Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for black rice congee

Most roads to comfort, for me at least, end up in a bowl of rice – and I’m not the only one. Congee is a centuries-old comfort dish that’s made across south-east Asia. From India’s kanji to Japan’s kayu and Korea’s juk, there are a thousand variations, and it’s easy to see why: it demands so little of the cook, but gives so much back in providing just the sort of warm, nourishing bowl of goodness that is needed in the face of illness, cold weather or just a bad day at the office. In today’s recipe, I’ve used black rice, because I enjoy its nutty bite, along with mushrooms and a quick radish pickle just to pique your interest.

Black rice congee
Prep 10 min
Cook 2 hr
Serves 4 as a main

For the congee
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
250g chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
250g black venus rice
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1½ tsp light soy sauce
1 litre vegetable stock (suitable for vegans)

For the pickle
80ml white-wine vinegar
2 tbsp caster sugar
10 radishes (100g), finely sliced into rounds

Put a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and warm the oil. Add the garlic and sweat for a couple of minutes, until just browning. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes, until dark brown and starting to crisp.

Add the rice and salt, toss and toast in the mushroomy oil for two minutes, then pour in the stock and one litre of water, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to its lowest possible setting and leave to simmer for an hour and a half to an hour and three-quarters, until the rice is falling apart and has no bite left at all. Take off the heat and stir through the soy sauce.

While the congee is cooking, make the pickle. In a small saucepan over a low heat, combine the vinegar, sugar and two and a half tablespoons of water, and bring to a simmer so the sugar dissolves. Put the radishes in a small heatproof bowl, pour over the hot pickling liquor and put to one side until you are ready to eat. The pickling liquor should turn an exciting pink and the vegetables will soften slightly.

Serve comforting bowlfuls of the congee with a few pickled radishes scattered on top.