The Handy Kitchen “Whizzard”
By The Feiloh - Friday, Jun 28, 2013
It is strange but comfort food to me is a bowl of warm, gooey Cantonese rice congee or “jook”. And when I want it, I want it in a hurry. Sure, it’s available 24/7 at stalls here, but I prefer to make my own.
In such cases, I’ll toss leftover rice in a pot, add canned stock and after a short boil to soften it, put in the business end of a blender stick, buzz it on to break up the rice grains to get my basic congee. Then I’ll just add whatever else I can find, meat floss, an egg, leftover meat, whatever – devour and I am comforted.
Even if I plan to make comforting home-made version from scratch (see recipe below), the blender stick will still be involved. The blender stick, also called a hand blender or immersion blender, is an invaluable tool in my kitchen.
In days gone by, kitchen blenders to most people are jugs mounted on a base with an electric motor, with a corolla of blades at the bottom. Except for heavy dough, this device can mix, blend, whip and beat most food into submission.
But along the way some genius realised that the transferring of food to and from the jug was a terrible waste of time and effort.
So now, the innovation is to have the blades are at the end of a waterproof and heatproof shaft that can be immersed into the cooking pot to blend its contents “in situ” or in place. No transferring of food is involved and cleaning of the blades is now a breeze as they are no longer located at the bottom of a jug.
So what can you do with a blender stick – besides making congee, I mean.
Well, you can boil some dehydrated fruits like figs or apricots in a little water, add vanilla extract, lemon juice and some sugar, blend, and get a homemade jam that has less sugar.
You can also boil potatoes in a good stock, add in sautéed mushrooms and cream, blend, and get homemade mushroom soup without any monosodium glutamate.
You can add ice cream, sugar, malted wheat or cocoa mix to cold milk, blend and get a real milk shake that doesn’t have chemicals you can’t pronounced or is sold in a fast-food chain fronted by some character in clown suit.
You can certainly also mash up boiled cereal grains, veggies or fruits with a blender stick for your newly weaned baby and you get to control the quality of the food used.
You get my point on the capabilities of this extremely versatile tool.
So if you decide to get one, what features should you look out for? I think that a simple single speed, single button blender stick will suffice for most folks. These basic models have a 300 watt electric motor and usually come with blades for chopping, a whisk for blending, and one or two food containers.
Their larger siblings have motors of 600 watts or more, with a speed control and timer – all features that are not really necessary. After all, your visual judgement is the best form of control.
One precaution that you have to take is not to start the blender stick until the blades are under the surface of the liquid in the container. Another thing to watch out for is to use a container that is large enough to accommodate the increase in the level of the liquid once you start the motor. Make these mistakes and it can be pretty unforgettable. Whiz away!
Cantonese-Style “Mixed” Pork Congee (serves 4)
100g Lean pork, sliced
100g Pork liver, sliced
200g Minced pork
Eggs (1 for each bowl if desire)
1 Cup of rice (broken rice if you can find it)
10 Cups of pork stock; water if you don’t have stock
1 Stalk spring onion, finely sliced
Fried shallots (in the condiments section of your local supermarket)
Fried Chinese cruller (“you char guay”)
Salt and white pepper to taste
1/ In separate containers, dust the sliced lean pork and liver with a teaspoon of corn starch and mix until the meats are evenly coated. Add one teaspoon of corn starch to the minced pork and mix well. The corn starch prevents the meats from drying out and becoming tough.
2/ Rinse rice until water turns clear.
3/ Heat pork stock or water in a pot and when it starts boil, add the rice.
4/ Boil the rice until it starts to break up, in about half an hour to 45 minutes.
5/ Lower the heat and stick the blades of your blender stick into the pot and whiz the rice in short pulses. Don’t over blend or you will just get rice paste. Leave some bits of visible grains for look and some texture.
6/ Add salt to taste and then increase the heat.
7/ Now it’s time to add the meats. Using a teaspoon, add little chunks of the minced meat into the congee; stir.
8/ Add the sliced lean pork, stirring so as to prevent sticking. Add the liver next.
9/ Once the liver has changed colour, turn off the heat. Crack an egg into each bowl and ladle the congee into the bowls.
10/ Add slices of the fried cruller and top with finely sliced spring onion and fried shallot.
11/ Season with white pepper and serve.
1/ Yes, I know some purists will say you have to soak three types of rice from different provinces in China, drain and marinade with oil and salt before boiling it in a pot over a charcoal fire for hours with two Chinese ceramic soup spoons at the bottom of the pot to help break up the rice. If you want to do that, you can save money and not buy a blender stick. And yes, to add to the purity, consider raising the chicken or pig yourself, organically.
2/ To make pork stock, boil large pork bones and cheaper cuts of pork for a few hours (or 30 minutes in a pressure cooker over low/medium heat), strain and use. I promise that it is worth the effort and will make a world of difference to the flavour of your congee.
3/ If you want fish congee, substitute with fish stock and sliced fish, add finely julienned ginger and just follow the general steps.