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The kitchen is a vast cavern of workstations and ovens and yet, steam emanating from one corner has begun to fill the void and is encroaching on a prep station occupied by Grillardin. Grillardin is a friendly Dwarven warrior who is in charge of the grill station. He has been keeping an eye on you since your arrival. Despite being a dwarf, he’s actually taller than you are. In fact, he is larger than you in every respect. He turns to look at the source of all the steam and sees you wrestling with a large pan overflowing with rice.
You lift off the heavy lid and let out a yelp as the steam hits your arm and scolds you more than words ever could.
Persevering, you lift the heavy pan to a sink and try to tip out its contents into a sieve. There’s far too much, excess water sploshes onto the floor, the sieve is buried, rice spills over into the sink, blocks the plug and the large pan crashes to the floor and you with it. You look up to see Grillardin looming over you.
“What are you doing” He asks
“For how many?”
“Four what, four villages?”
You smile sheepishly. Grillardin grabs a spoon of rice from the top of the pile and tastes it.
“This is no good, it’s gloopy, did you rinse it first?”
He can tell by your expression that you did not. He exhales loudly.
“Throw this away, clean up, we’ll start again”
Get your print and play skill tree ready for some kitchen XP.
Time to get cooking – perfect rice
The perfect portion of rice is 90g per person. You can round this up to 100g if it’s easier or you want a little extra left over.
A small tumbler glass full should be enough for 2 people.
Take the rice and rinse under a cold tap, this removes the dust and starch.
You’ll need 1.5x as much water as rice (100g rice = 150ml water).
So, for four people;
- 400g long grain white rice (2x tumblers full)
- 600ml water
- For extra XP you can add some aromatics at this stage
- 2x cardamom pods
- 1x star anise
- 1x veg stock cube
+1 Alchemist what is this?
- Fresh herbs chopped thoroughly (any you like)
Once the rice is rinsed, put it in a saucepan with the water (Cardamom, star anise and stock cube). Season with salt and pepper. Place a lid on the pan and bring to the boil quickly. Once it’s boiling, stir it once, turn the heat down to medium and let it simmer for 8-10 minutes. Try to resist taking the lid off or you’ll let out the steam that’s cooking your rice.
Once it’s done, turn the heat off. The water should have evaporated completely. Fluff the rice with a spoon or fork and lay a clean tea towel over the top of the pan (this will soak up excess steam) and fish out your aromatics. After a minute stir in your chopped herbs until they have been enveloped by the rice.
A quick note on keeping, cooling and reheating rice.
Rice is one of a few foods that has a high rate of bacteria growth once cooled below 60 degrees C. In a professional kitchen they would use a blast chiller to accelerate the cooling process in order to get the rice below a good temp for bacteria as quickly as possible.
This is no reason to discard leftover rice however. As long as you re-heat it thoroughly to 80 degrees C you’ll be fine. I hate wasting food and letting the germs think they’ve won.
Tofu in Black Bean Sauce
I never liked Tofu until I tried this. If you can’t cope without meat, you can always substitute the tofu for a nice steak, but I urge you to expand your horizons.
For 4 portions you will need;
- 1x 500g block of firm tofu (Not the soft stuff, it will fall apart)
- 2 x Bell peppers
- 1x Chili (Dealer’s choice, you know how hot you like things)
- 4x Spring onions
- 2x cloves of garlic
- 1x tin black beans drained
- 8x tbsp (150ml) Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
- 8x tbsp (150ml) Soy sauce
- 4x tbsp (75ml) Sesame oil
- Groundnut oil for cooking
- 2x tsp fish sauce (leave out if vegetarian/vegan)
- 1x tsp sugar
Cut the tofu into 1cm slices, you should get 16 out of a block. Mix the Shaoxing, fish sauce, soy, sugar and sesame oil in a bowl and add the slices of tofu. Cover and refrigerate, leave to marinade for at least an hour (overnight is ideal).
When ready to cook, get the tofu out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature. While this is happening cut your peppers into strips, slice your chili and cut the garlic as small as you dare. Chop the spring onions and keep the green bits separate, we’ll use them for garnish.
+2 Knife skills
A note on chili.
If you hold onto the stalk of the chili whilst chopping you can avoid getting it on your fingers. If you want the dish to be less spicy, remove the seeds.
Line a frying pan with parchment paper. Follow the diagram to see the correct way to do this:
Put the ground nut oil in and put over a high heat.
Lining the pan will stop delicate proteins from sticking, I use the same technique when shallow frying fish.
Ground nut oil isn’t an essential ingredient but it is worth considering that in East Asia, they don’t really have olive trees so using olive oil will make it taste less authentic.
Once the pan is on the verge of smoking, sear the tofu on both sides. Once done set aside. RETAIN THE REMAINING MARINADE.
In a large wok, heat some more oil. Once up to temperature (again, about to smoke) add the garlic, sliced pepper, chili and spring onions.
Keep the ingredients moving in the pan. Ideally, you’ll be moving the pan around and tossing the veg in a flamboyant fashion. After a minute or so, add the remaining marinade, let the ingredients rest and the sauce come to the boil. Once it does, add the black beans.
Turn the heat down and leave the pan to simmer. Dish the rice into bowls, spoon some of the veg and bean mix on top. Add 4 slices of tofu and sprinkle with the spring onion greens.
Add soy sauce to salt at your leisure.
As you lift a fork of rice from your bowl you can see that it’s perfect. Every grain is separate and clean, a light steam delivers the smell the aromatics to your nose like a carton pie. Just as the fork reaches your mouth, a loud and familiar voice breaks the moment and startles you.
The fork and rice spin from your hand uncontrollably clattering to the floor
“Why the hell is my sink blocked?”
As you try desperately to command an answer from your mind the point is rendered rhetorical as chef snatches your bowl from your hand and replaces it with a plunger.
Chef empties your bowl with a single mouthful
“Hmm that’s good rice, keep it up.”
Paul Flannery – Treguard of Dunshelm and Kitchen Master