It can often be tricky to make a do-ahead starter that is elegant, appetising and gluten and dairy free, but I think this Japanese-inspired plateful of goodness makes the perfect kick off to any meal.
With my fairly newfound acceptance of sorbet (I used to proudly describe them as a cold, wet yawn), I thought it was time to move on from citrus and berries and crack on to the savoury. Sweet, fruity sorbets can be refreshing and zingy (especially when pepped up with a slug of booze), but I wanted something that could happily stand up to protein. I’ve already tried my hand at Bloody Mary sorbet to serve with cheese, and I’d definitely recommend you have a go yourselves at that one, but this week I wanted to try something a little bit different.
The whole creation of this dish came about from a pun. We may have been overtired, we may have finished most of a bottle of wine, but the fusion of the words wasabi and sorbet to make “wasorbet” made my boyfriend and I giggle enough to know I had to turn this pun into a reality. And, delightfully silly name aside, who can resist the idea of creating something ice cold that gives off residual heat?
For my savoury wasorbet, I was concerned that using classic sugar stock syrup would make the final result too sweet. Liquid glucose is 20% less sweet than sugar, so I decided to use it as a sugar substitute. It also gives a smoother result, because the process of creating liquid glucose (inverting sugar) breaks down the molecules in a way that means they cannot reform and crystallise. This is great news for ice creams and sorbets, as the goal is to make them as smooth and grain-free as possible, by ensuring no crystals form during the freezing process.
I adore beetroot, and it is incredibly quick and easy to pickle, especially if you don’t faff about trying to carve out perfect circles (like I did). Beetroot is in season right now, and this jewel-bright root makes for a gloriously colourful summer plate, especially against the minty green of the wasorbet. The final component to my dish was seared beef sashimi, which I marinated in ginger, garlic, chilli, spring onions, Tamari (gluten free Japanese soy sauce), mirin and a splash of sesame oil for a few hours, before quickly searing. I love the ferrous tang and silky, yielding flesh of a raw fillet, but make sure you neither cook it, nor serve it, straight from the fridge.
Although expensive, serving beef fillet in paper-thin slices makes it go a long way. I bought a piece of meat that was about two steaks’ thick and it served seven people, with a few cook’s treat offcuts leftover. I passed the marinating liquor through a sieve and reduced it in a saucepan and left it to cool before spooning a little over the sashimi. If raw beef turns you off, you can substitute it for seared marinated tuna or even just smoked salmon, which wouldn’t even require the effort of marinating or searing. Serve with hot sake.
125g liquid glucose
1 large cucumber, topped and tailed and cut into chunks (don’t peel it)
½ small clove of garlic, finely chopped - or you can just Microplane it into straight into the food processor (optional)
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp. salt
2 – 3 tsp. wasabi paste (wasabi powder mixed with water)
1 egg white
Measure the liquid glucose straight into a saucepan (if you’re using digital scales) or warm a tablespoon in hot water and measure out 6 and ½ tablespoons into the saucepan – this stuff is too sticky to pour easily from one vessel to another. Pour the water on top and heat gently until melted and smooth. In the meantime, blitz the cucumber in a food processor to a liquid. Add the citrus zest and juice and salt and blitz again. Push the whole lot through a fine meshed sieve and add the liquid to the water and glucose. Discard the contents of the sieve. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the wasabi paste. Taste for heat – you want it to be quite fiery – adding more if you wish. Leave to cool to room temperature. Whisk the egg white until soft peaks form and fold it into the liquid until fully incorporated. Transfer the mixture into an ice cream machine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve on a shiso leaf (available in Japanese and Asian supermarkets. I bought mine from the Japan Centre) with a few slices of beetroot, which has been pickled for 4 hours in 250ml of rice vinegar, 125g sugar, 250ml water and 30g of salt. Finally, arrange a few thin slices of your room temperature sashimi and drizzle with the reduced marinating juices.