Congee, back in the Ming dynasty, was used as a vehicle for medicinal herbs. Even without the herbs, it is such a great vehicle for love, comfort and nourishment. It is comfort food indeed, eaten at any time but especially when one is feeling under the weather, or has stomach trouble. It is also reputed to be suitable for eating when one has a hangover.
Most people think of congee as a rice porridge, but depending on where you lived in Asia, your congee might be made with millet, barley, corn, mung beans or other legumes, mixed with or without rice. Sadly, it is only the South China version made with rice that has become known more universally, probably because it is so creamy and mild. Congee has lots of names across the world too, eg jook (Cantonese, Korean), jok (Thailand), zhou (Mandarin), kanji (Tamil), chao (Vietnamese), canja (Portugese). In Thailand, they mix additional ingredients into the congee, but in China, it is served with toppings and sides.
Congee is a great way to prepare a meal out of nothing. A cup of rice, lentils or grain can be cooked with 8 – 10 cups of water and whatever flavourings are available in the pantry at the time. I prefer to cook congee in a clay pot, easily available from any Chinese store, as it gives a better flavour.
And most of all, congee is a meal that’s all about personal preference. Cook your chosen grain or lentil, for as long as it takes to get your perfect texture, flavour it as you will, and add the toppings that you enjoy. Today’s congee is made with Oats and Quinoa, a delicious combination that is perfect for breakfast or day time snack. Unlike our other congee recipes, it is one that is sweetened with the addition of dried fruit while cooking.
Sweet Quinoa and Oat Congee
0.25 cups rolled oats
0.25 cups quinoa
1 Tblspn short grain rice
4 – 6 cups water
2 star anise
0.25 tspn fennel or anise seeds
1 handful raisins or currants
toppings (your choice…)
I have used Poached Oranges and Vanilla Ricotta – it is delicious, but you can also use any combination of:
a dollop of any jam
fruit, sliced or chopped
nuts – slivered almonds, chopped hazelnuts, pistachios, etc
soaked, dried fruits, eg soaked dried apricots, plums
pinch cardamom powder
yoghurt, cottage cheese, or ricotta
Rinse the rice, then combine all of the ingredients in a Chinese Clay pot or other heavy cooking pot. Cover, bring to the boil slowly, and simmer very slowly for 2 – 4 hours until your desired consistency is reached. Add more water as necessary. If using a clay pot, a heat diffuser can be used.
The congee can also be cooked in the oven overnight, on the lowest setting.
When cooked, top the congee with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, and sliced or chopped fruits. Add any toppings of your choice from the list above.
Serve warm and enjoy.
recipe notes and additions
I have topped today’s bowl of congee with Poached Oranges (including some Blood Orange), the delightful syrup that is produced while poaching oranges, and a mix of ricotta, yoghurt and vanilla. You can see the recipe below.
This recipe can make a savoury porridge too. Omit the dried fruit and add your choice of flavourings and toppings from the list in this Congee recipe.