Sweet pepper Ajvarski LAH with sushi landscape 2 scaled

Veggie Sushi – Maki Rolls and Nigri

What better way to celebrate vegetables than making delicious sushi?! Successful and delicious sushi all depends on getting the rice right. Follow the recipe below, and you’ll be just fine!

A visit to a good Asian supermarket is essential to kit yourself out with the sushi rice, nori (the squares of dried seaweed to wrap it up in), bamboo rolling mats, ginger and wasabi.

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Nutritional Information (approx.)

  Per serving
Calories (kcal) 191
Fat 0.5g
Saturated Fat  0.08g
Carbohydrates 41.6g
Sugars 4.4g
Fibre 1.4g
Protein 3.8g
Salt 667mg


  • 1 whole cucumber like our Mezzo Lungo
  • 2 red peppers like our own Sweet Pepper Ingrid
  • Good quality sushi rice 500g
  • Water 500ml
  • Light soy sauce
  • Rice vinegar 80ml
  • Sugar 2 tbsp
  • Salt 2 tsp
  • 1 packet of nori (squares of dried seaweed – usually packs of 10)
  • Wasabi (either a paste or a powder mixed with water)
  • Pickled ginger


Make the Sushi Rice

  1. I always cook my rice in a rice cooker now – pretty much foolproof and no burnt bits stuck on the pan. Ideally, wash the rice in a few changes of cold water until the water is clear and not cloudy.
  2. If you have a rice cooker, cook the rice as normal with the equivalent ml measure of rice and water. If you’re going traditional with a pan, add the rice and water and turn the heat right up until it’s boiling, then turn it down halfway between a boil and a simmer. You’ll need to have a wooden spoon to hand to stop it burning on the bottom. When the excess water has evaporated, turn the heat right down, put the lid on, and leave it for about 10 minutes. The rice is done when it has a slight bite to it; there should be no excess water, and the whole thing should be pretty sticky. If the rice is underdone, you can save it by adding splashes of boiling water and stirring it, keeping it on low heat until the rice is better.
  3. Whilst the rice is cooking – get your magic sushi vinegar together. This is a mix of rice vinegar, sugar and salt. This will need to be hot as you’re going to tip it onto the hot rice and want to keep it at the same temperature (it mixes better). The volume of vinegar mix you add should be about one-fifth of the volume of rice you started with. So – if you started with 500ml of uncooked rice then you want to aim for 100 ml of vinegar mix. So get your measuring jug out again and use this as a base – next time, alter it to your taste. Pour in 80 ml of rice vinegar, add 2 level tablespoons of sugar and 2 level teaspoons of salt – this should be about 100ml – tip it all into a small pan. When your rice is almost done, turn the heat up on the vinegar mix. It just needs to be hot – I bring it to the boil and push it off the heat. In the minute or two waiting for that to heat up, tip your rice out into a shallow baking pan – you’re going to mix it about a bit, so make sure there’s enough space – the idea being that you need to cool the rice down quickly so surface area is important. Then, pour the hot vinegar mix over the rice – use a spatula to turn the rice and vinegar mix over until it feels like all the rice has been exposed to the vinegary loveliness. Put the tray somewhere to cool, mixing occasionally so you don’t get crusty rice.

Prep your fillings and toppings

  1. Peppers – if you have a flame (gas hob or barbecue) – hold the peppers directly over the hottest part of the flame and use tongs to turn them until each one is blackened. When they’re all black plop them into a bowl and put a tight lid on or into a plastic bag and roll it up. The steam coming from the hot peppers will loosen the skins and make them ready for the next bit. As soon as they’re cool enough to handle, peel the skins off. This is way easier under a slowly running tap; break the pepper open to wash out the seeds; there are often boiling hot pockets of pepper juice inside waiting to get you, so be careful! I usually do this over a sieve, put the flesh from the peppers in a bowl and compost the seeds and skin.
  2. Cucumbers – test the skin – if it’s a bit tough you’ll need to peel them. Then halve them lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. What you do with them now depends on the size of the cucumbers. If you have enough to slice thin rectangles then brilliant, you can do some nigiri rolls.
  3. Nigiri tops will need to be approx. 5 cm long by 3cm wide. If you can slice the cucumbers to yield pieces that size, then great. They’ll just need to be thin! The peppers will be easier to shape into nigiri toppings. It doesn’t matter if they’re slightly odd-shaped, you just have to form the rice to fit that shape. Just trim the edges to neaten them. For any pieces of pepper or cucumber that don’t make the nigiri grade size, just cut them into lengths – these will be the fillings for the centre of the maki sushi – it doesn’t matter if they’re short pieces.

Make your sushi – Maki rolls

  1. Lay a clean tea towel on the bench in front of you, place the bamboo rolling mat on it. Get a small bowl of cold water with a splash of rice vinegar to dip your fingers. Have a small bowl of light soy sauce and another of wasabi to hand.
  2. Take a sheet of the nori out of the packet. One side should be shinier than the other; lay it square on the rolling mat, shiny side down (the shiny side will be the outside of your maki roll; it looks slightly better but doesn’t affect the taste or texture).
  3. Wet your fingers in the water/vinegar mix and place small lumps of the sushi rice onto the nori. Press them down onto the nori sheet – don’t use too much pressure, or you’ll squish the rice, but enough for a reasonably firm press. You want to cover the sheet EXCEPT for about a 3cm clear space on the edge furthest away from you. The rice needs to have a uniform thickness across the nori sheet – about 2 or 3 grains of rice thickness. Don’t worry about getting the edges to the right and left of the sheet all neat – once it’s rolled up, you’ll trim those bits off. 
  4. So, now you should have a white sheet of nori in front of you with the farthest edge still a strip of beautiful green nori. Using your finger or the back of a spoon dip it into the soy sauce and brush a line from left to right about a quarter of the way up the rice. You may need 2 or 3 goes until you’ve painted a faint soy line across. If you want wasabi in it, do the same thing. 
  5. Then, grab your filling! Cucumber strips or pepper strips or both and lay them along the line of soy and wasabi. Now comes the fun bit – roll up the sheet of rice covered nori: Just before you start to dampen the edge of the clear nori farthest away from you – this is so it’ll stick and hold together. Then, pick up the edges of the rolling mat closest to you, your thumb and forefinger on each corresponding corner, lightly hold the rice sheet in place with your middle finger and roll the edge closest to you up and over the filling, tucking the edge of the nori/rice underneath itself. Don’t get the rolling mat caught up in it. You should be lifting it away and then just roll the newly-formed cylinder away from you all the way to the end. You’ll need to get the rolling pressure right – too loose and it’ll be saggy, too tight and the nori will split. Then encircle the whole cylinder in the rolling mat and just lightly squeeze with your hands, moving it around so that it’s perfectly round. And boom, that’s it. Unwrap the cylinder and pop it aside while you make more, or get on with the nigiri.

Make your sushi – Nigri

  1. Dampen your hands a little, you’ll form the rice ball in your palm so make sure it’s moist. Plop a lump of sushi rice into your waiting palm. The amount depends on what topping you’re thinking of – but go for one the same size as the ones you’ve bought before! 
  2. Squeeze it a little so that it elongates and holds together fairly well. Then look at the shape of the pepper/cucumber slice you have ready and form the ball into that shape. It’ll need to sit well on the plate, so the bottom needs to be flattish. 
  3. Take a tiny dab of wasabi and pop it in the middle, on top, and then lay your topping on it. From here, you can carefully fit the rice to the correct shape. Ideally, you’re looking at being unable to see the rice if you look straight down on it. If you want to be a bit flash, cut a strip of nori from a fresh sheet. This is gonna wrap around the narrow part of the nigiri and hold the topping in place as well as look smart, so cut it so that it’ll overlap by a centimetre or so, dab one end with the vinegar/water mix you’re using for your hands. Then, pop the nigiri upside down in the centre of the strip (so the rice part is now uppermost), bring the edges of the nori strip up over the top and stick them together. Spin the nigiri back over, and there you will find a beautiful piece of sushi!

Chef’s Notes

The nigiri can just be placed artfully on a plate. For the maki roll – dampen a sharp knife and trim each end off (these are the chef’s treats) – the cross section should be beautiful! Then, dampening the knife each time it feels like it’s starting to stick, cut it into bite-sized pieces – you should get 8-10 per roll.

Serve on a gorgeous plate with a small ramekin of soy sauce, a blob of wasabi and some pickled ginger. The ginger is meant as a palate cleanser between bites or between different flavours.

Mike Keen aka mike@eatyourenvironment

Recipe by:

Mike Keen

IG: @eatyourenvironment

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