At this rate, I may as well make it official, pivot into a ‘breakfast only’ website and not worry about my lack of enthusiasm for anything else. If you’ll stick around, I promise to make it worth your while with (more!) French toast variations and nestling eggs into anything that even closely resembles a sauce. Christ, I’m predictable aren’t I? (But I’m kidding. Until roasted veggies and salads make it into the mainstream breakfast scene, I’m going to stay put for now.)

Congee is a type of rice porridge eaten in Asian countries. Although typically associated with East Asian cuisine, the name originated in India and comes from the tamil kanji. (I’ve called it congee here only because I’ve made this Chinese-style. Calling it kanji and topping it with shiitake mushrooms and cooking the oats in stock sounded too bizarre.)

Although the flavourings are typical to a Chinese congee, I use oatmeal here instead of rice. We eat oats a lot for breakfast and I’ve been on the lookout to try them in more savoury applications. Pretty sure this idea dawned on me whilst in the middle of doing bills, folding laundry or some such thrilling activity, but goodness, was I excited. Tried it the very next morning and happy/sad to announce that there’s no going back to eating them any other way now.

I like rolled oats here and wouldn’t substitute them with instant. Rolled oats break down but still have a bite to them; instant would completely disintegrate. (Steel-cut would also work because they hold their shape upon cooking. They take an age to cook though so plan accordingly.)

I really try to give alternatives for obscure, hard-to-find ingredients in my recipes. I’m afraid there’s no substitute for dried shiitakes here though. You could just do button mushrooms but the real depth comes from dried shiitakes. I soak them for at least half an hour to soften and rehydrate them before using. Save the soaking liquid. This has so much flavour and forms a part of the ‘stock’ that the oats will cook in. Although shiitakes are not easily available in stores, they’re one the few ingredients I always make an effort to source. In their dried form, they keep for ages and a few mushrooms are all you need to add that umami savouriness to dishes. (Asian grocers always have them. If not, online?)

I use a pressure-cooker here to cook the oats. It gets the job done a lot quicker than if you were to use a regular pot. To cook the oats, you simply bung everything together – oats, ginger, spring onions, salt, water, shiitake soaking liquid and a stock cube, and cook until you have a porridge consistency. Divide into bowls and top with a generous heap of sautéed mushrooms, raw sliced ginger, spring onion tops, chilli oil and a dash of soy. Eat up!

OATMEAL CONGEE WITH MUSHROOMS

Servings: 2 people

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3 inch piece of ginger
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 150 grams button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 3 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 stock cube
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • ¼ teaspoon Toasted sesame oil (optional)
  • Salt, to taste

Toppings:

  • 1 inch piece of ginger, cut into thin strips
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • Chilli oil
  • Spring onion tops

Instructions

  • Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the dried shiitake mushrooms. Let them rehydrate for at least 30 mins. Once they’ve softened remove their woody stems and discard. Thinly slice and set aside. Retain the soaking liquid.
  • Bruise the 3 inch piece of ginger with the flat of your knife. Add to a pressure cooker or pot along with rolled oats, spring onions (the bottom parts), salt and the stock cube. Pour in 3 cups of water and the shiitake soaking liquid.
  • Clamp on the lid and cook until the oats have completely broken down. This takes about 7 mins in a pressure cooker; will take longer in a pot. (Keep an eye out in the pot and add more water if necessary.) You want the consistency of a thick porridge.
  • Meanwhile sauté the mushrooms: add oil to a large, wide pan over high heat and first toss in the shiitakes. Cook, moving them around for about 3 mins.
  • Tip in the button mushrooms and continue cooking over a high heat until they brown and lightly caramelize. Let all the water evaporate before you take them off the heat. Toss with toasted sesame oil if using.
  • Fish out the piece of bruised ginger from the oats and discard. Divide between bowls and top with mushrooms, ginger slices, chilli oil, 1 teaspoon of soy in each bowl, and spring onion tops. Serve hot.

 

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