I love a good little food festival. I’ve been to plenty – some have appeared on this blog, like meaty treats like Meatopia and Grillstock, but plenty haven’t, like the Great British Food Festival at Kelmarsh Hall, Stratford Town Centre Food Festival and the Leamington Spa Food Festival.
Leamington was the home for my latest little venture. The town’s ‘Regent Court’ is a pedestrianised little street full of foodie haunts – some independent and other big names like Turtle Bay and Yo! Sushi. Its food focus made it the perfect place for the ‘Fiesta of Flavours’ – a weekend of fun and frolics involving not only the restaurants but other retailers too, including an array of free masterclasses to let you try new things out but also have a bit of fun too.
I had plenty to choose from. Cocktail-making, a make-up masterclass, salsa dancing out in the sunshine or a sushi masterclass. Of course, with food as my focus I chose the last and prepared for an afternoon learning how to roll my own maki and make my own nigiri with the experts at Yo! Sushi.
If you haven’t been to Yo! Sushi, you can read all about how it works in my blog post here. In short, the sushi dishes whizz round on a conveyor belt, you pick them off and then your bill is calculated from your used plates at the end. You can choose from all the different sushi types as well as hot dishes and desserts and it makes for quite a fun meal out.
Our masterclass was only going to be short, so we got cracking. With Yo! Sushi’s Jacob at the helm, my friend and I settled in with a few other punters for a whistle-stop tour of all things sushi. According to Jacob, it’s all about the rice. It’s got to be special sushi rice, which is washed 6-10 times and mirin is added to it. Lucky for us, a big old bowl of rice was ready prepared so we could get cracking with the fun bit.
Here’s the quick version – and trust me, while it’s not hugely difficult to follow the instructions to roll a sushi roll, getting it decent and well-rolled like the ones you pick up from the pros isn’t quite so easy.
So, take you bamboo rolling mat thingy, lay a sheet of nori (seaweed for you commoners) on top, shiny side down. Then press the cooked rice all over it, apparently about 2-3 grains thick, but leave a margin at the top so your seaweed can stick together.
From then, since ours was a simple cucumber maki, it was just a case of sprinkling a line of sesame seeds inside then laying a strip of cucumber (yes, it was ready cut) in the middle. And then, start rolling from the front to make that long, perfectly-wrapped sausage like roll. Sounds easy? Look at the picture below and you can see why it might need a bit of practice.
Next up was a little go at nigiri, which means ‘with rice’. Another simple one for us amateurs. For this we simply had to ball up the rice then top with slices of ‘tamago’, a sweet Japanese omelette that is as bizarre in taste and texture as you might be imagining it is. We wrapped up in a little ribbon of nori and they didn’t look half bad, I have to say!
Job done, we headed home with a bag full of sushi made by our own fair hands, plus the necessary chopsticks, wasabi and soy sauce. My pal Kerry decided she didn’t need to try it to confirm its quality, so I fed the result of our afternoon’s labours to Mr M who was quite impressed – just wished we’d got as far as making some fishy sushi.
Fear not, I can expand my repertoire if he’s that keen. I’m told Yo! Sushi do a longer more formal sushi school where you can learn all about the art of rolling, plus other things like dealing with fish and making all sorts of other treats that you can see zooming around on that conveyor belt. Just contact them if you’re up for it.
In the meantime, hats off to the guys at Regent Court for putting on such a splendid event. The atmosphere was great, especially as we arrived to the sight of people salsa dancing in the sunshine and stilt-walkers tottering round welcoming people to the party, and the masterclass was a great fun little thing to do on a weekend.
t’s nice to see businesses getting together to promote their area and hey, when it’s food it’s even better!