I live in Japan, and that changes what food I have access to, and what food is affordable. I don't have an oven, so scones and home made bread are a thing of the past. Butter costs a huge amount - as does peanut butter, dried pulses and even oats.
I feel weirdly disabled in the kitchen. I don't know how to make a quick, cheap meal anymore, now that I can't use so many of the ingredients and techniques I'm used to. I see all of these incredible foods around me and feel frustrated that I can't afford to pull a Julia Child and go to culinary school, immersing myself in cooking all day everyday.
But I'm not exactly sitting at home eating instant ramen either. I can cycle up to the farmer's market in the mountains and buy miso made locally, see piles of mustard greens come into season, and chat to my local vegetable sellers about who makes the best yuzu kosho (a green chili and yuzu paste which is local to the region I'm living in).
When I'm confused I ask at the vegetable market what to do with fuki, or other mountain vegetables, read Nancy Singleton Hachisu's cookbooks and occasionally, in moments of real desperation, just message someone on instagram asking "What on earth are these tiny, tiny leaves for?" (they're floated on top of miso soup as decoration it turns out, or ground up with white miso)
I love Japanese food, and living in Japan I'm only falling in love with it more. But when I'm down or stressed, I feel particularly far from home because so much of my comfort food is inaccessible - Irish oats with black treacle and greek yogurt à la Nigel Slater, or my mum's broccoli and stilton soup with soda bread and salted butter.
Maybe it's just because I don't have an oven, or maybe it's because I really love cheese but every now and again I do what lots of people would think laughable - I really miss British food.
There's one dish I crave sometimes which is so basic and so silly but so inaccessible I feel embarrassed and sad and nostalgic all rolled into one. My mum called it "orange dinner", and it is this: breaded chicken or fish, with chips and baked beans. And I love it. I love it with ketchup and absolutely no shame. And if I had an oven and lived in a bigger city I could probably cobble a version of it together, but right now it's somewhat tricky.
It's the dish I want to share today because it's what I want to eat today. And I can't - but I hope someone out there will, and enjoy it. In the meantime, I'll make the most of my experience here, knowing that as soon as I'm back in the UK, I will instantly miss Japanese food. Such is life. —Stottey
breaded chicken or fish
oven chips (crinkle cut if you're feeling fancy)
can of baked beans
In This Recipe
Cook the oven chips and breaded chicken or fish according to packet instructions.
Warm the beans on the hob until bubbling like lava.
Serve on the plate, with ketchup if you fancy, and a lot of nostalgia.