Pizza parties, taco parties, bagel-and-lox parties… If you ask me, there’s no better dinner (or brunch) party format than “food item you create and customise yourself from a spread of ingredients”.
For the host, there’s the joy of simplicity, the release from pressure: Supply all the base components and let your guests take it from there. And for those attending, there’s the satisfaction in making something entirely your own, with only the ingredients you like most – no compromise needed.
Beyond pizza and tacos, I’d like to enter one more dish into the do-it-yourself canon: the temaki hand roll. True to name, these hand-rolled cones of sushi are both pretty and portable – perfect party food, in other words, which you can enjoy even while clasping a drink in the other hand (more on that in a moment). This is also sushi-making at its simplest, ideal for beginners. You need no bamboo rolling mats, no special equipment, no delicate touch.
While nori and sushi rice are the foundation, the toppings and flavourings are almost infinitely customisable. I’ve gone with more classic options – sashimi-grade salmon and tuna, plus ikura (salmon or trout roe) – but you could just as easily go decadent with sea urchin or scallops, simple with smoked salmon, or vegetarian-friendly with tamago omelette or vegan carrot lox. You could even offer cooked filling options, from tempura sweet potatoes and prawns to seared fish.
But if these rolls are all about variety, you can keep your drink options simple. Clot de les Soleres’ Garnatxa Rosato 2019 is both fittingly festive and also exceptional with sushi. Ever so lightly blush-hued, this Catalonian wine, made from 100% red Grenache (Garnacha Tinta), feels like an instant celebration in the glass. It has some residual sweetness, but not so much that it feels heavy, or cloying; a subtle saline character recalls the seafood’s brine and the soy sauce’s savouriness.
Whatever festive celebration you have planned this year, then, don’t feel pressured to stick with the expected format, the Champagne and polite hors d’oeuvres. Instead, opt for a truly distinctive sparkler and temaki hand rolls for a pairing that feels accessible and decadent, all at once.
Temaki Hand Rolls
Makes 15-20 rolls
For the rice:
250g sushi rice
330ml cold water
2 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1-2 tablespoons black sesame seeds (optional)
For the rolls:
10 sheets nori
250g sashimi-grade salmon
250g sashimi-grade tuna
100g salmon or trout roe
2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
Shisho leaves (optional)
Other assorted fillings, per your preferences
For the dipping sauce:
100ml light soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated or minced ginger
1-2 teaspoons sriracha (optional)
1. First, prepare the sushi rice. Place the rice in a fine-meshed sieve and rinse with cold water for 3-4 minutes, stirring gently with your hands, or until the water runs clear. Shake out any excess and place the rice in a medium saucepan that comes with a lid. Add the water to the rice and heat over medium-high heat. As soon as the water begins to boil, cover the saucepan and turn the heat down to low. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Then, turn off the heat and let the rice steam for 30 minutes. Do not remove the lid at any point.
2. While the rice cooks, add the rice vinegar, sugar and salt to a small bowl, and stir well until the sugar and salt have begun to dissolve into the vinegar. When the rice is ready, pour over and, with a spatula, gently fold to combine. Mix through the sesame seeds, if using.
3. Prepare the filling ingredients: Cut the nori sheets in half so you have two even, rectangular sections. Using a very sharp knife, slice the salmon and tuna into thinnish strips. Prepare any vegetables and greenery you’ll be using. Mix together the dipping sauce in a small bowl or ramekin – you may need to make more, depending on how many people you’ll be serving.
4. To make the temaki roll, take one of your prepared nori rectangles and place it shiny side down. Add a large spoonful of sushi rice to the left-hand side (it should take up no more than 1/3 of the nori sheet) and pat into an even layer. Arrange your preferred fillings in the centre of the rice, diagonally, so they’re pointing outwards towards the top left corner of the nori sheet. Gently fold from the bottom left corner of the nori upwards so the filling is covered, then continue to roll up the entire piece until you’re left with a cone shape. You can secure the nori sheet with one or two sticky grains of sushi rice to keep it enclosed.
5. To serve, drizzle over or dip in a bit of the soy sauce mixture.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen. Don’t miss out on Claire’s wine and food pairings, which go out every month in our Natural Wine Killers subscription box.