rice porridge for breakfast: congee, juk or babur

rice porridge for breakfast: congee, juk or babur
I'm up with the birds this morning, together with Mia, my elderly cat, who meows imperiously at me to be let out the back door and into the garden. (We don't have a cat flap; I act as the cat's personal concierge. It is a thankless but necessary task.) Seconds later the cat is meowing scratchily to be allowed back in. She sinuously scurries in through the small gap that I have opened up, skids to a halt and scolds me with a reproving look that says "Why did you let me outside when it is so cold?" "Hey, you're the one with a fur coat," I say. "I'm the one freezing in my jammies, waiting on you." "And your point?" says the cat haughtily. "Enough of this frivolous conversation. Feed me. Now."

And so another day begins for the cat, one much like any other. She eats, she drinks, she sleeps, she makes her ablutions, she complains. But she does make a good point, it is slightly cold. Suddenly autumn has arrived.

The cat interrupts her greedy breakfast, peering around one furry shoulder "I am always right. And don't get too comfortable. I am going to want something. Something soon. I am not going to tell you what it is. You are just going to have to guess."

Fortunately, I am well-prepared for a warming breakfast on this chilly autumn morning. Something I can put together despite the distractions and demands of my feline "She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed". I have some leftover cooked rice. (I always have leftover cooked rice - it's good in so many recipes, from fried rice to salad. But this recipe is a brilliant way of using up that rice, that dare I say it, may be a little overcooked.) After simmering the rice in fragrant stock, this dish is merely a case of topping with a few of your favourite ingredients from roast chicken and hard-boiled eggs to chopped spring onions and chilli sauce.

not a beauty but pretty delicious! (congee, juk or babur)
Now this hearty rice porridge breakfast will never win a food beauty contest. One friend once suggested that this dish looked like workhouse gruel; "badly mixed cement" added her boyfriend unhelpfully. And while they may be right about its appearance, beauty is overrated when it comes to congee, juk or bubur (as it is known in China, Korea and Indonesia). This one of the world's best breakfasts or comfort foods, despite its rather unprepossessing beige appearance. Its charm is in the way it tastes. Utterly moreish.

In May this year, The Guardian’s Readers’ Recipe Swap challenge was PACKED BREAKFAST (or breakfast-on-the-go). That week's judge, Dale Berning Sawa, said "Not having breakfast is a surefire downward spiral to abject misery, hence the genius of this week’s theme. Because more often than not, the weekday morning pressure cooker squeezes this beauty of a meal into saccharine cellophane wrappers to be scoffed on a bus or, worse, at one’s desk, unless, that is, one has a special way of folding up that homely petit déj into one’s bookbag. And readers, you truly do!"

Of my congee recipe, Dale said "And then there’s MarmadukeScarlet and her savoury rice porridge – topped with a soft-boiled egg, leftover roast chicken, chopped spring onion or chives as I had it, as well as crispy fried shallot, (all eminently packable), it’s a delight at room temperature." See! Told you so! It is truly a delight.

Serves 4
Skill level: Easy

400g cooked long grain rice
1250ml chicken stock
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 shallot, chopped
4 slices of fresh ginger, about 5mm thick
1 spring onion
1-2 tbsp soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
4 hard-boiled eggs, halved
leftover roast chicken
4 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal (or fresh chives)
fried shallots
sambal belacan or sweet chilli sauce, to taste
soy sauce, to taste

  1. Heat the chicken stock, garlic, ginger and spring onion in a large saucepan and bring to the boil.
  2. Add the rice and stir. Cover the saucepan and simmer over a low heat for about 1 hour. Add extra stock or water if it looks as if the mixture is too thick. Stir occasionally.
  3. The porridge is ready when the mixture is thick. The rice grains will swell and begin to break up.
  4. Stir in the soy sauce and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if desired.
  5. Top with garnishes and serve.

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