Early winter is the ideal time to eat Halibut – a delicate white fish popular for sushi and prized for sashimi in Japan.
The tender flesh is very soft and chewy and a delicate pale pink. It is often served with a squeeze of lemon or lime or a light soy sauce to compliment the flavour which is more distinctive than other whitefish like cod. It is a great alternative to salmon for nigri and sashimi and is often served raw on Japanese menus, sliced thinly with a super sharp sashimi knife.
This recipe is simple but brings out the best of the halibut flavours and is served with another seasonal best, broccoli though the beauty of tempura is you can use a wide variety of vegetables to fry up in the light, delicious batter.
First steam your fish in a bamboo steamer. This will not only preserve the unique flavour of the fish but Halibut can go dry if overcooked so it will keep it moist and soft. Squeeze a generous squirt of fresh lemon over your cooked fish and leave it to cool.
Then it’s time to make your sushi rice. You can do this on the hob following the instructions on the rice packet or you can use a rice cooker. When the rice is cooked, transfer it to a hangiri or wide, flat bottomed dish and leave it to cool before mixing in a rice dressing (ready made or home made) using a wooden spoon or flat paddle.
You are now ready to roll. Put a sheet of nori on a bamboo or silicone rolling mat or rolling machine such as the Sushi Magic. Spread on layer of cooled rice leaving a 1cm margin along the top and bottom edge. Flake up the soft, lemony fish and spread it out in a line across the middle along with thin strips of avocado. Roll up, slice and you are ready to go.
For the tempura, it’s best to use a ready made batter mix like Yutaka tempura mix. The instructions are fairly simple but it is important to remember to use iced water and keep your standing bowl of batter as cold as possible as this is what gives the tempura it’s distinctive light, crispy texture. Tempura batter should only be mixed with water very lightly so don’t worry if there are a few lumps in your mixture.
In a heavy bottomed frying pan, heat about 6cm of vegetable oil. To test the temperature, drip a tiny bit of batter in and, if it sizzles and floats to the top then it’s ready.
Cut your broccoli into florets and dip them into the tempura batter before dropping them into the hot oil and cook in batches until golden. Fish them out with a slotted spoon and drain the briefly on kitchen towel before serving.
Serve your rolls and tempura with wasabi, pickles and soy sauce with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and enjoy a delicious fresh taste of February.