In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) we often prescribe a rice porridge called congee for those with poor appetite or difficult digestion, esp. for chronic illness, cancer or chemotherapy. Congees are traditionally made with rice, although any grain can be uses. They are cooked with lots of water (8:1 water: rice) and cooked for a long time (4-8hr: a crock pot is often used). Herbs, meats, dried fruits, sweeteners and nuts are added for flavor and medicinal effect. A respected teacher of mine gave accounts of bedridden patients with cancer brought back from the precipice through the use of congee.
In India, they make a traditional dish called kitcharee, which is similar to the medicinal effect of congee, but less water and cooking time is involved. Kitcharee works well for those who can eat solid foods, but have poor appetite. It’s an Indian comfort food. I also think it’s a spiritual food, being merely rice and dal (lentils), which may explain why Gandhi enjoyed this simple, nourishing dish.
2:1 rice to dal (yellow lentils)
Any long-cooking rice can be used: basmati, jasmine. I suggest long-grained rice. Being as this is an Indian dish, traditionally basmati rice is used. With loose stools use white rice, with hard or difficult stools use brown.
1: 1 1/2 rice & dal (pre-soaked): water/stock. I suggest soaking the rice for 24h in advance to make it more digestible. According to Paul Pitchford, author of “Healing With Whole Foods” soaking grains for 24h helps to prevent fatigue.
1:2 – 2 1/2 rice/grain: water/stock Use this proportion when using unsoaked grains.
I suggest using 50/50 water & stock (vegetable, beef or chicken). For vegetarians & meditators use vegetable stock. I believe eating a meatless diet aids the transcendence to the spiritual realms. You’ll find many spiritual peoples – Buddhists, hindis – eat a vegetarian diet.
Example: 1C long-grain rice: 1/2C dal (yellow lentils). 1 1/2C rice (soaked)/dal: 2 1/4C water/stock or 1 1/2C rice (unsoaked)/dal: 3 – 3 3/4C water/stock.
+ salt (1/2t) I suggest sea salt because it is high in valuable trace minerals. I like to add a few sprigs of fresh parsley.
Pressure cook 15min (low pressure) with soaked rice, longer (30-40min) unsoaked grain. If you are not using a pressure cooker, cook it longer: 40m-1h, until lentils are soft and all the water is absorbed. (First bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook).
Here’s the special favor enhancer:
As soon as the grain has finished cooking heat some high heat oil (1T – olive, sunflower) in a small frying pan on medium heat. As soon as the oil is hot (just a few minutes on a gas stove) add cumin seeds (1/2t) and let them fry for 10 seconds until the aroma arrives and they are foaming. Immediately lift the lid on the grains and pour in the fried cumin seeds, and quickly replace the lid. Let them sit in the pot for 1 minute or so. Then stir and serve. I like to garnish with fresh, chopped parsley or pesto.
Kitcharee can be eaten for any meal – breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can make up a larger quantity and reheat it at meal time. It travels well for brown bagging. KB