Congee - ultimately satisfying

Congee is a traditional Chinese food famed to have healing properties. It is said to boost qi and nourish the spleen, and restore health to the ailing. The most simple and common recipe for congee is 1 part rice to 6-12 parts water, but you can also mix in other grains, beans, meats, spices, whatever you choose. The waterier the congee, supposedly the more healing. The trick is the cooking process - congee is best cooked over low heat for many many hours. What results is an easily digestible, soupy porridge, and it is tasty and fulfilling beyond words.

I have been on a congee kick lately and have been playing with different combinations. My favorite combo of the moment is a mix of wild rice, sweet brown rice, brown rice, kombu, ginger, orange peel, and star anise. I use my crock pot, throw in the ingredients the night before, and awaken to a large batch of warm, delicious congee. And one batch lasts for days! The wild rice adds a nutty flavor, hearty texture, and lovely color variation. Living in Minnesota, I have a deep love for wild rice in a very general sense. It isn't technically a rice either, did you know that?

Warming wild rice congee

1/2 c wild rice
1/2 c sweet brown rice
1/4 c brown rice
2 inches fresh ginger, grated or chunked per your preference
1 star anise (break open pods a bit)
a couple pinches dry orange peel or fresh zest
1 3-inch piece kombu seaweed (adds flavor, minerals, and helps soften rice)
8-9 c water (seriously - the wild rice sucks it up)

Rinse rice well, and soak for at least 6 hours. Soaking the rice starts the sprouting process, and makes the rice more easily digestible.

Put the soaked rice, ginger, anise, orange peel, and kombu in the crock pot with 8 cups of water. Cover, and put on low. Cook overnight, or for at least 6-7 hours. I've let mine cook as long as 12 with great results. The longer you cook, the more water you need, so if you know it will be a long time, add a little more water for good measure.

When done, remove the kombu chunk and large chunks of anise/ginger/etc, and serve up!

Serving suggestions:
*flax seed oil or pumpkin seed oil drizzled on
*flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds
*nuts or nut butters (I added a little homemade hazelnut butter and that was divine)
*dash of cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, clove, etc
*add beans (azuki or garbanzo are really tasty mixed in)
*add seaweed (crumbled laver, nori, soaked hijiki, etc)

Variations:
*switch up your spices or herbs to change the flavor completely
*switch up your rices
*add another grain that you can tolerate - millet, quinoa, teff (teff, brown rice, and sweet brown rice is really tasty), amaranth, oats, whatever
*add any combination of garlic, onions, grated carrots, squash chunks, sweet potato chunks, beans, meat, etc to the raw rice and cook it all together
*add dried fruits

This is a basic recipe that could go ANY direction, sweet, savory, spicy, herby, whatever. Get creative!

Enjoy!