an outside passion fruit buttercream and the sponges where soaked with Chardonnay and black tea and the inner filling for the cake was an apricot buttercream so this would be an intensely harmonious and intensely tasty.

The science of flavour enhancing and combination is finding the basic flavour sensations for a food and combining these with other foods with similar flavour sensations. There is a huge literature on this. So if I had a normal passionfruit cake a wine I would pick would be Chardonnay since they have a common flavour sensation and so on....

So if I wanted to add extra zing to a basic walnut pastry cream filled canolli coated in dark chocolate the foodpairing site says:-

Walnut can be combined (and has the same flavour sensations) as these
1.Tea black, Dominican Republic white chocolate and Tea green
2.Apple, Apricot and Guava
3.Avocado, Gourmandine potato and Kohlrabi
4.Roast Chicken
5.Cardamom, cilanto and dill

Dark chocolate
can be combined (and has the same flavour sensations) as these
Fruits - Strawberry, Coconut and Raspberry
Dairy - Butter, Cheddar and Yoghurt
Meat - Foie de canard Rougié baked, Beef grilled and Chicken cooked
Fish – Cod, and clams
Herbs – Basil, cilantro and ginger

So you could add cardamom and apple to the filling (since these have some of the same taste sensations as walnut) and to the dark chocolate you could add a touch of basil or dill (since these have some of the same taste sensations as dark chocolate). So the final cannoli would be filled with a walnut cardamom and apple pastry cream coated with basil, dill and dark chocolate.

Of course you now understand why basil dark chocolate is so nice since basil and dark chocolate have some of the same taste sensations. And another classic example from the above lists is; Roast chicken, avocado and walnut salad all these ingredients share the same taste sensations so combine and enhance each other.

LIDISANO’S CANNOLI
Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli
Prep time:
Dough – 2 hours and 10-20 minutes, including resting time, and depending on whether you do it by hand or machine.
Filling – 5-10 minutes plus chilling time (about 2 hours or more)
Frying – 1-2 minutes per cannoli
Assemble – 20–30 minutes

RECIPE NOTE: THE EQUIVALENTS FROM THIS RECIPE WERE PREPARED USING THIS CONVERSION SITE: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/index.asp.

CANNOLI SHELLS
2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar

Note - If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax).

CANNOLI FILLING
2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

Note - If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.

DIRECTIONS FOR SHELLS:
1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, oiled..lol). Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

DIRECTIONS FOR FILLING:
1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

ASSEMBLE THE CANNOLI:
1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.

2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.

PUMPKIN FILLING
1/2 cup (123 grams/4.34 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1/2 cup (113 grams/4.04 ounces) mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (122.5 grams/4.32 ounces) canned pumpkin, drained like ricotta
3/4 cup (75 grams/2.65 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/2 to 1 teaspoon (approx. 1.7 grams/approx. 0.06 ounces) pumpkin pie spice (taste)
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 2 grams/approx. 0.08 ounces) pure vanilla extract
6-8 cannoli shells

1. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta and mascarpone until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl, cover and chill until it firms up a bit. (The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

2. Fill the shells as directed above. I dipped the ends of the shells in caramelized sugar and rolled them in toasted, chopped pecans.

TIPS AND NOTES:
- Dough must be stiff and well kneaded

- Rolling the dough to paper thinness, using either a rolling pin or pasta machine, is very important. If the dough is not rolled thin enough, it will not blister, and good cannoli should have a blistered surface.

- Initially, this dough is VERY stubborn, but keep rolling, it eventually gives in. Before cutting the shapes, let the dough rest a bit, covered, as it tends to spring back into a smaller shapes once cut. Then again, you can also roll circles larger after they’re cut, and/or into ovals, which gives you more space for filling.

- Your basic set of round cutters usually doesn’t contain a 5-inch cutter. Try a plastic container top, bowl etc, or just roll each circle to 5 inches. There will always be something in your kitchen that’s round and 5-inches if you want large cannoli.

- Oil should be at least 3 inches deep and hot – 360°F-375°F, or you’ll end up with greasy shells. I prefer 350°F - 360°F because I felt the shells darkened too quickly at 375°F.

- If using the cannoli forms, when you drop the dough on the form into the oil, they tend to sink to the bottom, resulting in one side darkening more. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to gently lift and roll them while frying.

- DO NOT crowd the pan. Cannoli should be fried 2-4 at a time, depending on the width of your saucepan or deep fryer. Turn them once, and lift them out gently with a slotted spoon/wire skimmer and tongs. Just use a wire strainer or slotted spoon for flat cannoli shapes.

- When the cannoli turns light brown - uniform in color, watch it closely or remove it. If it’s already a deep brown when you remove it, you might end up with a really dark or slightly burnt shell.

- Depending on how much scrap you have left after cutting out all of your cannoli shapes, you can either fry them up and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar for a crispy treat, or let the scraps rest under plastic wrap and a towel, then re-roll and cut more cannoli shapes.

- Push forms out of cannoli very gently, being careful not to break the shells as they are very delicate. DO NOT let the cannoli cool on the form, or you may never get it off without it breaking. Try to take it off while still hot. Hold it with a cloth in the center, and push the form out with a butter knife or the back of a spoon.

- When adding the confectioner’s sugar to the filling..TASTE. You may like it sweeter than what the recipe calls for, or less sweet, so add in increments.

- Fill cannoli right before serving! If you fill them an hour or so prior, you’ll end up with soggy cannoli shells.

- If you want to prepare the shells ahead of time, store them in an airtight container, then re-crisp in a 350°F (176 °C) oven for a few minutes, before filling.

- Practice makes perfect. My first batch of shells came out less than spectacular, and that’s an understatement. As you go along, you’ll see what will make them more aesthetically pleasing, and adjust accordingly when rolling. My next several batches turned out great. Don’t give up!!

Links:

Alternative:
Gluten free cannoli recipe that looks great –
http://evilcakelady.blogspot.com/2009/02/annmaries-gf-birthday-cannoli.h...
Vegan cannoli –
http://www.godairyfree.org/Alisa-s-Blog/Alisa-s-Milk-Free-Blog/Vegan-Can...
http://community.livejournal.com/vegancooking/2307428.html#cutid1

Online resources:
http://www.pastrysampler.com/Questions_and_Answers/cannoli.htm
http://www.seriouseats.com/talk/2009/01/hey-jerzeeeeeee-i-want-to-make-c...

Videos:
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=cannoli&search_type=&aq=f – scroll through, loads of videos on the making of the shells. filling, etc. Mario Batali’s are particularly good.

Photos:
http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=cannoli&m=text – Loads of beautiful and unique cannoli photos along with the traditional. Great way to get some ideas for fillings and décor.

Online retailers for cannoli forms
http://www.fantes.com/cannoli.html#small
https://www.pastrychef.com/CANNOLI-TUBES_p_36-1202.html - If you want to buy a lot of them for one set price.
http://www.consiglios.ca/ProductCart/pc/viewCat_h.aspidCategory=408&gcli...
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=...


Friday, November 13, 2009

Daring Cooks' Sushi 寿司 Challenge

Daring Cooks' November Challenge – Sushi 寿司 Challenge

(The first sushi is for my fav blogger Faery's Kitchen
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Blog checking line
The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.

I have to thank Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen who was the co-host for this month's challenge. She was such a huge boon she really used the simple-stick on me which resulted in the challenge recipe being so simple and clear. She really has the gift of making the difficult easy to understand.

Sushi (寿司 or 鮨 or 鮓) is much appreciated for its delicate taste and exquisite appearance. Sushi actually means vinegared rice, which is the essential ingredient in every sushi recipe. Sushi is simple and cheap to make at home, needs no special equipment and is an excellent way to use left overs.

Although sushi in various forms has been around for fourteen centuries, the modern version was invented in Japan in the 1800’s where a 'hand-formed' sliced fresh fish and vinegared rice ball was eaten as a snack food. Nowadays, sushi is made with various seafood, meats and vegetables, raw and cooked.

The challenge is in four parts:-
Part 1: Making proper sushi rice – you will wash, rinse, drain, soak, cook, dress, and cool short grain rice until each grain is sticky enough to hold toppings or bind ingredients. Then you will use the cooked rice to form three types of sushi:
Part 2: Dragon sushi roll – an avocado covered inside-out rice roll with a tasty surprise filling
Part 3: Decorative sushi – a nori-coated rice roll which reveals a decorative pattern when cut
Part 4: Nigiri sushi – hand-shaped rice rolls with toppings

Below each section we have listed tips, notes, substitutes and suggestions. Don’t worry vegans, gluten-free, vegetarians, those who dislike fish, have allergies, we’ve got something for everyone! For this challenge, we have left a lot of room open for culinary and dietary creativity.

We are allowing a lot of variety in the ingredients, but we do ask that you make all three types of sushi and the sushi rice in the traditional way as described below. This challenge is all about learning how to make restaurant-grade sushi rice plus the techniques for making creative sushi!

The one thing I have learnt is that sushi is very versatile - cheese and vegemite, cheese and pickels where some of the surprise winners for me, I have had over 18 requests to make these for BBQs. Don't be afraid of sushi too many people think 'raw fish' when you say sushi in fact sushi means "vinegared rice". Think of it as the Asian sandwich any filling or toppping you can have on a sandwich you can have with sushi. I'm staggered at the range of creativity shown by the Daring Cooks'. And it seems that the sushi rice recipe seems to give excellent results for most of thte Daring Cooks'.

I was stunned and delighted by the efforts shown in the forums.

Below are some of my sushi efforts over the month.

Nigiri #1
Salmon wrapped nigiri with a scallop cap and topped with three kinds of flying fish roe. I lightly seared the salmon on one side with a portable flamer.
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I made eight they cost 60cents each. I think they would cost about retail $4 each if you could found them in the first place!

Nigiri #2
Top of picture of nigiri going clockwise – Cheese and vegemite, red toasted capsicum (bell pepper), tuna jerky, asparagus spear with beef strip, squid, squid and tuna jerky, shiitake mushroooms.
Centre nigiri- intimation crab stick, lotus root and red toasted capsicum (bell pepper)

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Vegemite is superb on sushi - the cheese and vegemite was excellent. If you have vegemite at home do try it it really goes well with sushi - vegemite tastes a little llike soy sauce and is a black paste for non-Aussies.

Spiral Roll #1
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Nigiri rolls #3
Crab claws/soy sauce sesame, lotus root and red capsicum, spicy sausage/bamboo charcoal sesame, asparagus/garlic sesame, imitation crab/wasabi sesame.
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The local Japanese store had a sale on flavoured sesame seeds they were only 90c for 100grams, they are delicious especially the wasabi sesame flavour.
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Green wasabi sesame, black bamboo charcoal sesame, 'red' soy sauce sesame and brown garlic sesame.
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Nigiri #4
Going from L to R - crab sticks with soy sesame seeds, quail eggs with flying fish roe, cheese and vegemite, sardine with wasabi sesame seeds, sardine with BBQ bamboo sesame, flying fish roe.
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Decorative Roll #2
There are a lot of decorative rolls this pattern is called Coin (Whirlpool) sushi it is based on the design of the old Japanese coin that had a hole in the centre. The difficulty is 2/5 on the sushi design scale.
See here for details on how to make this decorative roll. It is fairly simple but you do need a very very sharp knife.

Coin (Whirlpool) Sushi
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Nigiri #5 - some hot dog and cheese nigiri rolls
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A set of dragon rolls I made for a Melbourne Cup BBQ I had today "Shocking" won. The red dragon is roasted red capsicum (bell pepper).
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Two-Flower decorative roll
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Ham and corn dragon roll
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Two-flower sushi rolls
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Ingredients
2 cups of white sushi rice
1/5 cup yellow sushi rice (or a filling of your choice fish, meat, vegetables, cream cheese)
1/5 cup pink sushi rice (or a filling of your choice fish, meat, vegetables, cream cheese)
2 sheets nori
a small amount of boiled green vegetable, such as spinach or chopped snow peas
Method
1. Lightly toast the nori. Place it on a bamboo mat. Spread the white sushi rice over the nori, leaving about ¼ inch of nori free on the near and far edges.
2. Make a ridge of white sushi rice running vertically across the middle of the nori (Fig 1), then make two more ridges, one on each side, for a total of three. (Fig 2)
3. Place the second sheet of nori lightly over these three ridges, and using a long cooking chopstick, press the nori down into the valleys between the ridges. (Fig 3)
4. Fill one of these valleys with yellow rice and the other with pink rice. Place a line of the boiled greens along the outside of the two outermost ridges (Fig 4), lift the mat, and roll from both sides.
5. Slice into eight with a very sharp wet knife, wiping the blade clean with a damp towel, after each cut.
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RECIPES

PART 1 : SUSHI RICE (makes about 7 cups of cooked sushi rice)

Preparation time: 1¾ hours consisting of :-
Rinsing and draining rice: 35 minutes
Soaking rice: 30 minutes (includes 5 minutes making the vinegar dressing)
Cooking and steaming time: 25 minutes
Finishing the rice: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:
  • 2½ cups uncooked short grain rice
  • 2½ cups water
  • For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water
Optional Ingredients
  • 3 inch (75mm or 15 grams) square dashi konbu (or kombu) (dried kelp seaweed) wipe with a damp cloth to remove white powder & cut a few slits in the sides of the kelp to help release its flavours
  • 2½ teaspoons (12.5 mls) of sake (Japanese rice wine)

Sushi vinegar dressing
  • 5 Tablespoons (75 mls) rice vinegar
  • 5 Teaspoons (25 mls or 21 grams) sugar
  • 1¼ Teaspoons (6.25 mls or 4.5 grams) salt
DIRECTIONS:
Rinsing and draining the rice
  1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don't crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle.
  2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.
Soaking the rice
  1. Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight).
  2. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu.
  3. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.
Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing
  1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
  2. Heat on low setting.
  3. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
  4. Set aside at room temperature until the rice is cooked.
Cooking the rice
  1. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using) to the rice.
  2. Bring rinsed and soaked rice to the boil.
  3. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat.
  4. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.
Finishing the rice
  • Turning out the ric
  1. Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
  2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice.
  3. Use the spatula to loosen gently the rice and invert the rice pot over the bowl, gently causing the cooked rice to fall into the bowl in one central heap. Do this gently so as not to cause the rice grains to become damaged.
  • Dressing the rice with vinegar
  1. Slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the spatula onto the hot rice.
  2. Using the spatula gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don't stir or mash rice.
  3. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute
  • Fanning & Tossing the rice
  1. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don't flip the rice into the air but continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice. Using a small electric fan on the lowest speed setting is highly recommended.
  2. Stop fanning when there's no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.
  • Keeping the rice moist
  1. Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator leave on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature.
* Tip: To make sushi rice: for each cup of rice use 1 cup of water, 2 Tbs rice vinegar, 2 tsp sugar, ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp sake. For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water when cooking the sushi rice since the weight of rice can vary. Weight of 2½ cups of uncooked rice is about 525 grams or 18½ ounces.
* Tip: While the rice is draining, soaking and cooking prepare your rice vinegar dressing, sushi fillings and toppings.
* Tip: Photo series on How to Cook Rice with a Pot
http://www.sushiencyclopedia.com/how_to_make_sushi/how_to_cook_rice_with_a_pot.html
* Tip: Photo series on How to Make Sushi Rice with Tools You Already Own
http://www.sushiencyclopedia.com/how_to_make_sushi/how_to_make_sushi_rice_with_tools_you_already_own.html

NOTES:
Sushi Rice – choose a short or medium grain rice. Do not use Arborio, long-grain, or parboiled white rice. Medium-grained calrose is a suitable rice. Rice expands (about 3 times) when cooked so make sure your pot is large enough. Washing the rice removes the rice flour that coats the rice and gives a fresh flavour and scent to the cooked rice. Look for rice that is labelled 'sushi' rice. Cooked sushi rice can be placed in plastic bags and frozen for 3 months, microwave when needed. Cooked sushi rice should be sticky, shiny and the individual grains of rice can been see. Price: AUS $4/KG.

Dashi konbu – or ( dashi kombu) – dried kelp, it looks like broad, leathery, wrinkly greenish ribbon often coated with a white powder. The darker green the leaves, the better the quality of kelp. Dashi konbu adds a refreshing light ocean taste to sushi rice. Price: AUS $1.50 for ten 3”(75mm) squares.

Rice Vinegar – this gives prepared sushi rice its unique clean, crisp taste. Do not use bottled “sushi vinegar” as it is too harsh and has a bitter after-taste. Look carefully at the label of the rice vinegar it should have NO SALT and NO SUGAR in the product. Apple cider vinegar is a good substitute if rice vinegar is not available. You can use mild white wine vinegar or mild red wine vinegar if you cannot find rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar. DO NOT USE NORMAL WHITE VINEGAR it is too harsh. Price: AUS $4 /500ml bottle.

Sake – Japanese rice wine. Do not use cooking sake or Chinese cooking rice wine, look for a reasonably priced drinkable sake. Refrigerate opened sake & use within two months. You can use vodka or a mild tasting gin if sake is not available. Price: AUS $10/500ml bottle.

Sugar – you can use mild honey or any other vegan substitute to give the equivalent sweetness.


PART 2 : Dragon Rolls (also called Caterpillar Rolls)

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Cooking time: about 5 minutes (grilling the eel)

Yield: 2 inside-out (uramaki) sushi rolls

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 sheet 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm) of toasted nori (dried seaweed sheets), cut into halves
  • 1/2 Japanese cucumber
  • 2 cups of prepared sushi rice
  • Glazed Barbecued Eel (ungai) (about 3½ ounces or 100 grams)
  • 1 Avocado
  • Vinegared Water – ½ cup of water combined with a dash of rice vinegar
  • Various small amounts of sauces to use as the flames of the dragon (or legs of a caterpillar)

Optional
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams or 1 oz) Fish Roe (Fish eggs)

DIRECTIONS:
1.Cut cucumber into strips ¼ inch (6mm) x 7” (175mm) long, then salt, rinse & dry the strips.
2.Grill (broil) the eel for about 2-5 minutes until bubbling. Cut into two lengthwise strips.
3.Halve, pit and peel the avocado. Cut the avocado halves into thin even 1/8 inch (3 mm) slices. Fan out the cut avocado into a 7 inch (175 mm) overlapping pattern.
4.Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori shiny side down, lengthwise, on the edge the mat.
5.Moisten lightly your hands in the bowl of vinegared water.
6.Place one cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
7.Flip the rice-covered nori over (so the bare nori is now on top) and place on the edge of the mat closest to you.
8.Arrange one of the eel strips across the length of the nori, not quite centred on it but a little closer to you. Place half the cucumber sticks next to the eel.
9.Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands, keeping your fingertips over the fillings, and roll the mat and its contents until the edge of the mat touches straight down on the nori, enclosing the fillings completely. Lift up the edge of the mat you're holding, and continue rolling the inside-out roll away from you until it's sealed. Tug at the mat to tighten the seal. If the rice doesn't quite close the roll add more rice in the gap and re-roll using the mat to completely cover the inside-out roll. Place the roll on a damp, clean smooth surface.
10.Spread about 1 tablespoon of the optional fish roe along the entire top of the rice-covered roll. Using the plastic covered mat gently press the fish roe so it adheres to the rice.
11.Slide a knife under one fan of avocado and transfer it onto the top of an inside-out roll. Gently spread out the avocado layer to cover the entire roll. Lay the plastic wrapped mat over the avocado-covered roll. Squeeze very gently to shape the roll.
12. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the roll. Slice the roll into 6-8 equal, bite-sized pieces, wiping your knife with a damp towel before each slice. Discard the plastic wrap. Repeat the above to make one more roll.
13.Arrange the cut pieces on a serving plate with the sauces so the finished dish appears as a dragon breathing fire and flames (or a caterpillar with many legs).

* Tip: The most common mistake is having too much filling the golden rule is less is more when it comes to making sushi it is easier to roll an under-filled roll than an over-filled roll.
* Tip: Dampen your knife with a moist lint-free towel before every cut – this prevents the sushi rice from sticking to your knife.
* Tip: Excellent videos on making Dragon Rolls
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQZGRohVNFQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fo55iBN9FQs&feature=related

NOTES:
Bamboo mat (makisu) – A 10 inch (25cm) square mat made of thin slates of bamboo tied together with string.
Substitutes: a thin magazine cut to size wrapped in plastic wrap or a few layers of parchment paper cut to size about 10 inch (25cm) square.

Nori – Sheets of seaweed (laver) processed into thin sheets about 7 inches x 8 inches (17.5cm x 20cm) in size. Always re-toast the nori sheet over a gas stove on low flame for 5 to 10 seconds, or place nori on a clean oven rack and bake it in a preheated 350F-degree (180C) oven for 30 seconds. Nori should be sealed tightly in a plastic bag and used within a few months. It can be stored in the freezer. Nori will deteriorate if left out of its sealed package so use quickly.
Substitutes: Thin cooked egg omelette cut to same size as a nori sheet (7 inches by 8 inches or 17.5cm x 20cm). Also soya bean wrappers, rice paper, tofu wrappers, dosas, crepes or an overlapping layer of thinly sliced cooked vegetables.

Glazed Freshwater Barbecued Eel (unagi) – Deliciously rich and a little like pork they are sold in packs in the freezer (and sometimes the fresh fish) section of Asian markets.
Substitutes: Teriyaki chicken, cooked crab meat, smoked fish, smoked chicken, seared beef with BBQ sauce, deep fried tofu with dark soya sauce, tinned pink or red salmon, smoked salmon, fresh cooked soy beans with a selection of dark sauces, caramelized onions, firm cream cheese, or extra avocado with BBQ sauce as the filling. Any remaining eel should be left in the package re-wrapped in plastic and returned to the freezer as quickly as possible.

Japanese Cucumber – Japanese cucumbers are thin-skinned, seedless and contain much less water than normal cucumber.
Substitutes: English or hothouse cucumbers which have been peeled, de-seeded and salted as above. If not available try matchsticks of your favourite crisp vegetable.

Avocado
Substitutes: If not available use slices of roasted capsicum (bell pepper), slices of roasted tomatoes, lightly cooked whole snap (snow) peas, slices of Japanese daikon radish or other cooked thinly sliced vegetables, or slices of 'sushi' grade fish such as tuna, yellow tail and red snapper; smoked salmon, pastrami, salami, various colours of fish roe, or various colours of sesame seeds.

Fish Roe (Fish eggs or caviar) – most roes (fish eggs) are rich so they are served in small portions. Try salmon roe (ikura), smelt roe (masago) or seasoned flying-fish roe (tobiko).
Substitutes: You can use toasted sesame seeds or black onion (nigella) seeds as a vegan choice.

PART 3 : Spiral Sushi Roll
This is easiest 'decorative' sushi roll.

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

Yield: One Roll, cut into 8 pieces

INGREDIENTS:
  • 2½ cups prepared sushi rice
  • 2 sheets of toasted nori, each sized 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm)
  • Six assorted fillings, each filling should be the size of a pencil (see note below)
DIRECTIONS:
1.Join 2 sheets of nori by moistening the adjacent edges and overlapping them about ½ inch (12mm).
2.Place this double sheet shiny side down on a rolling mat, part of the nori will extend beyond the mat.
3.Using moist fingers place 2½ cups of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly, leaving ¼ inch (6mm) nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
4.Using your fingers form six grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by pushing the rice away, do not mash or squash the rice, leave a loose one grain layer of rice in the bottom of the grooves. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.
5.Place your fillings in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed.
6.Then roll the sushi up from the edge closest to you, this will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.
7.Slice into 8 pieces with a very sharp wet knife, wiping the blade with a damp cloth after each cut.
8.Place the pieces on a platter and garnish.

NOTE:
Make each groove about a finger-width wide they will hold about 1-2 tablespoons of filling. Use fillings that compliment each other and are highly coloured. Use parboiled vegetables cut into strips, seafood, left over eel, smoked fish or chicken, whole cooked beans, edible flowers etc....

PART 4 : Nigiri Sushi
Nigiri sushi is the type of sushi most often made in sushi bars. In Japanese, nigiri means “squeeze”.

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

Yield: 14-16 pieces of sushi

INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 cups prepared sushi rice
  • 8 pairs of assorted toppings, 200 gms/7 ozs total of fish, meat or vegetables (see note below)
  • 1 tablespoon Wasabi (paste, reconstituted powder) or any other paste to adhere topping to rice
Optional
  • Garnishes such as Ginger (pickled), chilli strips, vegetables flowers etc
  • Thin strips of nori or vegetables (for tying topping on)
DIRECTIONS:
1.When handling sushi rice, make certain your hands are very clean. To keep the rice from sticking to our hands moisten your hands with vinegared water.
2.Form nigiri sushi by scooping up a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of rice with your forefinger and second finger of your right hand and placing it in your cupped left palm.
3.Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow mound (about 2 inches x 1 inch wide or 50mm x 25mm) in your cupped palm.
4.Press enough to make the rice hold firmly together. Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don't let sushi touch or they'll stick to each other. At this point, you can cover the sushi with plastic wrap, and they'll keep at room temperature (not the refrigerator) for several hours.
5.Smear a thin line of wasabi on top of the rice and place the topping piece on it. You may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form an attractive piece of nigiri sushi. If your topping is very loose like fish roe you can place a strip of nori (higher than the rice) around the nigiri and form 'battleship' sushi. The cavity that the nori forms holds the topping so it does not fall off.
6.Garnish as desired and use strips of nori (or vegetable) to tie the topping to the nigiri if needed.
7.It is customary to make nigiri sushi in pairs, so make two of each variety.

* Tips: A great video on making nigiri sushi
http://www.howcast.com/videos/270-How-To-Make-Sushi
A great web page on slicing fish for nigiri
http://www.sushilinks.com/sushi-recipes/how-to-buy-fish/index.html

NOTES:
Seafood nigiri must use sushi grade (sashimi grade) fish. Try tuna, red sea bream (red snapper), yellowtail or salmon. Cooked shrimp, cooked crab, cooked meat can also be used! You can use any vegetable you wish try asparagus, pumpkin, carrot, avocado, cucumber, shiitake mushroom, tofu, thin sliced egg omelette, etc... Thinly slice or julienne vegetables, parboiling if necessary tie on with a thin (1/4” or 6mm) strip of nori or vegetable strip wrapped around the whole sushi if needed..

*MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE YOU MUST READ THIS* – If you are using raw fish or raw meat it must be 'sushi' grade (sashimi grade) ask your fishmonger or butcher for advice and if in doubt don't use. Find your local Japanese market and ask them where the best sushi (sashimi) fish is. Maybe you can buy sushi grade fish at your local sushi bar. Purchase flash-frozen sashimi grade fish which is guaranteed to be free of all parasites. Only salt-water fish and shellfish should be consumed raw. Crab and prawn (shrimp) should always be cooked. Sashimi grade fish should have a clean cool smell if it smells fishy it is a sign that the fish is old and cannot be used. If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system only use cooked ingredients. There is no need to use raw fish or raw meat in sushi.

TO DOWNLOAD A PRINTABLE VERSION OF THE RECIPE CLICK HERE

Resources
Written instructions on making various forms of sushi can be found here http://homepage3.nifty.com/maryy/eng/sushi_roll.htm
http://www.sushiencyclopedia.com/index.html

Photos
Dragon Roll
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Photo series for making Dragon Roll
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Nigiri Rolls
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Photo series for making Nigiri
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The way to do the six fillings for the spiral roll is as below.
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