Furikake is a tasty seasoning that Japanese people sprinkle on rice or roll onigiri in for an extra layer of flavour and texture; it transforms a simple bowl of rice and is widely sold in little shakers in supermarkets across Japan, with plenty of variations - sweet, spicy, fishy, etc. It's one of those things I ate fairly often when I lived in Japan as a child, but had completely forgotten about until it was served with breakfast at our ryokan in Kyoto.
As you can see, the main ingredients are sesame seeds and seaweed. Traditionally, it has flakes of dried bonito (fish), which are very common in Japan, but of course much more difficult to come by in the UK...and also not to everyone's taste!
When I was in my local Tesco recently, they had a huge new section of global ingredients and a big selection of grinders holding different seasonings and salts. It was these grinders that inspired me to recreate furikake at home and I don't think I'll ever rice on its own again!
To make one small jar
2 - 3 sheets nori seaweed
3 heaped tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp seasoning of choice
For the seasoning, look out for ones with chunky crystals and a few different ingredients; I actually went for this pre-ground one. You could also make your own mixture to suit your tastes and what you have in the cupboard - try chilli flakes, pepper, flavoured salts and paprika.
In a dry frying pan, toast the sesame seeds until just browned. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, use scissors to cut the seaweed into super-fine strips. I tried doing this in a food processor - it doesn't work - but using scissors really doesn't take more than 5 minutes.
Combine all of the ingredients in a jar and use liberally in the kitchen. It's not just good on rice, it can be used to season meat and fish or sprinkled over scrambled eggs and salads.
For a super simple lunch, you can't beat salmon and avocado on rice. In the same aisle at Tesco I also found dried mushrooms, which are really useful to have in the cupboards; I bought a mixture of shiitake, oyster and porcini mushrooms which give a lovely, subtly savouriness to the dish. You just have to soak them in hot water for half an hour - I also add a splash of soy sauce - and they're ready to eat. Instead of throwing away the soaking water, keep it in a jar: it's really handy to have on hand to bring extra depth to Asian noodle soups and stir fries.
I ate this on a Sunday and then brought it into work for lunch the following day (with the toppings separated from the rice) and it's really delicious if you microwave the rice with a splash of the reserved mushroom soaking water and then mix everything all together.
I think furikake might be my new thing...I'm already thinking up different combinations of seeds, salts and even some fresh ingredients (lime zest?) to line my cupboards with!