Sushi has really taken off in the UK, transforming from a “that sounds a bit odd” kind of food to a pretty standard item in the national cuisine. There are 3 sushi restaurants that are almost knocking shoulders a short walk from where we live, and it is a common site in any supermarket food-to-go section. However, I don’t know nearly many people who make sushi rolls at home as who eat them out. They can be a little intimidating and fiddly to make at first, but once you get the hang of it they become pretty simple (as long as you aren’t going for the perfectly even shop bought look) and it gives you a glow of achievement when you can serve up a platter of homemade sushi rolls. The thing that can be quite off-putting is trying to get the sashimi grade fish that is required to make proper raw fish sushi, but luckily there are a lot of other options for fillings that don’t involve any raw fish at all. They may not all be particularly traditional but it doesn’t stop them tasting good and being a lot more home cooking friendly. Here I wanted to make something light, tangy and vegetarian to celebrate all the plants bursting back into life as a Spring progresses so went for two vegetable options: oyster mushrooms and sugar snaps or roast pepper and aubergine strips, both soaked in a zingy dressing of wasabi, lemon and black pepper.
Note: you will need a sushi mat to make these rolls, but these can easily be bought online, from some supermarkets or cooking shops for less than £5, which is likely to be less than a box of sushi, and take up barely any storage room in your kitchen. If you don’t want to get a sushi mat then look at the tasty little twists section for ideas that don’t involve using one.
Vegetable sushi rolls with lemon wasabi sauce
Cooking time: 25 minutes preparation, 15-20 minutes assembly (depending on how practiced you are)
Dietary info: vegan, gluten-free
- 75 g sushi rice
- 75 g quick cook farro
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp salt, optional
- 3-4 sheets nori
- 1 quantity lemon wasabi sauce (see the “tasty little extras”)
- Soy sauce to serve, optional
- 180-200g oyster mushrooms, torn into strips
- 100g sugar snap peas, cut in half lengthways
- 2 peppers, any colour, thinly sliced
- 1 aubergine, sliced lengthways with slices about 3-4mm thick
- Put the rice and farro in a saucepan, rinse it a few times and then cook it for 10-15minutes with just enough water to cover it at the start. Check it every 5 minutes to make sure it hasn’t run out of water. At the end the water should have evaporated so that it is sticky and you don’t have to drain it but it hasn’t started to stick or burn on the bottom. I find this can be easier to do in the microwave, in a large microwave safe bowl with the rice just covered in water. Microwave on full power, checking the water level and stirring every 5 minutes until it is done (10-15 minutes). If using a microwave it can be sensible to put the bowl on a plate as it does occasionally boil over.
- Stir the vinegar into the rice, and the salt if you want to add salt.
- Roast the aubergine and pepper slices on a baking tray at 180C fan for 20-25 minutes until soft and starting to darken at the edges, then slice the aubergine into strips.
- Put the mushrooms and sugar snaps in a saucepan with 2 tbsp. of the lemon wasabi sauce and cook, covered for 4 minutes, stirring halfway through to stop them sticking. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated
- To assemble the sushi (see pictures below):
- Wrap a sushi mat in clingfilm (this helps when cleaning it later as you don’t have to try to pick out little squashed bits of sushi rice from between the sticks) and lay a whole or half piece of nori on top of the sushi mat.
- Cover the nori in a thin layer of the rice (which should be quite sticky – you can smooth it out with the back of a spoon), leaving a border of about 1-1.5cm gap at the bottom of the nori sheet and 0.5cm gap the rest of the way round.
- Lay a thin line of the oyster mushroom and sugar snap peas or the aubergine and pepper slices (or mix it up and use a mix of all the vegetables, or one of the other fillings suggested in the tasty little twists) along the bottom edge of the rice. Drizzle with a generous tsp of lemon wasabi sauce.
- Fold the bottom edge of the nori over the vegetables, holding the filling in place with your middle fingers while you use your thumbs and first fingers to fold over the nori, and then use the sushi mat to help roll the nori and rice up into a tight roll. This is done using a kind of upwards and forwards motion, using your thumbs, first fingers, middle fingers to guide the roll.
- When it is all rolled up use the sushi mat to squeeze the roll so that it is tightly packed together.
- Put the sushi roll onto a chopping board and cut into 8 pieces with a sharp knife.
- Serve with the remaining lemon wasabi sauce and soy sauce (optional) for dipping.
- If you are having problems with the sushi rice sticking to your fingers, then you can wear food-safe thin plastic gloves rubbed with a little vegetable oil.
- If you want to see someone rolling sushi then there are some good videos on YouTube – I thought that this one was nice and clear
A few tips to prep ahead:
- Make the lemon wasabi sauce and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.
- Cook the rice and farro up to 1 day ahead. However, don’t prepare the rice any further ahead than this and make sure that it is cooled and refrigerated quickly after cooking (within 1 hour). Then reheat the rice on the night you eat it until it is steaming hot all the way through.
- This is because uncooked rice can contain spores of Bacillus cereus and these spores can survive when rice is cooked. If rice is then left standing at room temperature, the spores can grow into bacteria which can multiply and cause food poisoning. The longer cooked rice is left at room temperature, the more likely it is that the bacteria or toxins could make the rice unsafe to eat. The best way to avoid this is eat the rice on the day it is cooked, but if you can’t do this then eat it within one day, make sure it is thoroughly reheated before eating and do not reheat more than once.
- Prepare and cook the vegetable fillings and keep them in sealed containers or bags in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Some tasty little twists and extras…
Here is the recipe for the lemon wasabi sauce and some ideas for variation on the sushi theme, or different ways you can serve the ingredients if you don’t want to make sushi rolls.
Lemon wasabi sauce
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Dietary info: vegan, gluten-free
Serves: 2-3 as part of the recipe above
- 2 tsp wasabi paste
- 50ml water
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Pinch of sugar or sweetener like stevia
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp cornflour
- Mix the wasabi paste gradually with water to make a smooth liquid.
- Stir in the lemon juice, sugar or sweetener, soy sauce and black pepper.
- Put the cornflour in a small saucepan and gradually add about half of the wasabi / lemon juice sauce, stirring to prevent lumps forming.
- Put the saucepan containing the cornflour / sauce mix over a gentle heat and keep stirring until it thickens so that it thickly coats a spoon.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and gradually stir in the rest of the wasabi / lemon juice sauce.
There are plenty of other fillings for sushi rolls that you can try that also don’t involve getting hold of sushi grade raw fish:
- Batons of raw cucumber or avocado are very common vegetable maki fillings, but pretty mush any vegetable can be tasty in sushi so try out your favourite vegetables to find the perfect combination for you e.g. grated carrot, grated beetroot, pickled ginger, raw peppers, roast squash, rocket, pea shoots etc.
- If you want to try some non-vegetarian versions then smoked salmon, or smoked salmon and avocado like the popular hand roll, can be a good option, as can any other cooked smoked fish.
- I originally made this lemon wasabi sauce to make sushi with a filling of smoked kippers and hot smoked salmon, both baked in the oven then flaked and mixed with some shredded lettuce and finely sliced cucumber for crunch.
- Breaded chicken or crispy prawns are also nice non-vegetarian options, and particular favourites of my husband.
If you don’t have time, equipment, or just don’t feel in the mood, for sushi assembly, then here are some other ideas to try:
- Hand rolls are easier to put together than sushi rolls and would work well with any of the filling combinations mentioned in this post. See my salmon and ginger hand roll recipe for instructions on how to make a hand roll.
- For an almost no assembly option just top the rice with the toppings of your choice, drizzle with the sauce and top with some shredded nori or other seaweed sprinkles for a mixed grain/rice salad.
- If you take this option you are not limited by needing the stickiness of the sushi rice so you can experiment with any of your favourite grains e.g. quinoa, wild rice, risotto rice, brown rice, pearl barley, buckwheat, or even a short pasta like orzo, beans or lentils.