The licking of fingers and plates is encouraged at Aaron Brunet’s hand-friendly dining table.
I love hand-held food. I also love licking my plate for what it’s worth, kind of goes against my opening sentence but I think it deserves to be seen as a sign of respect for the food. Someone told me about a restaurant in Italy where the owner refused to serve the next course until the diners had licked their plates. Bravo! Getting back on track, what do you call sushi without the rice? Nori spring roll? It sounds like the start of a joke but when I think fresh spring rolls it all makes sense — hand-holdable and full of goodness. Rice is great but sometimes heavier than I want, and I love trying out new ideas. After making lots of sauerkraut I wondered if cabbage would be good as a base layer. By wilting it slightly with a sprinkling of salt it becomes a little softer and packs together well, just what’s needed here. With fresh salmon inside, these rolls are super-nutritious and satisfying in a light way.
For a more substantial handful of yum you really can’t beat a wrap, I could happily eat them every other day. This week I’m sharing our current number one choice — it’s a lot like a caesar salad you can walk off with. As a bonus it features a tofu mayonnaise that’s high in protein and low in fat.
A parting thought — we like eating wraps and rolls and lots of other food with our hands, so how about a fine dining restaurant with no cutlery? Where licking fingers and plates adds to the pleasure of the meal? I’d definitely go there...
Nori spring roll
Preparing your own salmon for this is something you get better at with practice. I encourage you to have a go because it’s really satisfying to take it from fillet to sashimi. I buy a piece of really fresh salmon about 15cm long which makes more than two servings but is easier to work with and you can keep the leftovers for the next day. It’s good to get the cabbage very finely sliced for this, I use a mandolin.
15cm long piece of fresh salmon
2 cups very finely sliced cabbage, tightly packed
¼ tsp salt
½ Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
10cm piece of cucumber
½ avocado, sliced
2 sheets nori
Handful of fresh sprouts (I like alfalfa)
Wasabi paste and soy sauce, to serve
- Wipe the salmon clean and dry with a paper towel to make it easier to handle. Remove the pin bones with a pair of strong tweezers or clean pliers. Lay it skin side down on a board and run a sharp knife along just above the skin to remove it. Turn over and trim any dark bits off. The thick part of the salmon is nicest to eat as sashimi so I like to trim the flap off and use it for another dish (like salmon kebabs). Use a sharp knife to slice the thick part into long square strips about 15mm thick.
- Put the sliced cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle with salt then mix around with hands to spread evenly. Let this rest and soften while you prepare the other veges. When ready to use, mix in the toasted sesame seeds which add great flavour.
- Peel the cucumber lightly then remove seeds and slice into thin strips.
- Peel the carrot and cut into thin slices then lay on their side and cut into very thin strips.
- Assemble each roll like this: Lay a piece of nori on a sushi mat then cover ¾ of it with 1 cup of cabbage, spreading evenly and pressing down firmly. Lay a couple of strips of salmon down the middle then follow alongside with carrot, cucumber and avocado. Place a line of sprouts down the middle then roll it all together very tightly, wetting the exposed edge of the nori to help it stick.
- Slice diagonally down through the middle of the roll so you get a nice view of the interior, then serve with wasabi and soy sauce alongside to dip into.
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Caesar's sister spinach wrap
Without the bacon and parmesan this is more of a sibling to a caesar. It is tasty, fresh, satisfying and full of good ingredients. The tofu mayo is a favourite of ours, it tastes rich and creamy but is high in protein and very low in fat. It’s really important to get the right tofu if you want this to be smooth — it’s called Morinaga brand firm silken tofu and it comes in a tetrapak at the supermarket.
1 spinach wrap
2 Tbsp tofu mayo (see below)
3-4 spinach leaves
3-4 cos lettuce leaves
100g cooked chicken
1 egg, hard-boiled, sliced 7cm piece cucumber, cut into strips
2 anchovy fillets, cut into small pieces
¼ avocado, sliced
Extra tofu mayo to dress
- Get one side of the spinach wrap charred and tasty by holding it over a gas flame for about 30 seconds. If you don't have gas you could pop it very close to a really hot grill instead. I like to only do one side so it stays soft enough to roll up.
- Spread the tofu mayo over the wrap and spread the spinach and cos lettuce leaves on top, then making a line down the middle using the chicken, egg, cucumber, anchovy and avocado. Season with the salt and pepper then add a few more dabs of tofu mayo to add moisture to the middle.
- Roll really tightly! I like to cut wraps in half so I can start eating from the middle where all the goodies are.
(makes a batch to keep in fridge):
1x 297g block Morinaga brand firm silken tofu
2 tsp french (dijon) mustard
1 tsp whole grain mustard
½ tsp kikkoman soy sauce
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil (optional)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Place all ingredients in a food processor and mix until super smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the sides down a couple of times during this time to ensure everything gets well combined.