After my first attempt at congee I fancied another go to try and perfect the texture and thickness, this time with a rich lamb stock with lots of aromatic spices in. This amount served four. Some interesting history.
- half a scrag end of lamb, sliced
- one onion and one head garlic, cleaved in twain
- chilli, cloves, star anise, peppercorns, cinnamon and coriander seed
- two scant handfuls of rice
- medium chopped root vegetables, any veg lying around
- soy and fish sauce
First make the stock: brown the lamb, onion and garlic. If you are bothering to brown meat pre-stewing then you need to get plenty of colour on the meat to get the malliard reaction going. I read about scorching onions and garlic before going in the stockpot and, er, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Not sure it led to any extra flavour in the congee but it's not going to do any harm if you have the pan going already for the meat.
When it's done add to a pan of cold water along with the dry spices. Aromatic and a mite of heat is the way to go here I feel. Simmer for 1.5 hours. Take the sliced scrag out, cool and remove the meat from the bone. Strain the stock and return to pan. Squeeze the cooked garlic back into the soup, chop the cooked onion and return that also. Add the rice to the stock and put the bones back in to ensure max flavour extraction. When the rice is getting really soft and starting to break down (this seems to take ages) add the other veg (I used carrot, parsnip (sweetness worked really well) and baby leeks) and cook till everything is done. Remove the bones, put the shredded meat back in and then when everything is hot add a shot of fish sauce (nam pla) and two shakes of soy.
Rubbish pic of finished article
Hmm, still not nailed the rice cooking part. Nowhere near. This congee had discernible rice grains in it, albeit visibly disintegrating ones. Some of the photos on the net show a cloudy stock and almost jellied consistency with no individual grains of rice left. Am I using the wrong rice? I just used an easy-cook one I had in store. Still, it was tasty and warming soup. Scrag end definitely seems reminiscent of oxtail in mouthfeel and levels of fat, collagen and gelatine. So I guess I'll carry on - keen, green congee dilettante - in looking for the perfect mix!