dish served

Brace Yourselves: Summer Cooking Is Nearly Mastered

Summer in the Northern hemisphere may be over, but a great salad evokes memories of the warm at any time of year. Tackling salads, dressings, and marinade, Paul Flannery dons his chef apron and giant D20 to continue to level up your cooking stat.

Summer food can get complicated quickly; multiple pan dishes, tropical fruits, expensive ingredients… But it doesn’t have to be that way.

My go-to dinner during the warmer months is very simple;

Salad, marinated meat (or tofu) and some rice.

You can find a good recipe for making rice here.

Here I’m going to give you a few examples of the first two elements, starting simple and building ourselves up. By the end you should have the building blocks to start experimenting on your own.

SALADS

Surely salads are easy, surely there’s nothing to explain here? You might think that but I’ve eaten plenty of bad salads in my time and have honed a good formula for making them which I stick to fairly rigorously.

LORE: Limit your salad to three ingredients plus leaves and seeds.

Seeds? Yes, you might see little packets of them in supermarkets marked ‘salad toppers’. Don’t buy those, get Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts in bulk amounts to cut costs and have a mixed tub of them at the ready to sprinkle on your salad for a massive nutrition and texture modifier.

salad 1

You can also just add almost any fresh herbs to a salad. Parsley is an oft-overlooked herb; it’s not exotic nor exciting but it is literally one of the healthiest things you can put in your body. Hide it in a salad, smuggle it into your loved ones, let them be your parsley mules.

So first up; 

Level 1 – Idiot Salad

Named for obvious reasons, it adheres to the basic rules of salad and requires so little prep it’s almost criminal.

  • Leaves
  • Cucumber – deseeded and diced                                                                            1XP Knife Skills
  • 1x tin sweetcorn (drained)
  • 1x jar black olives (drained)
  • Seeds

+1XP Transmutation

+1XP Paladin

+1XP Druid

You don’t have to deseed the cucumber but your bowl will become waterlogged overnight if you don’t.

idiot salad

Level 2 – Watermelon & Feta Salad

  • Leaves
  • Watermelon (cubed)
  • Greek salad cheese (feta, also cubed)
  • Fresh mint (slice thinly or chiffonade if you will)
  • Seeds

+3XP Knife Skills

+1XP Transmutation

+2XP Paladin

+1XP Druid

LORE: When cutting any soft cheese, dip your knife in piping hot water for a few seconds first to enable a clean cut, a cafetiere is ideal for this.

watermelon feta salad

Level 3 – Orange, fennel & caper salad

This one is a little more ‘out there’ in terms of flavour but does go really well with fish (as well as the tofu I paired it with).

  • Leaves
  • Orange (Peeled, chopped into small chunks)
  • Fennel (shaved thinly)
  • Capers
  • Seeds

+3XP Knife Skills

+1XP Transmutation

+1XP Paladin

+1XP Druid

To shave the fennel thinly enough I recommend getting a Japanese Mandolin. Or, if you have time, pickle it (I have an article on pickling coming soon).

orange fennel caper salad

MARINADES

I love to marinade, it feels very much akin to potion-making. There are hundreds of different ways to make marinades and millions of different combinations. What I will attempt here is to give you the tools and confidence to go and make your own.

You’ll need a basic understanding of the five major flavours; Sweet, salty, sour, spicy and umami. A good marinade will usually incorporate at least three of these.

One good exercise is to take a paste or sauce that you love and try “stretching” it into a marinade. For instance Sriracha;

Sriracha is already spicy, so to extend its flavour, we need only to add the other sides of the palette. Start with a little oil, this will give the marinade a nice silky texture. Pick an appropriate oil for your base flavour.

LORE – Olives don’t grow in the Far East, hence Asian food being cooked in sesame oil. Match your oil to the region of the food you’re cooking for better results. 

sauces

So add some sesame oil (texture), some white wine vinegar (sour), fish sauce (umami), dash of soy sauce (salty), drop of honey (sweet).

Test the flavour, have we lost the Sriracha? Add more, is it too sour? Add more honey. Play with it until it tastes good to you. Trust your instincts.

Once you understand the five main flavours, you can really begin to manipulate your food; Curry too hot? Add some honey to mask it. Broth too salty? Try adding some vinegar or lemon juice. You can even apply something absorbent to soak up the salt like a potato or better yet, rice (suspend in the dish using a sieve so you can extract it easily once engorged).

Gochujang Chicken

Gochujang is a Korean red pepper paste and it is my most recent culinary obsession! It tastes… look, just buy some, I honestly don’t have the superlatives to describe it, it’s amazing. Gochujang, even the name is sexy!

I’ve been making this chicken dish all summer long, but the marinade will work on most things though so go nuts.

If you are using chicken I can’t recommend these skinless boneless thighs enough; tastier, juicier and cheaper than the breast meat and, with the pesky bones removed, so easy to use. Don’t be put off by their irregular shape, all the more area to be charred.

Gochujang

Marinade

Equal parts (roughly 2 tablespoons in shown recipe)

  • Gochujang
  • Sesame oil
  • Fish Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Honey
  • Vinegar (white wine ideally)

Mix together with thighs (or Tofu) and leave covered overnight (or at least a couple of hours). Preheat your oven to its HOTTEST SETTING! That’s right, all the way up.

Lay the thighs on a wire racked oven tray and put them in the fiery inferno that is your oven for about 20 mins.

When done, the honey should have caramelised and charred black, this is a good thing.

Serve this up with idiot salad and rice or put it in a wrap or take it to a barbeque so people can gush at your brilliance. I never tire of finding new ways of eating this so please get in touch with your preferred methods (@piratemoustache).

+1XP Transmutation

+1XP Alchemist

+1XP Pyromancy

Oyster Sauce Marinade

Salty one this so we’ve discarded the soy sauce from the line-up.

  • Oyster Sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Fish Sauce
  • Vinegar
  • Honey

Cook using the same method as the Gochujang and then realise it’s definitely second best to that peppery Korean beauty queen.

+1XP Transmutation

+1XP Alchemist

+1XP Pyromancy

Hoisin Marinade

Same method as before except Hoisin sauce is naturally sweet so we can do without the honey.

  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Fish Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Vinegar
  • Chillies (optional)

Mix with sliced, hard Tofu and leave overnight.

tofu

To achieve the black lines on the tofu as I have, you’ll need a cast-iron skillet. Heat it until it begins to smoke and then place the tofu slice on, turning them after about a minute.

This can be used in multiple dishes although I recommend pairing it with something that has a sour edge to compliment the sweetness of the Hoisin.

+1XP Transmutation

+1XP Alchemist

+1XP Pyromancy

dish served

Any leftover marinade can be heated up and used as a jus on the finished plate.

There you have it, summer sorted. Just in time!

Apologies for an absence of the usual story element this time but I have been really busy recently (Which is good as they never seem to tire of charging me rent where I live).

Next time, I promise.

Get the Role Play Gourmet Skill Tree to play along and upskill

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Paul Flannery

Creative Director, Actor, Writer, Musician at MMORPG Show
Paul Flannery is an award winning Comedian, Actor, Director, Improviser and Writer best known for Knightmare Live, the critically acclaimed stage adaption of the cult TV show. Paul has previously appeared at The Crystal Maze and his solo hour; The MMORPG Show won ‘Festival Spirit’ at VAULT 2016. You can also see him as Dr Benjamin Wilder Jnr at The Bewilder Box escape room in Brighton. His further work at VAULT in 2017 earned him an Outstanding Contribution award. Whilst spending the last 15 years as an actor, he managed to spend 9 of those working in various kitchens around the country subsidising his income and picking up an array of culinary skills and recipes. Role Play Gourmet is the coming together of several worlds. Born from a love of gaming, cooking and writing.
Paul Flannery
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