Mushroom and Bok Choy Congee with Barnyard Millet

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Congee, a popular asian dish, is typically made by cooking rice in broth until it reaches a thick, creamy, and porridge-like consistency. It serves as a versatile base that can be customised with a variety of toppings and seasonings. Common toppings include shredded chicken, minced pork, seafood, vegetables, tofu, chopped scallions, and various condiments like soy sauce, sesame oil, and chilli oil. Ankita, from our Millet Cooking Lab, fondly remembers her mother preparing this dish for her when she used to return tired after college. Congee is a nourishing and soothing dish that is easy to digest and often served to those feeling under the weather. This is why many people have fond memories of their mothers surrounding this comforting dish. This recipe replaces rice with barnyard millet.
Mushroom stems 10
Bok choy ends 2
Carrot, chopped 1
Celery stalk, chopped 1
Onion, skin on ½
Garlic, skin on 4-5 cloves
Ginger, skin on ½ inch
Star anise 1
Whole peppercorns 8
Bay leaves 2
Dried shiitake mushroom (optional) 1
Oil 1 teaspoon
Barnyard millet, soaked overnight 1 cup
Prepared stock 6 cups
Salt to taste
Ajinomoto (optional) ½ teaspoon
Toasted sesame oil 5-6 drops
Mushrooms, sliced 10
Minced garlic ¼ teaspoon
White pepper powder ¼ teaspoon
Salt To taste
Bok choy, leaves and stalks separated 2 heads
Chili oil, for drizzling

A wok and a heavy-bottomed pot.

1

To prepare the broth, start by heating a wok on high heat for a minute. Turn the heat off and let the wok cool down for 30 seconds, after which, add the oil. Add the dry spices, onion, ginger, and garlic to the wok, and turn the gas back on to a high flame. Roast until the ingredients are slightly charred.

 

2

Add all the roasted spices, vegetables, and the soaked dried shiitake mushroom in a soup pot. Pour water and let the mix simmer on a medium flame for 45 minutes, covered. Strain the stock and keep it aside.

 

3

To make the congee, start by draining the soaked millet and add it to a pressure cooker along with the prepared stock and salt, to taste. Cook for 6 whistles on low to medium flame.

4

Let the pressure cooker cool down, and then stir the millet thoroughly to reach a porridge-like consistency. Add a little more water if required, to adjust the thickness.

 

5

Add half a teaspoon of ajinomoto (optional) and a few drops of toasted sesame oil to the congee. Mix well and keep aside.

6

For the toppings, start by stir-frying the sliced mushrooms in a little oil along with minced garlic, white pepper powder, and salt to taste. Set aside.

 

7

Boil water in a pot, and add the bok choy stalks. Blanch them for 2-3 minutes, then add in the bok choy leaves and cook for an additional minute, or until the leaves are slightly wilted. Take the boy choy out and quickly transfer to a bowl of ice water. This will help the bok choy retain its crunch. Take them out of the water and set aside.

8

To assemble, serve the congee in a bowl, and top with the stir-fried mushrooms and bok choy. Drizzle some chili oil on top and serve hot.

 

Tips and variations

You can prepare the broth a day prior.

 

Soak the shiitake mushrooms overnight, if possible, as this will make them even more tender and flavorful.

 

Using toasted sesame oil adds a nutty flavour to the congee. But be careful not to add too much as it can overpower the other flavours.

 

When cooking the bok choy, make sure not to overcook it as it can become mushy. 

 

A large variety of toppings can be added to a congee. You can also add dumplings to your congee. To do this, you can either cook the dumplings separately and serve them on top of the congee, or you can simmer them directly in the congee until they are fully cooked. 

 

These dumplings could be of any variety including pork and chive dumplings, shrimp dumplings, or even vegetarian dumplings filled with tofu and vegetables.

Chef Ankita Jain has spent more than 15 years working as a chocolatier. While she enjoyed shaping the kitchen at Harsh Chocolates, her passion for healthier food led her to start Bicycle Kitchen. Over the past three years, she has experimented with millet-based recipes and perfected them.

 

Sayani Sengupta is a chef volunteer for the MRP cooking lab and a home chef based out of Kolkata. Sayani runs her own food brand, Gooseberri, for which she often writes recipes. Her recipes have also featured in Bengali magazines, such as Sananda, as well as other publications like Times of India, Telegraph, and Indulge Express.

 

This recipe is part of the Millet Revival Project 2023, The Locavore’s modest attempt to demystify cooking with millets, and learn the impact that it has on our ecology. This initiative, in association with Rainmatter Foundation, aims to facilitate the gradual incorporation of millets into our diets, as well as create a space for meaningful conversation and engagement so that we can tap into the resilience of millets while also rediscovering its taste.

 

Rainmatter Foundation is a non-profit organisation that supports organisations and projects for climate action, a healthier environment, and livelihoods associated with them. The foundation and The Locavore have co-created this Millet Revival Project for a millet-climate outreach campaign for urban consumers. To learn more about the foundation and the other organisations they support, click here.

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