I am always amazed at the ability of the mind to return one to the whole experience of a journey purely from a small slice of the physical reality from a time past. I had a whole day of reminiscing all of my work trips abroad from my day of sifting and sorting...a bag of small pieces of leather...madness of an Iron Maiden promo shot at the now renovated Roundhouse in Camden...a bag of white shiny skimpy angel costumes and I am in Buenos Aires with Bacardi eating hearty beef steaks and drinking Malbec...the Renault green sequins and fabulous memories of a two week job in Capetown and all that gorgeous fresh fish...a beaten up slightly silver pair of boots with studs protruding reminds me of a Stella Artois job we shot in and around Prague...and the dumplings with pork and red currant sauce served to the crew in the snow as we did freezing cold night shoots...and on it goes..my souvenirs.
Food was one of the most fabulous things about getting to travel to these great locations to work. Often only a small number of crew would travel abroad so we all ate together...agency, director, producer and crew...by day, the local food with the local crew and by night, in the most fantastic restaurants serving local wines and specialty dishes. With the bonus of having local guides who want you to be impressed by their favourite restaurants it is certainly one up on traveling with a travel guide blindly in an unknown city. I still feel privileged to have been able to have these fabulous evenings out and have the opportunities that I had to travel in this way throughout all of these lovely places in the world.
For obvious reasons after the horrific events over the weekend I also had Japan in the front of my mind. We visited Japan 15 years ago as part of a world trip when our son was only just 5 years old...it was at the tail end of a holiday which took in America, Europe and the UK. We flew into Kyoto and spent a week touring the city and visiting friends living in Japan and then we all went to stay in a monestry high up in the mountains...a very serenely beautiful spot with stunning gardens and traditional buildings, bathing and bedding. The food we were served arrived in shiny lacquer trays and was completely unrecognisable. We had been given a menu but it was all very much guesswork...even for Gill who spoke fluent Japanese...every item on the tray was beautifully presented, sculptured and artfully arranged but not something one felt compelled to eat! Mike was extremely smug as he had gone for the children's menu and although he only received one tray instead of our three it contained the most stylish hamburger you have ever seen...so the boys, small and large, were happy!
I have to say that this rates as one of the strangest meals I have eaten... seemed to be all vegetarian soya, rice and tofu based paste coloured and made into various shapes and sizes...but one will never know! My memory creates a visual not a gastronomic experience...maybe the taste was best forgotten. Meanwhile the Monks running the monastery sit and watch American and British TV, drink Belge beers and drive very fancy European cars...a fascinating life!
In NZ we ate a lot of Japanese food and our favourite restaurant for a birthday in Wellington was a Teppanyaki food throwing affair and in Auckland the more sophisticated 'Cafe Reika' where each platter that left the kitchen was an individual work of art and entirely edible! The plum wine was always a winner aperitif and the sake divine.
Our lovely neighbour's who visited for the weekend recently from Belgium brought with them the ingredients for a big Sushi lunch...it was just delicious and reminded me of many Japanese meals that we have had all around the world...such great healthy food with simple fresh ingredients...fab! If you have the luxury of Japanese ingredients at hand give it a try...it is actually very easy and a lot of fun.
Quick and easy sushi maki (sushi rolls)
By Merrilees Parker [Saturday Kitchen]
- Rinse the rice very well under cold water. Drain thoroughly and put into a large saucepan that has a lid. Pour over 1 pint of water. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about 25 minutes or until nearly all the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, cover with a lid and allow to stand for 10 minutes.
- Then tip the rice onto a large flat clean tray. A metallic is probably best as it will help the rice cool down quicker. Dress the rice with the mirin, turning frequently as this helps the rice to cool. Then fan with a fan or a magazine until the rice is room temperature (not essential but quite authentic).
- To make the sushi take a Japanese bamboo sushi mat and place a sheet of seaweed on top. Have a small bowl of water to hand. Dip your fingers in the water before you touch the rice. Spread the rice over three quarters of the seaweed, take a little rice at a time and push it to the edges leaving a layer about ½ cm thick. Leave the quarter the furthest away from you plain.
- Next smear a little wasabi in a line a little off centre nearest to your body. Follow with a layer of tuna, a spring onion and a piece of cucumber. Roll up the bamboo mat slowly, tucking in the closer end of the sushi roll to start a roll and press lightly with both hands. Remove the roll from the mat and leave to sit with the joining edges downwards. You can wrap in cling film and keep in a cool place until you are ready to serve. Don't place in the fridge as this dries out the rice.
- To serve, using a lightly moistened sharp knife to trim the ends, then cut into 6-8 pieces. Serve with the pickled ginger and little bowls of soy sauce.