Friday, 15 October 2010

Congee with pan fried scallops and spring onions

I'm feeling under the weather, and just in time for the weekend. That tell tale tickle at the back of my throat is already starting to develop into something more sinister. Drastic action is needed...

Congee is the Chinese equivalent of chicken soup in Jewish cuisine, something infinitely and indefinably comforting. If I'm poorly, I make congee and everything seems a bit brighter than before.

A basic congee is just a thick, soup-like mixture of rice, water and salt - this may not sound enormously appetising I admit, but this mixture is just a blank canvas. My mum used to boil a whole chicken then add the stock and meat to the congee. My favourite version now has dried scallops or salted eggs but using fresh white fish is a good option too. Finish with some finely sliced spring onions, a drizzle of fragrant sesame oil, and a dash of soy sauce. Or like I did today, quickly caramelise a few plump scallops in a pan and spoon over some oniony, gingery supersauce (minus the chilli).

1 cup long grain rice (not basmati, it's too aromatic)
12 cups water
6 dried shitaki mushrooms
a piece of kombu seaweed
300g cod, sliced
3 spring onions, green parts only, finely sliced
6 fat scallops, cleaned and lightly oiled
10g butter
Sesame oil and soy sauce, to serve

1) Place the rice, water, kombu, mushrooms and cod into a very large pan, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for about 1 hour, stirring frequently.  The congee is done when it is porridge-like in consistency and the grains have broken down into a creamy soup.  You may need to add a little more water.

2) Remove the kombu and season the congee.  Now heat a frying pan until very hot and cook the scallops for a minute on each side, then add the butter and cook for another minute.  Ladle the congee into a couple of deep bowls and top with the scallops and the spring onions.  Add soy sauce and sesame oil to taste, or some of the beautiful green supersauce.

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