I spend so much of my time reading cookbooks, trawling the internet for recipes that only require those ingredients that I have access to. I’ve become pretty good at adapting and experimenting – and things turn out pretty well..... most of the time anyway. I can get amazing seafood here (and it's super cheap) and I can buy some decent vegetables (like tomatoes, onion, garlic, aubergine, potatoes, pumpkin, carrots). I can get some herbs. I can buy pretty much anything that comes in a can. I can get tough local beef, frozen legs of lamb that travel all the way from New Zealand and frozen chickens from Brazil (Brazil dominates much of the African frozen chicken market). Thanks to the significant Indian and Lebanese communities here I can get some great spices. We also smuggle in various key ingredients in our suitcases every time we travel. So things really ain’t bad. But you need to get a bit creative to keep things interesting. The first recipe I'm going to share with you is one for 'Tai-Meshi' - which literally translates from Japanese to 'Snapper Rice'. We had this last Wednesday night. It's delicious and super easy.
You'll need the following:
3 cups rice (use Japonica rice if you have it, if not, use whatever you have)
Stock - we use dashi (Japanese fish stock), if you can't get that just use normal fish stock, or vegetable stock. We use a rice cooker but you can use a normal saucepan. Put in enough stock to cover the rice plus a centimeter on top (or just whatever proportion of rice to water you are used to working with)
A small whole snapper scaled and gutted (or whatever fish you have, you don't have to use a whole fish, but it is best when the bones and skin are used as these give the rice additional flavor.
A piece of kombu (seaweed) - this adds great flavor but don't worry too much if you don't have it
Wash the rice, drain it. Add in the stock. Place the fish on top of the rice, throw in the kombu. If you're using a rice cooker put it on the normal setting (not the speedy setting). If you're using a saucepan, bring the pan to the boil. Cover the pan with a lid and cook over the lowest heat possible for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and rest for 10 minutes. Discard the kombu, put the fish on a separate plate (it's really good with a little bit of soy sauce). Dish out the rice into bowls and dig in.
This is more than enough for two or even three people. We always cook too much and give whatever is leftover to our guards and Sorie (he lives in a house on the side of ours and does things like turn our generator on and off, clean the compound, and fixes things here and there). You can also make 'onigiri' (rice balls) and have them for lunch the following day. You can make these by waiting till the rice has cooled enough so that you can handle it with your hands and then working them into triangles (see the photo for Toshi's demonstration). We added furikake (these are delicious sprinkles of various things such as dried fish, dried soy beans, sesame, shiso, and lots of other yummy things). You could add some other spices, herbs or nothing at all. If you're putting the onigiri in the fridge overnight make sure you store them in an air tight container because dried-out rice is gross.