Congee or Jook (Chinese rice porridge) traditionally a Chinese dish, is a porridge made from grains (rice being the most common) and infused with herbs, vegetables, fruits or meats to make a nutritional and healing meal.
This is a medicinal food, perfect for the cooler months ahead. A food suitable for babies right through to the elderly. For those who have poor digestive function, low appetite, chronic nausea, acute illness (gastro, gastritis etc), chronic digestive illness (Ulcerative bowel, Chron's, SIBO) and for those in convalescence (There is a lot of convalescence needed at the moment!) or anyone who needs a soft, soothing comforting meal.
Congee is a salve to the digestive system, warming and soothing to the stomach, spleen and intestines, clearing heat, reducing swelling and detoxifying. It provides lots of ready to absorb nutrients and is also a delivery system for medicinal herbs you wish to add.
I fed congee to both my children when they were babies and it was a delicious, easy and nutritious meal for a tired mamma too. As Winter sets in, I hear the call for those warming comfort food dishes. My favourite ceramic cook pot winks at me and the herbs and spices glow from inside their glass jars. This is a simple dish yet versatile (sweet or savoury), plain or gung ho herby medicinal!
Firstly choose a grain- rice (white or brown long grain), barley, millet, quinoa and cornmeal.
Then choose savoury or sweet and curate your congee!
Vegetables- most commonly used are celery, leeks, carrot, sweet potato, butternut squash and parsnip.
Fruits- apples, pears, apricots, dates, prunes, figs
Meats- organic chicken, lamb, beef, pork
Roots- Astragalus, Codonposis, Withania, Rehmannia, licorice, ginger
Mushrooms- Shitake, Reishi fresh or dried
Seaweeds- wakame strips, arame or sprinkled golden kelp on top at the end
Herbs- fresh oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon and other greens you can add at the end.
For my clinic, I make up Broth packs with dried roots, dried mushrooms, seaweed and dried herbs and spices that can be used to enhance flavour and medical value to bone/ veggie broths and can be used for congee as well.
☞ 1 part grain
•☞ 7 parts water or stock (veg, chicken, beef)
• ☞ vegetables, herbs, medicinal plants, protein of your choice (about 1-2 cups of vegetables, and a good pinch of each plant you would like to use, protein- 2 chicken wings or legs or diced stewing steak
•☞ or fruit for sweet variation 2 cups chopped fruit. Try pear and date with finely chopped tarragon or apple with fresh sage and ground licorice .
•☞ Toppings - see below
Step 1- soak your grain over night in water and rinse off
Step 2- For plain congee (which you can add lots of toppings at the end), add your soaked grain and 7 parts water to a pot and slowly cook until soft porridge consistency.
Or for flavoured congee- combine your soaked grain, vegetables, medicinal plants and protein into your favourite cook pot and cover with the 7 parts water or broth/stock.
Step 3 On stove top- cook over low/med heat and partially covered for 2-4 hrs, stirring occasionally.
Slow cooker- cover and cook on low for 8 hrs.
Step 4 -when cooking is done, add some salt, seasoning and your toppings.
For sweet to add to the fruits- cinnamon, dried berries, honey, fresh chopped herbs like sage and thyme.
For savory- sesame seeds, tamari, coriander, parsley, shallots, poached egg, fish, mushrooms or tofu fried in olive oil and garlic.
An example of savoury would be
1 cup of jasmine or brown rice soaked
7 cups water /broth or a combo of both. Water works just fine and will result in the most plain congee allowing your toppings to be the flavour to the rice base.
2 cups veges- carrots, celery, parsnip and leek
2 chicken wings or legs
Medicinal plants- a small handful of dried shiitake and 2 dried reishi pieces (which you can remove after cooking), 1 strip of wakame, slices of fresh ginger
With the roots you can pop in a few long pieces of astragalus/ codonopsis/ rehmannia and pull them out after - chew them and taste their goodness and then spit to the side or use some of the ground powder of these roots that will mix right in.
Result- The warm bowl of Ahhhhh your body has been waiting for.