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I'm a London-based food writer, stylist and author. Click here to see more about me and my work

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No roll sushi

Numerous Japanese friends have tried to teach me the art of rolled sushi and thus far I have hopelessly failed to master it (not even close). Yes, mine are tasty but certainly nothing to look at. The Italians aptly describe this as, ‘brutto ma buono,’ ugly but good. This pressed version was conceived to elevate my sushi from ugly step-sister to top gorgeous girl . The only equipment required is a sharp knife to cut them into squares. Any toppings can be used: raw slices of fish, prawns, crab, or smoked salmon. Until recently, I made the rice on the stove-top. For years I dithered over buying a rice cooker. My ‘appliance graveyard’ was already filled with deep fat fryers, coconut graters and fondue sets gathering dust. I relented, bought one and now am officially in love. Making sushi is sooo much easier now. Boiling the rice in a saucepan takes babysitting. If you don’t, it can go horribly mushy or hard. The recipe below includes a foolproof method but I have to say spending £40 is money well spent.

Sushi Squares
prep time 15 minutes
cook time and cooling 30 minutes
makes 30 squares

300g/10oz/1 1/2 cups sushi rice
60ml/2fl oz/1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp castor sugar
1 sheet nori paper finely snipped with scissors

sashimi topping
1 Wild Alaskan salmon fillet (approx. 150g)
1 tuna steak (very little marbling) (approx. 150g)
black and white sesame seeds

prawn, chili and mayonnaise topping
150g small cooked prawns drained
1 tbsp Japanese (Kewpie) or regular mayonnaise
1 small red chili seeded a chopped
handful of wild rocket

To make the rice in a rice cooker, fill two of the plastic measuring cups with rice (same as 300g). Place in the cooking container and rinse in cold water until clear. You will need to do this about 4-5 times before its clear. Drain and then fill the water up to the number 2 line. Turn on and when finished, open the lid to let off a bit of the steam. Click the lid back on and let steam for 5 minutes.

Stove-top method: Rinse the rice as described above. Strain in a sieve and place in a medium pot with fitted lid. Add 330ml water and bring to a boil. When boiling, cover and then turn heat down to a simmer. Cook for 12 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let sit to steam another 10 minutes. I highly recommend a digital timer for best results!

Place the vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Heat until the sugar and salt have dissolved and set aside. Using a spatula, spread the rice over a large plastic tray or baking tray. Drizzle the vinegar over gently mix using two spatulas. Keep mixing until fairly cool.

Line a 21cm X 17cm (8in X 6in) baking dish (this is approx so use any small square pan) with plastic wrap. Spread half the rice into the dish and press flat using a wet spatula, bottom of glass or hands. Sprinkle the nori in and then layer the remaining rice over. Press hard again so that its very compact.

cooling ricesushi with nori
At this point you can cover with a damp tea towel and leave at room temperature for 6 hours. Don’t refrigerate because it ruins the texture. It can be cut into squares 2 hours before serving. Use a very sharp knife to cut into 2 1/2 cm (1 inch) squares wiping with a wet cloth after each cut. Place on a serving tray with pickled ginger, a little blob of wasabi and a small bowl of soy. I like to serve mine with ponzu which is soy mixed with some lemon juice and a bit of sugar.

Make one of the topping or both. For the sashimi, cut the raw fish into square slices, about a half cm or thinner. Roll the edges in sesame seeds and place on top of the squares. The prawns are mixed with the chili and mayonnaise and spooned on top of the sushi. Top with the rocket.

pressed sushi with prawn and rocket

2 Comments

  1. Jean says:

    I’m thrilled with this method, Jenny. This is sushi-for-the-rest-of-us. So lovely and so original.

    I, too, once eyed rice cookers with ambivalence. For one, they were ugly, and secondly, it seemed ridiculous to pay for an appliance when it was pretty darn easy to cook rice. That is, if you aren’t in menopausal brain funk. I forgot about my rice one time too many (my sad All Clad saucepan has never looked the same) and also vowed to increase my consumption of whole grains.

    I did a bunch of research and ended up purchasing the wildly expensive and totally worth-it Zojirushi. It’s got a lot of bells and whistles, but really the money’s in the “fuzzy logic” which is another way of saying that this rice cooker’s replaced my fuzzy forgetfulness with its own brainy never-say-mistake methods. It’s not beautiful, but it’s really cute…like a shiny little robot sitting on the counter. I now make rice several times a week.

  2. This is super clever! I know someone who can’t eat seaweed, so I tried once to make sushi rolls without the nori. Didn’t work quite as well as I hoped it would. These ones look so funny and cute.

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