Feeling sick? Plain congee to the rescue

This post is dedicated to my friend, Lola.

Photo credit: Vivian Chan

When I get sick, nothing helps me feel better than the warm comfort of Chinese congee. I used to think it was the nostalgia of my childhood when my parents would nurse me back to health with bowlfuls of it, but more recently, I’ve found out there’s science behind the old tradition. Congee is not only high in fluid content, which your body needs plenty of when you’re sick, but is also high in electrolytes from the rice. (Italians have a similar concoction, only it’s boiled pasta and the starchy water is drunk afterwards. Same principle.)

I will make congee regularly around the year, but never at a higher frequency than when I’m sick. This week was no exception. Having picked up an ugly virus, I gathered up the pot, rice, and chicken broth for my congee. That is the beauty of congee. That’s all you need. My basic recipe will make a large pot of plain congee that will last one person about two or even three days, which is great when you’re sick and don’t want to be cooking multiple meals.

Main ingredients:

  • 2.5 to 3 litres of chicken stock (may also be substituted with vegetable stock or water)
  • 1.5 cups of white jasmine rice
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

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One pot wonder

Whenever the snow is blustering outside and winter seems to be showing its bad side, nothing seems more comforting than a few extra hours spent in bed on a Saturday. Sadly, when it’s mid-week and braving Old Man Winter is your only option, a simmering pot of something on the stove could very well be your next best friend.

A generous helping of chili con carne (taken from Spanish means “with meat”) has been a lifesaver when I’ve been short on time and needed a pick-me-up. It doesn’t need a babysitter and the longer these ingredients stay in the tub, the better. I like my chili with a bit of a kick, but feel free to add less or more spice according to your own tastes. You can also throw in your favourite chili peppers for extra bite. So, if you’re in the mood for more spicy meal ideas to chase away those winter blues, you’re in luck!

  • splash of olive oil (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, deseeded and diced
  • 4-5 white mushrooms, sliced
  • 0.5 kg (1.1 lb) extra-lean ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder, to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons cumin, to taste
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons paprika, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
  • salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup Jasmine rice, washed (optional)
  • water, for rice (optional)

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