The New Sushi Course With Chef Meg at Coghlans Food and Wine Experience, Rowsley
I love doing the cooking classes at Coghlans Derbyshire Wine and Food Experience Centre, you all know that, but I have to say that the Sushi class is.the.bomb!! Chef Meg with-the-impossible-surname is a fantastic tutor (I produced a superb Indian feast under her tutelage), and her passion is Sushi, so I knew I was in for a real treat when Lisa invited me along to this brand spanking new class.
The one big bonus about Coghlans now being located in the Peak Village retail centre at Rowsley is that you never struggle to get a parking spot, and I managed to snag one near to the end where Coghlans is. I also needed to pick up a nice bottle of wine for a friend and there is a superb selection to choose from in the retail area at the front of Coghlans’ space, so that was another job ticked off my list.
When we’d all gone and washed our hands, Meg did the statutory safety talk, and then talked us through what we’d be doing. Now, this is where I got a few butterflies in my tummy; it sounded properly technical and I’m not the best cook: great at scoffing, not so hot at making! You’ve all seen Sushi, I’m sure, so you know that there’s a fair bit of skill in the preparation of ingredients and you can see that this stuff hasn’t just been wanged together – wanging and clopping it in is my usual M.O, with a bit of herb-age to pretty it up – so I warned Meg that she’d got her work cut out with me on this occasion. Only fair to let her know, I thought.
Not much shocks me, but you should’ve seen the size of the Sashimi-grade Salmon that Meg brought out; it was huge, like, stupidly huge. My beady little eyes popped out on stalks, I can tell you; I’ve seen some hefty Salmon in my life, but this was a beast! Meg has got a new fishmonger supplying Coghlans now and, apparently, what you want when you’re buying Salmon for your Sushi is a bruise-, blemish- and blood mark- free side, because the fish is the star of the show, especially when used for Sashimi or Nigiri. I suppose I ought to clear up the differences between Sushi, Sashimi and Nigiri (all of which we were going to be making), before we go any further.
Nigiri is a pillow/ball of Sushi Rice topped with a slice of raw fish (or meat, sometimes), Sushi is where Sushi Rice has been flattened and rolled with cooked or raw ingredients in its centre, which is then cut into slices, and Sashimi is rice-less: the raw fish or meat is thinly sliced and commonly served on a bed of daikon radish. Clear? Yeah, me too.
I’ve always been fascinated by how fast Chefs chop stuff, but watching Meg as she carefully and skilfully sliced the Salmon was mesmerising! With her sharply-trained eye, Meg chose parts that were suited for each type of Sushi: long thin strips for the Sushi, fatter, flatter bits for the Sashimi and Nigiri, and also pieces for cooking for more Sushi. With time being of the essence in a class, we all just had a quick go at cutting our own Sashimi and Nigiri bits…plus, there would’ve been a lot of ‘wastage’ if I’d had to cut all my own Salmon #botchjobbeaky! I did remember to cut across the grain of the flesh, though, so clearly some knowledge got retained.
Then it was time to get the rice cooking and, again, you can’t use any old rice; Sushi rice has short-to-medium grains, so don’t use long-grain or pudding rice with its short, rounded grains. Meg uses ‘Nishiki’ brand rice, and I assume you can get it from any good Asian supermarket or online? Having recently done the Indian class with Meg (and realising that I really didn’t know how to cook rice!), I had remembered the 2 ½ washes method and confidently went to the sink to wash the excess starch from my rice. As a little experiment, Meg had brought in her rice cooker from home, so we cooked some rice in there and some more using the tried-and-trusted pan on the hob method (cover with water so that it comes up to the first joint on your middle finger – top tip!), just to see what difference it makes.
Whilst the rice was cooking, we all set-to, chopping Avocado, Cucumber and Herbs, as well as cooking our raw Tiger Prawns and the prepared-earlier Salmon pieces. Meg let us all choose what spices (if any) that we wanted to cook our fish and seafood with: I chose Ginger and Spring Onion with my Prawns, and Dill with the Salmon. In each class I’ve attended, there’s always been a camaraderie between participants and plenty of chatter, but there was definitely an excited buzz in the air ahead of assembling our Sushi, Sashimi and Nigiri.
Chef had brought along actual Sushi mats for rolling out the Sushi and even showed us a nifty tip for keeping them spotlessly clean – no pesky pieces of sticky rice left behind here! No, I’m not going to tell you, you’ll have to book on the course and receive the wisdom direct from the master. One by one, we donned some gloves and lightly oiled them before picking up balls of rice and either flattening them or shaping them into mounds. Then it was a case of filling and forming the sushi, and then cutting it into slices with a sharp knife – and you really do need a super-sharp one so as not to tear the Nori (seaweed) sheet that encases it all.
Before we knew it, we’d all assembled stunningly beautiful boxes of various types of Sushi, Prawn- and Salmon Nigiri and gorgeous Sashimi. We congratulated each other on the fruits of our labours, a little bit disbelieving that we’d done such a good job! Meg was beaming with joy that she’d imparted her wealth of knowledge, and her wonderful smiled widened as we all said that we’d had an incredible afternoon. And it really had been an amazing experience.
As a final flourish, Meg brought out tubs of pink Ginger and Wasabi, as well as those cute fish-shaped tubes of Soy Sauce; good Sushi needs the proper condiments, after all. The piece-de-resistance though were the wrapped chopsticks that Meg gave us; we were certainly going to be imagining ourselves in a trendy Japanese Sushi bar, using these to eat our creations with!
Given that my kitchen skills are less-than-stellar, I always go home from Coghlans not only safe in the knowledge that I have produced an edible meal, but also that my beloved Flocks’ faces will be filled with surprise that I’ve managed to do so. I know; rude! However, when I got home from the Sushi class, jaws dropped in astonishment at what I revealed when the boxes were opened. Yes, folks, see it and weeeeeeeep, you have a sushi master in your midst… ok, maybe that’s stretching the point, but I was flipping well rinsing the heck out of my moment of glory!
Meg, you are nothing short of a legend! Your knowledge, skill and patience is to be applauded far and wide, and you do it all with an unflappable grace, humility and subtle humour that is infectious.
This is a class you certainly don’t want to miss, trust me! Give the lovely Lisa (yes, you are lovely Lisa, whatever you say!) or Donna a buzz on 01246 453131 to book your place, or visit www.cookingexpert.co.uk to book online and see the latest dates and availability.
Huge thanks as always for inviting me along, I absolutely love being part of these classes.
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