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SWEET POTATO, CHICKEN, AVOCADO AND QUINOA NORI ROLLS

danielle copperman

You can't go wrong with anything that is rollable. Whether its fajita's, a quick tortilla lunch wrap, some homemade savoury crepes, burritos or sushi, there's something for everyone, and each individual has a unique way of filling, customising and rolling theirs to really make it mean something to them; or just to make it their own kind of tasty. Fajita's featured a lot in my house growing up, and as soon as there was a tortilla on each plate, everyone fell silent, concentrating on building their ideal meal. There's something so satisfying in combining your favourite things to create a few incredible mouthfuls that no one else will ever quite achieve in their own constructions, or experience to the full extent.

This recipe is - hang on, I'm about to say it again - one of my favourite creations. I was inspired by conventional sushi which, ever since moving to London from Bath (a small town where people would assume you'd just sneezed if you asked where to find some sashimi), I have been obsessed with. The recipe below isn't in keeping with many Japanese traditions, but it doesn't have to be. You can mix and match your fillings, and you don't have to use rice and raw fish. You can literally use anything. The seaweed has such a mild flavour that whatever combination of fillings you choose will work well.

It may not look like it, but this is such a simple recipe - which is always a bonus. Anyone who loves fresh food and vibrant flavours will appreciate that you can bung everything you love onto one nori sheet, roll, squeeze and enjoy instantly. If for whatever reason yours don't roll perfectly, this is not an indication of failure - it will still taste amazing. 

I love a recipe that you can really personalise, as I'm sure most of you do too. If you don't like an ingredient, you don't have to use it, and instead can combine all of your favourite ingredients in one meal. You can use any fillings you like here - I have simply provided a couple of my personal favourites. Where normal sushi uses rice, I've used Quinoa, as I find it more gently filling in comparison to rice, and it is also higher in protein and fibre, and in some cases, easier to digest. (It also suits anyone on a paleo diet). That's more or less the only similarity that these nori rolls have with traditional sushi. My fillings combine all kinds of cuisines. You could call them Confused Rolls. Whatever - they're delicious.

For vegetarians, you can experiment with a range of raw or cooked vegetables. I love using mashed or pureed sweet potato or beetroot houmous with the quinoa as it is a creamy, sweet way of binding the other ingredients together. I'd suggest cutting the vegetables into thin strips to make for easier rolling. Avocado, courgette, cucumber, red pepper, carrot, beetroot, kohlrabi, cabbage (or sauerkraut), spinach, kale and broccoli would be top of my list. Make sure you also throw in as many fresh herbs as you can too. Mint, parsley, coriander and basil add a refreshing flavour. You can also improvise with your own dips and spreads in the place of sweet potato or beetroot houmous. Try them with any kind of houmous, avocado puree or guacamole.

For a meaty version, experiment with either chicken - like I have below - or fish (cooked or raw). In the past, I've made these with locally sourced organic salmon sashimi which you can pick up from almost any fishmonger. Ask them if it is sashimi-grade, and ensure it is as fresh as it can be. Don't leave it in the fridge for a few days before you plan on making these - use it the day you buy it. 

You can either prepare your meat beforehand like i have below, flavouring it with honey, oil and lemon juice or you can keep it plain. It is best to use it cold as it will roll better and won't affect the shape of the nori rolls too much.

 INGREDIENTS
(makes around 14 rolls - perfect as a quick lunch, snack or starter)

1 Packet Plain Nori Sheets (like these)
1 Large Sweet Potato, mashed - or Beetroot Houmous (recipe below)
1 1/2 Cups Cooked Quinoa

FILLING OPTIONS
. Sliced Vegetables - I like kohlrabi, carrot, cucumber, courgette, cabbage, chopped spinach, beetroot or broccoli / cauliflower rice. With crunchier vegetables, slice them thinly lengthways.
. Shredded or Chopped Chicken (try marinating in Tamari, Ginger, Ground Coriander, Agave and Olive oil).
Flaked Fish (salmon or tuna), Raw Fish or King Prawns.

METHOD
Take one nori sheet at a time and lay it flat onto a dry surface. I use a sushi mat which helps, but it isn't essential. Spread a layer of sweet potato onto the nori sheet, in a rectangle. Don't let it get too close to the sides of the sheet. Next, spread a layer of quinoa on top, followed by the chicken or fish and your vegetables. Starting with the end nearest to you, being to roll. It can get really messy! Just go with it. I tend to almost fold the sheet in half and then roll it back towards me, tucking it into the filling as I go. I roll and re-assemble a few times to get the filling tightly packed. Squeeze the rolls with dry hands to ensure they become as compact as possible.

Once rolled, take a really sharp knife and wet it slightly. Holding the roll at one end, slice diagonally down the middle, careful not to put too much pressure on the roll or to tear the sheet.

Serve with an Asian Inspired dip, a salty dip or a sweet dip (recipes below).

BEETROOT HOUMOUS
(serves 4-6)
2 Tins Chickpeas
5 Tablespoons Cold Water
10 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Clove Garlic - optional
2 Small - Medium Cooked Beetroot, chopped
1 Tablespoon Beetroot Powder or 1 Extra Beetroot, chopped
3 Tablespoons Tahini
Juice from 1/2 or 1 Lemon (depending on your personal preference)
Himalayan Pink Salt or Tamari - to taste
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast - optional
1 Teaspoon Mustard - optional

METHOD
Start by blending together your chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, nutritional yeast, tahini and mustard, if using. Blend on a medium to high speed, and add the water gradually. Once smooth, add the chopped beetroot and blend for a further 2 minutes. Add more water if it isn't blending smoothly. Serve instantly, or chill in the fridge until ready to enjoy.

SALTY TAMARI DIP
(serves 4-6)
1 Tablespoon Tamari
4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sesame Oil or Avocado Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Lemon or Lime Juice
1 Tablespoon Tahini, optional

METHOD

Simply combine all of the ingredients in a small small bowl, stirring with a fork to combine everything fully. Serve chilled. If the you leave the dressing to sit, or in the fridge for a while before serving, stir again before enjoying, as the oil, tamari and tahini tend to separate.

SWEET TAHINI DIP
(serves 4-6)
1 Teaspoon Tamari
2 Tablespoons Tahini
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Agave / Raw Honey /Date Syrup / Coconut Nectar
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1/2 Teaspoon Ground or Grated Ginger
Crushed Garlic - optional

METHOD
Simply combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl, stirring and mashing lightly with a fork, or use your blender if you want to get a smoother dressing and ensure there are no lumps. Serve as a dip for the nori wraps, or drizzle over the top.